Deliberate Rest

Designing rest for a busy world

Category: Review (page 2 of 3)

Reader video about REST

One of the things that’s been most gratifying about REST is that it’s attracted some very thoughtful readers and reviewers– most recently Canadian coach and healer Fia-Lynn Crandall, who talks about the book in a recent video.

And extra points to Fia-Lynn for pronouncing my name correctly!

Deliberate rest is a good thing. Don’t just take my word for it.

“Je brein werkt door als je bewust rust:” I don’t know what it means, but apparently I said it


An article about REST is out in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. It quotes me as saying “Je brein werkt door als je bewust rust.” It might also be a warning. Or a joke.

I can’t tell. I don’t speak Dutch, so I have no idea.
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Reviews of Rest while I was away

I’ve been out for the last several days with a bad cold– the kind where you have just enough energy to move from the bed to the couch, where you then go back to sleep– and so I missed noting a couple recent notices about the book.

In Australia, where the book will be published on February 2 (by Penguin, as part of its new Penguin Life series), the Sydney Morning Herald had a review of the book. The Financial Review ran an excerpt from the chapter on morning routines (that chapter is one of my favorites, but don’t tell the other chapters or they’ll get jealous).

Canadian librarian Shay Shortt, who reviews books on her blog Required Reading, says of Rest, “I see in this book the outlines of the best parts of my daily routine, largely discovered through trial and error.” This is a response I’ve heard from lots of people (including a number of people who I really admire): that they already do things I talk about in the book (which is no surprise!), but now better understand why those practices work for them (which is really gratifying).

“This book has something to offer anyone looking for new ways to structure their daily lives”

[bookstore, vienna, austria]

A review of REST on Shelf Awareness:

Rest combines current neuroscience and psychology with examples from the lives of great scientists and artists to argue that rest is not a luxury, nor is it the opposite of work. “Restorative daytime naps, insight-generating long walks, vigorous exercise, and lengthy vacations aren’t unproductive interruptions; they help creative people do their work.”
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Review of Rest in The Hindu

Out in tomorrow’s (today’s?) issue of The Hindu, a review of Rest by Sudhamahi Regunathan:

The new year brings some good news. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says, “Rest more and work less, you will be successful.” He has just released a book by the same title.

As one reads the title, one gets those fleeting fictional images of kings who lay in bed and grapes fell into their mouths, they clapped their hands and maids came in with all kinds of services, they…the imaginative exercise has to stop for Pang intervenes to say, “There are some misconceptions we have about rest…that it is always a completely passive, inactive thing. Rest is not sitting on the sofa and doing nothing. Often, the best and most restorative kind of rest, the kind that recharge our mental batteries and give us energy are active, they can be physically strenuous, mentally challenging, what matters is they take us out of our work day world. They give our minds and opportunity to subconsciously think about and try out new ideas and they provide us with new ideas that we are not able to get in our routine, but which we need to get ahead.”

REST is one of Success Magazines 2016’s Best Books

Granted, it may seem like a list of “71 of 2016’s Best Books to Make You Successful” can simply list every business book published this year and declare victory, but that’s not quite the case: writer and editor Chauncey Mabe had to sort through a pretty big pile of books to come up with Success Magazine’s list of the year’s best business books.

Luckily, REST made the cut!

A 21st-century contradiction sits at the heart of this book: Overworking yourself or your employees is the wrong way to reach your goals. “Productivity books offer life hacks, advice about how to get more done, or stories about what CEOs or famous writers do,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes. “But they say almost nothing about the role of rest in the lives or careers of creative and productive people.”

Rest is an equal partner to work, argues Pang, visiting scholar at Stanford University and senior consultant at a Silicon Valley think tank. The most creative people of history—from Charles Darwin to Stephen King—knew how to do it. They harness daydreaming to free the unconscious mind to find new ideas. They plan rest into every day. They know that the right kind of rest prolongs creative life. This is a book of deep wisdom and human insight.

“It might be that rest, more than work, is the ultimate source of big transformations, life-changing disruptions.”

Novelist and critic Nilanjana Roy has a nice essay about vacations and REST in the Financial Times. Normally I quote the parts that say really complimentary things about the book, but this piece is so different and colorful that I’m throwing aside my usual habit:

Behind our cottage, high up on the crest of the hill, a leopard saws into the night. It’s New Year’s Day. I listen to the big cat for a while, alert but deeply content. When I go back to sleep, my dreams are filled with forests, trails and all the large and small creatures that belong to the jungle.

We come back home not just refreshed but rebooted by our short holiday in Gwehri, above an Indian national park. My mind feels on fire; all of last year’s tiredness is blown away like clouds driven by the high mountain winds….

Could the art of rest be as important as the art of productivity?… [F]rom reading biographies of writers, architects, artists and others, I know that a lot of the truly great professionals seemed to plan leisure and creativity-boosting breaks. They viewed time off with the same seriousness and thought that they brought to their work, whether it was Georgia O’Keeffe, travelling in her later years, or Le Corbusier’s compact, kitchenless cabin in Roquebrune, where he spent time while working on some of his most important projects.

I should write something on these kinds of retreats: Wittgenstein spent several years in a little shack by a fjord, and plenty of other people have done great work on writers’ retreats and in similar spaces.

Driving back through the forests of Uttarakhand, stopping to let two elephants, a mother and her calf, have right of way, I’m thinking about the restaurateur Ferran Adrià’s practice of closing El Bulli down from mid-December to mid-June, so that he and his staff could work on the ideas that drove his food. He followed this innovation by taking a two-year sabbatical that stretched to three years. When he came back, he didn’t restart the restaurant; instead, he opened the El Bulli Foundation, a kitchen of ideas instead of food, which is still developing and taking form.

As well as taking time off, Adrià took on a bigger risk than most people might be willing to. The long goodbye from work is exhilarating but ushers in change, too. It might be that rest, more than work, is the ultimate source of big transformations, life-changing disruptions. The chatty leopard is, of course, optional.

I confess I’ll probably never get to Gwehri or any Indian national park, but I love the idea of the book going places without me. When I was an academic I was usually writing for an audience of about twelve people, or for a tribe whose members I could identify instantly; the great virtue of Rest, in contrast, is that people can make it their own, and (I hope) take it places I would never think to go.

WAMC Golden Notebook

The Books Pick podcast recommends Rest as a holiday read. the podcast features reviews from the Golden Notebook, a bookstore in Woodstock, New York. The discussion starts at 14:25, though the opening song about books is insane and worth listening to too.

Don’t worry about the fact that they get my name wrong. I have trouble with “James Conrad.”

“an engaging, well written and researched read:” the Englewood Review of Books

Emma Sleeth Davis, an author and projects coordinator at Blessed Earth, reviews REST for the Englewood Review of Books:

In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang starts with a simple premise: working more hours does not mean getting the most—or best—work done.  Part self-help, part scientific findings, part biographical anecdotes, Rest is an engaging, well written and researched read for white collar workers interested in improving their productivity.

She dings the book for not paying enough attention to the restorative value of religious practices. It’s a fair criticism, though in my defense I would describe it as one of those spots on the map that still needs to be filled in, and I have connected the dots between religious faith and rest elsewhere. Having established the value of rest in creative lives, it’s possible to go back and investigate how religious observance or prayer could serve as a guide for rest, or justification for giving one’s self downtime, or a framework for practicing rest.

Indeed, this would make an excellent article for someone (me, or someone else) to write. There’s been some pretty interesting work on the cognitive impact of meditation, and I would assume that some similar work has been done on prayer.


There are lots of studies of the psychological benefits of prayer and religious observance, going back to Francis Galton (if memory serves). Church membership and seriousness of religious observance are often noted in obituaries and biographies. People are often pretty good about noting church attendance in their diaries or letters, or apologizing to their parents for not having gone to confession, etc..

My table at LSE archives

So the basic historical material for sketching out a relationship between religious observance and deliberate rest is there, and there’s psychological research that could help make sense of it.

“a timely reminder that rest needs to be deliberate, or our work will become debilitating”

Dylan Schleicher reviews Rest for 800 CEO Read:

My favorite books are those that plumb both history and science for insights, and introduce me to new examples to frame them with. Rest has that in spades….

But it isn’t just anecdotal evidence, history (of which there is an almost ridiculous wealth of examples from) or philosophy that Pang brings to bear on the issue. Modern science is at the heart of his thesis, and proves these ideas out. What it shows is that letting our minds wander and rest is extremely productive. Modern brain imaging techniques show just how literally electric our brains are with activity when we rest and sleep, filing memories, making sense of the information we’ve ingested and untangling problems even while we’re not consciously aware of it—leading to those eureka moments and flashes of insight that are famous throughout history.

I can’t think of a better book to dive into before beginning a new year, with its requisite making of resolutions. I may even alter some of those resolutions for the better, just as rest makes our work better. It is a brilliant book, and a timely reminder that rest needs to be deliberate, or our work will become debilitating.

I confess I’d not really heard about it before, but 800 CEO Read is a business books Web site / service that grew out of a family-owned bookstore in Wisconsin (it’s actually an interesting evolution, though unfortunately the physical bookstore is now closed). But clearly they have an excellent critical sensibility!

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