REST has received some excellent reviews in places like the New York Times and… well, there’s no place quite like the New York Times, but it’s gotten positive press in the Financial Times, the Guardian, and lots of other magazines, newspapers, and business Web sites.
These are of course gratifying (and occasionally the reviewers read the book closely enough to identify ways it could have been better, which I honestly do appreciate); but I also find that Rest attracts readers who are also pretty thoughtful reviewers. In the last couple days, I’ve come across two of these in particular that stand out.
Many books in this field can easily fall into that wishy-washy area of “just take a break, man” – with no actual logic or science behind it. We all know it’s “good” for us to rest, but we all also have a never-ending to-do list and numerous other responsibilities to keep us busy from dawn til dusk. Taking time out is hard to justify if your workload is still as heavy as ever.
What I love about this book is that while it is clearly about taking a break and all the ways you can or should go about doing that, there isn’t even a whiff of hippie wishy-washiness. The book references numerous scientific studies as well as examples of famous and not-so famous people from the modern day and from history. For example, did you know that even at the height of the Second World War, Churchill still got changed in to pyjamas and had a nap every day? Hitler, on the other hand, did not.
Second is this review by pseudonymous writer Veronica Rey:
This concept of active and deliberate rest was the biggest takeaway of the book for me. Rest is not about doing nothing, the author argues. It’s about doing the things that give our brains a break, even if it’s physically strenuous….
As a result of reading this book, I’ve been more intentional about working focused, followed by active rest. It shocked me to discover how hard this was for me! I’m so used to working, working, working that I had to force myself to practice giving my brains a break. After a week or two, I could see benefits already, though, most notably better sleep and way better concentration. I have to admit I slacked off after that, so I’ll have to pick it up again. Like any and all habits, rest, too, takes time to acquire.
By a nice coincidence, Rey is a fan of the work of Jane McGonigal, with whom I collaborated when I worked at Institute for the Future, a number of years ago.
The thing about reader reviews is that while publishing a review in the New York Times is partly about getting your own name in the paper, having a chance to shape The Public Conversation, or giving a new author a leg up (or settle scores with an old rival), reader reviews are motivated mainly by a reader’s own interest, and their sense that your books is worth their taking the time to write about. It’s less a professional work than a gift. (Which is not to say that they’re not as well-written or insightful, only that there’s not so much calculation that goes into them.)
Reader reviews are also different in that they often show how people are using your book. Veronica Rey’s blog, for example, documents her efforts at self-improvement through SuperBetter, and she read Rest as part of an effort to learn how to work and rest better. So the fact that she found it worthwhile, and was able to put it to use, is extra gratifying. It’s cool when someone thinks you’ve written a good book, in the sense of producing a good example of the craft; it’s really terrific when someone is able to use your book to (however slightly) improve their own lives.
And to be totally honest, I was really careful not to sound at all hippyish when writing Rest. Every time I started writing something that sounded vaguely like 1970s-era Jerry Brown, I shut it down. So thanks for noticing, Vicky!