Boredom: A lively history by Peter Toohey

It’s hard to imagine a cockroach being bored. It simply gets on with what a cockroach does and then dies. Boredom seems only to be a possibility for organisms capable of reflective consciousness.

Schopenhauer treated boredom as worthy of philosophical consideration. He thought it was lethal and that it proved the vanity of human existence. Heidegger, as well, took it seriously enough to devote 100 pages in his essay What is Metaphysics?

In the first book to argue for the benefits of boredom, Peter Toohey ( rejects the idea that it’s simply a childish emotion or an existential malaise like Jean-Paul Sartre’s nausea. He argues that boredom is an essential part of the human experience. His investigation of boredom spans more than 3,000 years and takes readers through fascinating neurological and psychological theories of emotion. There are Australian aboriginals and bored Romans, Jeffrey Archer and caged cockatoos, Camus and the early Christians, Dürer and Degas. Toohey also explores the important role that boredom plays in popular and highbrow culture and how over the centuries it has proven to be a stimulus for art and literature. Boredom: A Lively History (2011) is vital reading for anyone interested in what goes on when nothing seems to interest us.

Enquire at your local library or available in paperback at

224 pages in Yale University Press

ISBN 978-0300181845

Peter Toohey

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