Oliver Burkeman’s wonderful (and alarming) new book is “4000 Weeks”. I wholeheartedly recommend it, despite the stress-inducing reminder that the human lifespan is 4000 weeks and I’m well past half way.
Burkeman’s book is part Getting Things Done, part Being and Time, and part The Tao of Pooh. He takes seriously the self-help literature on time management (he’s read pretty much every self-help book going so that you don’t have to), but also takes seriously the fact that there will never be a moment when you’ve cleared the decks and ticked off everything on the To Do list. Borrowing from Borges, Burkeman points out that while we experience time flowing past us, we are the passing of time. The river is always flowing and there will never be a moment when we are able to scramble out and sit in serenity on the bank. There’s plenty of philosophy in the book (western, Taoist and Buddhist) but it is extremely well-written and easy to read.
Several ideas stuck with me, but to pick one out, Burkeman warns against the “causal catastrophe” – treating every moment of your life as a means to some future end. You can study to pass your exams to get a job to get an income to get a house, or take up running in order to achieve the goal of running a marathon, or parent your babies and toddlers with the aim in mind of creating happy well-adjusted adults – but it is dangerous and possibly tragic to treat everything as a step on the road to something else. The cliché is that it’s the journey, not the destination – but Burkeman has a way of delivering an intellectual slap in the face that reminds the reader that behind the cliché is an important truth.
The paperback of “The Next 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy” is FINALLY coming – 26 August 2021. Please think about pre-ordering, which is hugely helpful in stimulating bookshops to stock and display the book.
“Endlessly insightful and full of surprises — exactly what you would expect from Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson
“Harford is a fine, perceptive writer, and an effortless explainer of tricky concepts. His book teems with good things, and will expand the mind of anyone lucky enough to read it.”- The Daily Mail