Mag Review - The Idler

A philosophy, a movement, nay, a revolution!

In a nutshell

The Idler is an independent mag that’s stood the test of time and built its own community of fervent Idlers. It’s more than a mag. It’s a philosophy, a movement, nay, a revolution! But all with the deliciously simple ideology: living well. 

The emphasis is on ways to work and live differently, rejoicing in hobbies, interests and passions, and in learning for learning’s sake.

Origin Story

The Idler has been going for almost 30 years! It was first published by The Guardian, then as an annual collection of essays and in its current bimonthly mag format since 2016. The name comes from a collection of essays written by Samuel Johnson in the late 1700s in which he mused, ‘every man is, or hopes to be an Idler.’

Idler to go

The Idler is travel size, A5 to be exact. Slips easily into most handbags, all rucksacks and even some coat pockets.

The Idler 61

The Idler 61

Yeah, but what’s in it?

Well, it’s got a bit of everything you could want from a lifestyle mag – fun things to do, great books to read, art to goggle at, style to ogle and ideas on looking after your health, wealth and happiness.

And of course, you’ve got The Idler’s regular columns on sheds, (yes, sheds), beekeeping and ukuleles which all speak to The Idler philosophy: delighting in simple pleasures and taking your sweet time instead of jumping from one shiny new fad to the next.

We also love the old classics like the readers’ letters addresses to ‘SIR’ – (some serious, some that sound like they were penned by PG Wodehouse), and their no-nonsense agony aunt, Virginia Ironside.  

The Meaty Bit

Every issue, editor Tom Hodgkinson has a chat (or two) with someone fascinating. Notable interviewees include Louis Theroux, Bill Oddie and Damien Hirst, Pete Doherty, Adam Buxton…

But it’s not just super shiny famous people - it could be philosopher, an activist or even a polyamory advocate gracing the pages. The only criteria it seems is that they’re an interesting sort.

In issue 83, for instance, Tom H chats to the producer of  The Royle Familyand The Crown about his views on the rise of Netflix (and what that means for good tele), and in issue 61, he sits down with author, Michael Pollan, about his very hands-on research into the healing power of psychedelics.

Other meaty bits in an issue might be a deep dive into John Milton’s early years (issue 83), a look into the nightmare world of the American work ethic (issue 82), or an essay on the NSA listening posts in Yorkshire (issue 78). You know, the I-didn’t-know-that-before-but-I’m-glad-I-do-now sort of feature, which is one of our FAVOURITE things about independent mags. 

The Idler 83

An old familiar friend

When you find the right mag, it can feel like spending time with an old friend. There’s a comfort in familiarity, and with regular columnists like Stewart Lee on music and Mark Vernon on philosophy, you get to know the writers and look forward to catching up every issue.  

More than a magazine

Over the last decade, The Idler has started its own academy (online courses in ‘philosophy, husbandry and merriment), launched ‘Drinks with the Idler’ where you can Zoom in to a lively discussion with comedians, modern day philosophers and people who’ve done all sorts of interesting things, and last year, they published ‘An Idler’s Manual’ which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Oh and we almost forgot The Idler Festival! Back this year, after a covid-shaped hiatus, it promises three days of rest and resistance from 8th-10th July 2022!

The Idler Manifesto

If you like the idea of living more and working less, give The Idler a try. You can find our collection of back issues here and new issues come out every two months.

Want to keep up with all the latest issues? Join our mailing list and we’ll send you a weekly roundup.

And we’ll leave you with some of our favourite parts of The Idler Manifesto. Vive la revolution!











2 Responses

Terry Gill

Terry Gill

March 09, 2023

I do detest the current preoccupation with living life at full throttle, always being positive & smiley. Procrastination is undervalued as is contemplation, the Idler seems to fit my raison d’etre.

Lisa Robinson

Lisa Robinson

June 09, 2022

This mag sounds interesting, though am not fully sure (so aware am I that many/most magazines will include stuff that the publishers hope will “sell” at the expense of stuff that (to some or many) would be what they really want, without the rest!)….I am searching for my 44 yr old daughter who has a strong need for exploration (in a family with two chn aged 9 and 11) and new experiences – but who has a very developed sense of care and concern for others and also tends to feel rather anxious, yet is constantly going off and trying out active experiences/discoveries….she moved to an area where she doesn’t feel she ‘belongs’ in Kent 3 yrs ago – and is trying creatively to build a life based on SIMPLE but also new and fullfilling activities. She is v actively growing a garden and exploring and she works hard to learn and try out things ….To my (only slight) surprise, she lovesreading Country Living – but I feel she would much more enjoy a magazine full of SIMPLE but maybe new or unusual, clever ideas suggestions to try out/explore (as opposed to mainly the enviable fantasy beauty of CL!) Would this one be the one? Or could you suggest something which is not also full of much other ‘stuff’? I have only just discovered SIMPLY and am just exploring it all online – impressed with the detail and options you give on your various sites – so I await your comments with interest. Thank you.

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