This is the sort of book I always appreciate: a book in defense of something obviously good and true and needed (slow food, running, health, poetry, reading, relationships) and yet mostly ignored or overlooked. In this case, the book is a manifesto in defense of the weekend.
Onstad became interested in the topic of a “good weekend” when she realized how often her children asked her on Sunday night, “mommy, was that the weekend?” and she felt her heart sink, her anxiety rise, her fatigue increase at the realization that she and her husband had failed to enjoy and relax on yet another in a long string of over-scheduled weekends. I know the feeling, I have literally been asked the same by my seven year old.
One of the interesting points Onstad makes about why this is happening is that in our culture where so many of the educated white collar class are employed in vocations they find interesting/rewarding/fulfilling, we can have a difficult time differentiating work from play (and many employers have sought to increase this sense in many clever ways). The upshot? We tend to work a lot even when we are “off” because we like it. Particularly convicting in this section was her sense that many people fail to go a full three hours straight without checking their work e-mail, unless they are sleeping.
The problems with this are many. We become less efficient workers, other parts of our lives suffer, relationships to our spouse children and friends, our bodies are ignored at great cost to the quality of life (and actual medical costs), our appreciation of art, tenderness, slowness etc are all depleted as we run run run (unless, of course, we are actually running).
Onstad writes a lot like Malcolm Glawell quoting many interesting little studies that teach us about how we are not taking enough time off, and the amazing affects of taking such time off. Did you know that people who volunteer on weekends at something they find meaningful report having more time on their weekends, feeling less time stressed? Onstad explains that one by claiming that we are satisfied in a deep way by time well spent or well filled, unlike Netflix binge watching which often leaves us tired and disappointed well-filled time can rejuvenate and refresh.
Her writing is also like Gladwell in that the book is chalk full of characters. She interviews and spends time with all sorts of people who, she believes, know how to spend a weekend, runners (YES!) artists, writers, poets, athletes of all sorts, people who join clubs (origami, photography, whatever), people practicing radical hospitality etc.
The cast of characters makes the book very readable and personable, most of what is being described doesn’t seem that difficult to do and these lives demonstrate the what is gained.
This isn’t a religious book, though Onstad does admit that the good day off is found in many a religion. She even suggests some might want to go to church because it is a place to witness art in the form of free music and even better participatory art! Yet resting has a deeply religious argument for it, and the negative affects of ignoring our need for rest is very scriptural. Thus many a Christian (and non-christians, of course) can benefit from reading this book. It is also an interesting example of where the bible is still prescient even after all these years.
This is a worthwhile book for anyone, like me, who finds the weekend is the only time they check their e-mails an appropriate number of times a day for a work day, if you get my drift.
Onstad argues we are drifting away from a hard won weekend, drifting fairly unintentionally into lives that feel ever more harried and quick, but not moving quickly towards any goal in particular. If that sounds familiar this book is for you. If it doesn’t then this sort of book might be preaching to the choir and that’s nice sometimes too.