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"More than just a story of an abiding cultural preoccupation, The Longing For Less peels back the commodified husk of minimalism to reveal something surprising and thoroughly alive." -Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing "Thoughtful and absorbing . . . A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy in many readers." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review “L "More than just a story of an abiding cultural preoccupation, The Longing For Less peels back the commodified husk of minimalism to reveal something surprising and thoroughly alive." -Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing "Thoughtful and absorbing . . . A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy in many readers." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Less is more”: Everywhere we hear the mantra. Marie Kondo and other decluttering gurus promise that shedding our stuff will solve our problems. We commit to cleanse diets and strive for inbox zero. Amid the frantic pace and distraction of everyday life, we covet silence-and airy, Instagrammable spaces in which to enjoy it. The popular term for this brand of upscale austerity, “minimalism,” has mostly come to stand for things to buy and consume. But minimalism has richer, deeper, and altogether more valuable gifts to offer. Kyle Chayka is one of our sharpest cultural observers. After spending years covering minimalist trends for leading publications, he now delves beneath this lifestyle's glossy surface, seeking better ways to claim the time and space we crave. He shows that our longing for less goes back further than we realize. His search leads him to the philosophical and spiritual origins of minimalism, and to the stories of artists such as Agnes Martin and Donald Judd; composers such as John Cage and Julius Eastman; architects and designers; visionaries and misfits. As Chayka looks anew at their extraordinary lives and explores the places where they worked-from Manhattan lofts to the Texas high desert and the back alleys of Kyoto-he reminds us that what we most require is presence, not absence. The result is an elegant new synthesis of our minimalist desires and our profound emotional needs.


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"More than just a story of an abiding cultural preoccupation, The Longing For Less peels back the commodified husk of minimalism to reveal something surprising and thoroughly alive." -Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing "Thoughtful and absorbing . . . A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy in many readers." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review “L "More than just a story of an abiding cultural preoccupation, The Longing For Less peels back the commodified husk of minimalism to reveal something surprising and thoroughly alive." -Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing "Thoughtful and absorbing . . . A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy in many readers." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Less is more”: Everywhere we hear the mantra. Marie Kondo and other decluttering gurus promise that shedding our stuff will solve our problems. We commit to cleanse diets and strive for inbox zero. Amid the frantic pace and distraction of everyday life, we covet silence-and airy, Instagrammable spaces in which to enjoy it. The popular term for this brand of upscale austerity, “minimalism,” has mostly come to stand for things to buy and consume. But minimalism has richer, deeper, and altogether more valuable gifts to offer. Kyle Chayka is one of our sharpest cultural observers. After spending years covering minimalist trends for leading publications, he now delves beneath this lifestyle's glossy surface, seeking better ways to claim the time and space we crave. He shows that our longing for less goes back further than we realize. His search leads him to the philosophical and spiritual origins of minimalism, and to the stories of artists such as Agnes Martin and Donald Judd; composers such as John Cage and Julius Eastman; architects and designers; visionaries and misfits. As Chayka looks anew at their extraordinary lives and explores the places where they worked-from Manhattan lofts to the Texas high desert and the back alleys of Kyoto-he reminds us that what we most require is presence, not absence. The result is an elegant new synthesis of our minimalist desires and our profound emotional needs.

30 review for The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    D. St. Germain

    The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chaka explores the various meanings the word “minimalism” takes and has taken over time. As he notes, “When a word or style is everywhere, it tends to lose its original meaning. There are more than thirteen million posts tagged with #minimalism on Instagram and around ten new images appear every minute…..Shots of the blue sky pockmarked with clouds are categorized as minimalist, as are line-drawing tattoos, wrinkled bedsheets, folded clothing, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chaka explores the various meanings the word “minimalism” takes and has taken over time. As he notes, “When a word or style is everywhere, it tends to lose its original meaning. There are more than thirteen million posts tagged with #minimalism on Instagram and around ten new images appear every minute…..Shots of the blue sky pockmarked with clouds are categorized as minimalist, as are line-drawing tattoos, wrinkled bedsheets, folded clothing, Chemex coffeemakers, spiral staircases, monochrome athleisure outfits, rustic cabins in the snow, and demure selfies.” The book is part travelogue, part critical theory reader, part architecture and art history, and part deep dive into the piles of plastic crap Americans have buried themselves under in the name of what they think they need - and what they trade away to get it. The book shines when examining minimalism as a trend in the face of diminishing opportunity and expectations for young people, as a means of understanding lives under increasingly precarious living conditions in the 21st century, asking, are people attracted to minimalism because they see and feel the underlying invalidity of a culture that demands we organize our time, resources, and sense of self-worth around the accumulation of stuff? Or given the increasingly precarious conditions many people find themselves living in, have many people embraced minimalism as a means of justifying/glorifying their inability to have more stuff? Minimalism has a history as a spiritual and philosophical practice, and so we get a deep dive into the stoics and early philosophy. Then, Chaka travels to visit the monuments and makers of minimalist architecture and art in the US to examine how artists and intellectuals applied their (culturally-specific and era-specific) understanding of minimalism to their exterior world. Certainly what this book highlights is the way humans are meaning-makers, constantly building meaning into how we interpret what happens to us, i.e. “everything happens for a reason” “god has a plan.” - and how we glorify the simple life. (As one other goodreads reviewer put it, they read the book "for justification of how I've chosen to live my life in the past 10 or so years.") Cognitive science in recent years has illuminated how we often convince ourselves what we have is what we wanted all along (even though that isn’t necessarily true). We see this in the ways that millennials glorify #vanlife as a means of travel and freedom and yoga on the beach with your hot romantic partner and cute dog, rather than a reality for gig-workers with uncertain incomes and no health care who can’t pay the astronomical rents in the places where 20 years ago most people *could* afford to live. Chaka's discussion of this particular phenomenon in the book contributes a lot to our understanding of how we reconcile our lives with our most recent past.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    I’m always somewhat bemused when something from my adopted homeland here in Japan breaks through in America. There was the ramen craze a few years ago (is this still happening?), and now we have Marie Kondo and her relentless tidiness in the name of minimalism. I do not begrudge Kondo her business empire which sells copious amounts of “things” to people she tells to not collect “things”. Perhaps her “things” spark joy more than our “things”. These things in truth are beyond my cluttered brain I’m always somewhat bemused when something from my adopted homeland here in Japan breaks through in America. There was the ramen craze a few years ago (is this still happening?), and now we have Marie Kondo and her relentless tidiness in the name of minimalism. I do not begrudge Kondo her business empire which sells copious amounts of “things” to people she tells to not collect “things”. Perhaps her “things” spark joy more than our “things”. These things in truth are beyond my cluttered brain. However the obvious question remains, if this is minimalism, what does minimalism truly mean? Kyle Chayka’s “The Longing for Less” asks this question and true perhaps to the ethos of minimalism, fails to answer it. What he does however is provide a fascinating history of the minimalism movement through 4 appropriately minimalist chapters titled: Reduction, Emptiness, Silence, and Shadow. There are wonderful insights throughout but among the more interesting is the idea that the current minimalist craze sweeping the world isn’t anything new. Throughout history in times of uncertainty and chaos, similar movements have appeared and they seem to be an attempt to restore some kind of order in a world that stubbornly resists it: “Minimalism is thus a kind of last resort. When we can’t control our material security or life path, the only possibility left is to lower our expectations to the point where they’re easier to achieve, which could mean living in a train car, or a camper van.” “What the Stoics, Francis, and Thoreau have in common is a strategy of avoidance, especially in moments when society feels chaotic or catastrophic. It’s a coping mechanism for those who want to fix or improve the status quo instead of overturning it. Its orientation is toward survival.” We see this again, particularly in the 1950’s and 60’s, where minimalist architecture, music, and art begins to proliferate. Be it John Cage’s musical composition’s of silence, Donald Judd’s art instillations of square blocks, or Philip Johnson’s glass house in the middle of the woods, it is clear that throughout history when we reach a kind of critical mass of noise and unease, we push pack to its polar opposite of literal and ephemeral silence. One important distinction Chayka makes however is that silence does not mean absence. What is lost in the kind of enforced austerity of the tidiness movement for example is that the absence of one thing serves to heighten our senses to another. Listening to John Cage’s 4’33 in the woods, one doesn’t hear a piano but instead the birds singing, trees rustling, wind blowing: “His music is a kind of conditioning for heightened awareness: These sounds are going on all around you, all the time, but only with the help of art are you able to register them beyond your own conveniently numbed perception. Instead of masking details, Cage’s music highlights them.” It is a symphony in and of itself that is eternally changing and yet unique. In a sense, true minimalism is what you get from it. It is not something to cancel out a messy outside world, but to augment it and see it in a new way: “The art, music, architecture, and philosophy that I’ve described, however, isn’t concerned with perfect cleanliness or a specific style. It’s about seeking unmediated experiences, giving up control instead of imposing it, paying attention to what’s around you without barricading yourself, and accepting ambiguity, understanding that opposites can be part of the same whole.” Emptiness, or making our life devoid of “things” is in short, not an end. We can no more escape this world of materialism and noise through total negation than grow wings and fly. You are not required to “keep under than 30 books in your house because, you will never reread them” as Marie Kondo suggests. Emptiness does not mean slavish rigidity. Rather it is a blueprint, an eternally flexible, customizable, and open to interpretation one, that provides a means to understand the world better and see what we otherwise would not.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    The Longing for Less is a fascinating exploration of the concept of minimalism - its current appeal, its impact on society, and its historic roots in the visual arts, music, literature, and design. The book feels like a thoughtful conversation with a friend over coffee, colloquial and natural. It takes the reader around the globe and through different eras to explore the unexpected development of minimalism as a force to be considered. It takes every notion we might have gleaned about minimalism The Longing for Less is a fascinating exploration of the concept of minimalism - its current appeal, its impact on society, and its historic roots in the visual arts, music, literature, and design. The book feels like a thoughtful conversation with a friend over coffee, colloquial and natural. It takes the reader around the globe and through different eras to explore the unexpected development of minimalism as a force to be considered. It takes every notion we might have gleaned about minimalism from art class and Marie Kondo and gently unravels them, laying bare a school of thought that is far more philosophical and impactful than I had ever imagined. I think The Longing for Less is a great read for anyone who wants to understand the 'why' behind sparking joy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annie Wilson

    This book started off super strong, and I was interested in it as what I thought would be an interesting historical/sociological analysis of minimalism, but halfway through it unravels into a collection of (ironically) curated profiles of artists and figures that appear selected because they each support the author’s somewhat esoteric message - indeed, the book seems to deliberately ignore many key figures in the history of minimalism (both in and outside of art) that would contradict the author This book started off super strong, and I was interested in it as what I thought would be an interesting historical/sociological analysis of minimalism, but halfway through it unravels into a collection of (ironically) curated profiles of artists and figures that appear selected because they each support the author’s somewhat esoteric message - indeed, the book seems to deliberately ignore many key figures in the history of minimalism (both in and outside of art) that would contradict the author’s thesis. The final message is also a bit unclear and conveys an air of, “if you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t....and that’s because you’re not sophisticated enough to get it.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Longing for Less by Kyle Chayka is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-November. The concept of resisting a tendency to become overly ornate and hang on to unimportant things, and, instead, to really mull over what you need in your life. Chayka profiles people within the Minimalist lifestyle movement about modernist design, refuge spaces from noise, as well as meditative activities and tasks to make this seem more like a journalism series compiled together, but not quite making the prop The Longing for Less by Kyle Chayka is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-November. The concept of resisting a tendency to become overly ornate and hang on to unimportant things, and, instead, to really mull over what you need in your life. Chayka profiles people within the Minimalist lifestyle movement about modernist design, refuge spaces from noise, as well as meditative activities and tasks to make this seem more like a journalism series compiled together, but not quite making the proper editing choices to flow them all together.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily Carlin

    Not bad, just not what I wanted it to be. I wanted an in-depth critique of the ways in which “minimalism” as a concept has been commodified. It started off strong, but then turned into 90% art criticism, which all fell kind of flat for me — prob my failing, not the book’s. One thing that bugged me: How condescending the author is towards contemporary minimalism, the kind popularized by podcasts and subreddits, and which may be adopted by people who may have never heard of Donald Judd (...the hor Not bad, just not what I wanted it to be. I wanted an in-depth critique of the ways in which “minimalism” as a concept has been commodified. It started off strong, but then turned into 90% art criticism, which all fell kind of flat for me — prob my failing, not the book’s. One thing that bugged me: How condescending the author is towards contemporary minimalism, the kind popularized by podcasts and subreddits, and which may be adopted by people who may have never heard of Donald Judd (...the horror....). Sure, Kondo-y Pinterest-y minimalism may be superficial, but I think it retains some of the spirit of the “real thing” — not to mention the fact that anything that goes against our prevailing consumer culture seems like a good thing. It just rubbed me the wrong way how Chayka sort of discounts/brushes off the merits of mainstream minimalism and then writes reverentially about his own special, rarefied experience of minimalism in a rock garden on a solo trip to Japan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Chen

    tl;dr - I could've googled for historical ascetes rather than read this compilation. Several chapters in, it was still unclear to me what point the author was trying to make. At times he seemed moralistically condescending toward modern minimalism, yet I wasn't sure whether he was trying to argue that previous minimalism movements were more substantial, or whether they were all insubstantial??? I didn't dislike the short anecdotes on various historical figures who were proponents of some form of tl;dr - I could've googled for historical ascetes rather than read this compilation. Several chapters in, it was still unclear to me what point the author was trying to make. At times he seemed moralistically condescending toward modern minimalism, yet I wasn't sure whether he was trying to argue that previous minimalism movements were more substantial, or whether they were all insubstantial??? I didn't dislike the short anecdotes on various historical figures who were proponents of some form of minimalism. However, I was extremely irked that the author laid a foundation for a critical assessment without delivering any substantial food for thought. Thus it seems ironic to me that he criticizes present-day capitalist exploitations of consumer appetite for minimalism while doing the same through this insubstantial book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    A different look at minimalism - looking at examples through the years up until now. More of own story and of others. Not a step by step of decluttering.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    A very informative undertaking that highlights Minimalism as a movement, theory, way of seeing and way of seeking the world and meaning therein. This was not necessarily the book I set out to read on the modern form of minimalist living in relation to our possessions, but rather the superstructure underneath that which questions the very nature of the modern presentation of minimalism. I learned a lot and I'm very glad I read. I'm also grateful to Chayka for tackling a series of difficult and ab A very informative undertaking that highlights Minimalism as a movement, theory, way of seeing and way of seeking the world and meaning therein. This was not necessarily the book I set out to read on the modern form of minimalist living in relation to our possessions, but rather the superstructure underneath that which questions the very nature of the modern presentation of minimalism. I learned a lot and I'm very glad I read. I'm also grateful to Chayka for tackling a series of difficult and abstract artists, authors, composers, and poets to bring us this text. I would never have known to seek out this information on my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Yannick Schutz

    A few good portraits. I came for the minimalism, stayed for the stories. I laughed and enjoyed the historical touches. I don’t think I like the almost condescending tone it can come around for current minimalists but I definitively liked the lesson on the sources of this movement.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jose

    Overall I think this book is somewhat muddled. I don't think Chayka does a good job tying together the current personal enrichment form of minimalism with various strands of art trends that have been labeled minimalism. This might be more appealing if you're interested in art criticism, but I found Chayka's criticism mostly uninteresting.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    Chayka's Minimalism: the appreciation of things for and in themselves, and the removal of barriers between the self and the world (46) This book is not really about how to help *you* long for less, but rather, it's a (quite esoteric) meditation/analysis of how *other* minimalists in art, architecture, music, philosophy, and literature have approached the mindset. I did many internet deep dives on the (numerous) topics I was unfamiliar with. I wanted a bit more contextualizing on why and how minim Chayka's Minimalism: the appreciation of things for and in themselves, and the removal of barriers between the self and the world (46) This book is not really about how to help *you* long for less, but rather, it's a (quite esoteric) meditation/analysis of how *other* minimalists in art, architecture, music, philosophy, and literature have approached the mindset. I did many internet deep dives on the (numerous) topics I was unfamiliar with. I wanted a bit more contextualizing on why and how minimalism has become such a hot topic: why is minimalism now so in vogue? Chayka alludes to it a bit, but never in any serious depth. I enjoyed this book the most when Chayka describes minimalism outside of art/architecture/music/philosophy/literature--what it can mean to humanity. In general, Chayka's New York Times piece and the New York Times' book review are an excellent gloss if long-form reading about Japanese philosophers, the Marfa art scene, and minimalist composers aren't necessarily for you. Quotes I bookmarked: How to build a sense of self - One act of will is to erase everything that's already around you, washing it clean white and starting over again so that the only things left are those that you choose, which is the standard practice of minimalism. This is a simple way to build a sense of self: You are what you include. An object, person, or idea is either in or out of your worldview. But favoring control leaves no room for surprises. A more difficult, perhaps more deeply satisfying method is to embrace contingency and randomness, accepting that life is a compromise between what exists and what you want, and beauty is found not by imposition but through an absence of control. You capitulate to particular moments as they pass. (205) On popular contemporary minimalist thought: - Minimalism is...popular around the world, I think, because it reacts against a condition that is now everywhere: a state of social crisis mixed with a terminal dissatisfaction with the material culture around us that seems to have delivered us to this point, though the fault is our own. When I see the austere kitchens and bare shelves and elegant cement walls, the dim vague colors and the skeletal furniture, the monochrome devices, the white t-shirts, the empty walls, the wide-open windows looking out into nothing in particular--when I see minimalism as a meme on Instagram, as a self-help book commandment, and as an encouragement to get rid of as much as possible in the name of imminently buying more--I see both an anxiety of nothingness and a desire to capitulate to it. ...The popular minimalist aesthetic is more a symptom of that anxiety, having less as a way of feeling a little more stable in precarious times, than a solution to it. (220-221) - Minimalism is thus a kind of last resort. When we can't control our material security or life path, the only possibility left is to lower our expectations to the point where they're easier to achieve... (22) - Minimalist cleanliness is the state of acceptable normalcy that everyone must adhere to, no matter how boring it looks or how oppressive it feels. (34) - Minimalism can be oppressive. The style can make you feel like you don't belong in a space unless you conform to it, as in upscale cafes or severe hotel lobbies. Being in the Glass House...doesn't really feel like freedom but entrapment in someone else's vision. (67) - Minimalism as it appears in the West is inherently oppositional, posing itself against something, as a departure from a current state--cleanliness against mess, absence against presence, and silence against noise. The targets of popular minimalism are values that are usually seen as Western or American, whether it's a reaction against capitalism's relentless pursuit of industrialized productivity for profit or the promise of consumer materialism, that being able to buy the right things is what makes us happy. As such, minimalism is easily associated with something foreign. In the modern era Japan, as in Lost in Translation, has offered a convenient Other for that projection, a culture with what appeared to be a heritage of spare, precious, quiet, sensitive aesthetics readymade for contrast to problematic excess. (170) - There's a darkness and danger to the idea of absence...that's totally missing from the bland facade of popular minimalism today. It's not about consuming the right things or throwing out the wrong; it's about challenging your deepest beliefs in an attempt to engage with things as they are, to not shy away from reality of its lack of answers. To believe or commit too strongly to one particular way of seeing or being is to miss out on all the other possibilities and to allow yourself to be defined too much by one thing. (218-219) The concept of "the second body" (Not sure if I agree with this, but it's an interesting concept) - The contrast between simple form and complex consequences bring to mind what the British writer Daisy Hildyard called "the second body" in her 2017 book of the same name. The phrase describes the alienated presence that we feel when we are aware of both our individual physical bodies and our collective causation of environmental damage and climate change. While we calmly walk down the sidewalk, watch a movie, or go grocery shopping, we are also the source of pollution drifting across the Pacific or a tsunami in Indonesia. The second body is the source of an unplaceable anxiety: The problems are undeniably our fault, even though it feels like we can't do anything about them because of the sheer difference in scale. In the same way, we might be able to hold the iPhone in our hands, but we should also be aware that the network of its consequences is vast: server farms absorbing massive amounts of electricity, Chinese factories where workers die by suicide, devastated mud pit mines that produce tin. It's easy to feel like a minimalist when you can order food, summon a car, or rent a room using a single brick of steel and silicon. But in reality, it's the opposite. We're taking advantage of a maximalist assemblage. Just because something looks simple doesn't mean it is; the aesthetics of simplicity cloak artifice or even unsustainable excess. (43) Productivity at all costs - Maybe we manufacture safe silences because we want to avoid confrontation with whatever is beyond us. We're not accustomed to the awe that it can inspire anymore. The new form of silence is devoted to commercial productivity, not transcendent contemplation. You don't meditate in Amtrak's Quiet Car; you fill out spreadsheets. (124)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Danie DesJardins

    While a bit harsh at times, even if deserved, this book draws correlations between art movements, lesser known classical musicians and architects who changed the face of a city in the hunt for 'what is minimilism'. Giving some food for thought on intention, as well as impact for anyone thinking of considering a minimalistic life- and urges you to go beyond the trendy, white washed, sharp edged "minimalism" that might spring to mind.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I've been interested in minimalism for a long time, and I thought this was interesting. It's essentially a journalist's view of the history and trends associated with it. He also includes literature, architecture, and much more. The author is smart and observant and intelligent. Don't get this if you're looking for how-tos. If you're seeking perspective, history, and trends, and ways to think about the topic, this is a good resource. I really appreciate the NetGalley advanced copy for review!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Luke Stacks

    A nicely designed book with smooth writing and a clear thesis about minimalism that I'm mainly on board with. Chayka argues against minimalism's current manifestation as luxury style, in favor of a minimalism whose purpose is not to make life simpler or less cluttered but provoke a sometimes-thorny engagement with everyday life. This form of minimalism is expressed mainly through artists such as Agnes Martin, Donald Judd, and John Cage. Chayka does a good job making room for critique of the arti A nicely designed book with smooth writing and a clear thesis about minimalism that I'm mainly on board with. Chayka argues against minimalism's current manifestation as luxury style, in favor of a minimalism whose purpose is not to make life simpler or less cluttered but provoke a sometimes-thorny engagement with everyday life. This form of minimalism is expressed mainly through artists such as Agnes Martin, Donald Judd, and John Cage. Chayka does a good job making room for critique of the artists and thinkers he lauds, and notes that there is an inherent flaw to their conceptions of minimalism that allows for it to be steered later by market forces. However, his argument relies on several assumptions about the manifestations of minimalism in everyday life that I'm skeptical hold up to scrutiny. And although he's rightly suspicious of capitalism's role, he doesn't turn his eye on historical materialism itself to investigate how minimalism might complicate its main tenets. A longer book would be able to give all of Chayka's arguments and historical personages the space they deserve, but a 750-page book on minimalism wouldn't be on-brand.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Became muddled a bit a part way in...a tad too esoteric. I requested it from the library for justification of how I've chosen to live my life in the past 10 or so years. I was finding it hard to stick with the book and lo and behold - I had an epiphany! I decided I was ready for a change. Gave away the rather austere Case Study Daybed in my living room and ordered a new sofa and two matching chairs. Then I dusted off some tchotchkes that had been relegated to the closet...and added new ones. Thi Became muddled a bit a part way in...a tad too esoteric. I requested it from the library for justification of how I've chosen to live my life in the past 10 or so years. I was finding it hard to stick with the book and lo and behold - I had an epiphany! I decided I was ready for a change. Gave away the rather austere Case Study Daybed in my living room and ordered a new sofa and two matching chairs. Then I dusted off some tchotchkes that had been relegated to the closet...and added new ones. This book changed my life?!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adam Sampson

    A different take on minimalism and a bit of a history lessen. Topics were interesting but dont read if you are looking for some sort of direction on the subject. It's a critique, in part, of how 'minimalism' has changed and been commercialised, and changed from it's original meanings in art, music and philosophy. My only criticism was that the style seemed to be very different in each half and it lost its way a tiny bit. Still, it's definitely worth reading. An enjoyable and strangely, relaxing A different take on minimalism and a bit of a history lessen. Topics were interesting but dont read if you are looking for some sort of direction on the subject. It's a critique, in part, of how 'minimalism' has changed and been commercialised, and changed from it's original meanings in art, music and philosophy. My only criticism was that the style seemed to be very different in each half and it lost its way a tiny bit. Still, it's definitely worth reading. An enjoyable and strangely, relaxing read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    The Longing for Less... an exploration of history, focused on architectural styles and artwork progressions throughout the years, honing in on why humans crave simplicity and how the idea has morphed over time. Although a brief discussion of Marie Kondo and Joshua Barker's Tidying Up and Minimalism journeys is included, the expanse of the book justifies Architectural Minimalism and the Minimalist movement in art.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vlad

    DO NOT GET THE AUDIO VERSION. The narrator mangles words regularly, sometimes swapping in completely different words (e.g., dependently instead of dependably), sometimes mangles pronunciations (“sloo-issed” for sluiced, “stow-lid” for stolid), sometimes dropping consonants (“sultifying” instead of stultifying) sometimes mangling names (“gooth” for Goethe). It’s so regular that it will regularly take you out of immersion in the text. Otherwise, a decent book (3 stars).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sukyong Suh

    Terrific and powerful opening chapter, mercilessly dissecting and puncturing the stupid self entitled pretensions of the minimalist commercialist aesthetic. I was punching the air and cackling. But it should have just been one of several essays in this critical vein because the rest of this book was so dull, so meandering, so pointless. It felt like I was being forced to grade someone's term paper - a gifted student with strong writing skills, sure, bit still just a term paper. Shame.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Conner

    Challenged a lot of my ideas This presented a wealth of artists, authors, and philosophers for me to explore. In reading this book, Chayka challenges my notions of minimalism, at least as it concerns contemporary minimalism. While I take his point that it's been commodified, I think he really takes issue with as essentially a moralistic movement and one that thinks it reinvents itself each time. It's a very personal account of what it means, whether philosophically, artistically, or aesthetically. Challenged a lot of my ideas This presented a wealth of artists, authors, and philosophers for me to explore. In reading this book, Chayka challenges my notions of minimalism, at least as it concerns contemporary minimalism. While I take his point that it's been commodified, I think he really takes issue with as essentially a moralistic movement and one that thinks it reinvents itself each time. It's a very personal account of what it means, whether philosophically, artistically, or aesthetically. It's probably only worth 3 stars if I weren't independently interested in his various topics - contemporary minimalism, critical art theory, Japanese culture, and Buddhism.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gianfranco

    Loved Kyle Chayka's exploration into minimalism. "[Minimalism is] about seeking unmediated experiences, giving up control instead of imposing it, paying attention to what's around you without barricading yourself, and accepting ambiguity, understanding that opposites can be part of the same whole."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    I didn’t know what to expect when I borrowed this book but it was a lovely surprise of exploration ... of minimalism, yes, but more of how art (music, writing, painting, sculpture, etc) can capture silence and quiet and shadows, and how our vision of Less is not the absence of ideas, but a contemplative repose.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Minimalism can be oppressive. With the current declutter obsession, this presents an interesting and opposing viewpoint. Topics include : Architecture, possessions, art, emptiness, sensory stimulation, isolation, and much more. My takeaway: find your own balance between overstimulation and minimization.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thom Behrens

    Great book to read for anyone looking to think more critically about their relationship with things, as well as their relationship with minimalism. I think the definition for minimalism which the author provides is really profound. The end seems disjointed from the rest of the book and fairly contrived, but otherwise a phenomenal book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    shardy

    I got bored of this book really quickly. The author made a lot of claims without backing them up or providing an alternative. My TL;DR from reading just a few chapters is: minimalism has value, just don't go overboard. Too much minimalism means leads to a melding of brand, identity, aesthetics, etc. Seems to ring true for just about anything -- balance is key.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Initial half took as much as a cursory glance at commodified minimalism. The rest was a poorly connected tracing of the movement’s history and preceding aesthetic/music/architecture schools. The author ends up making a shoddy argument for minimalism at the end of the isolationism sort. Not very critical in its scrutiny of minimalism and reads more like a history book, albeit poorly assembled.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    The author fills in a great deal of the background of minimalism for classical philosophers to the artists, Agnes Martin and Donald Judd. He finishes with Japanese philosophy. But, I really think he has missed the point of how I live minimalism.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dereck Blackburn

    I’ve been interested in trends lately. This book is essentially about the minimalism movement of the last few years and it’s historical context. It’s more about being present in the life that you live daily and less about the absence of the things that we feel control us. A commentary I enjoyed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book started stronger than it finished, IMHO. An interesting premise, examining the underpinnings of minimalism and how it's been bastardized culturally, but it sometimes veered into esoteric territory that didn't hold my interest.

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