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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Lean Out

A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life

by (author) Tara Henley

Random House Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2020
Personal Memoirs, Essays & Travelogues, Happiness
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2020
    List Price

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"Travel to the land of Couldn't Be More Timely."--Margaret Atwood on Lean Out, in the West End Phoenix

"What begins as one woman's critique of our culture of overwork and productivity ultimately becomes an investigation into our most urgent problems: vast inequality, loneliness, economic precarity, and isolation from the natural world. Henley punctures the myths of the meritocracy in a way few writers have. This is an essential book for our time." --Mandy Len Catron, author of How to Fall in Love with Anyone

A deeply personal and informed reflection on the modern world--and why so many feel disillusioned by it.

In 2016, journalist Tara Henley was at the top of her game working in Canadian media. She had traveled the world, from Soweto to Bangkok and Borneo to Brooklyn, interviewing authors and community leaders, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. But when she started getting chest pains at her desk in the newsroom, none of that seemed to matter.

The health crisis--not cardiac, it turned out, but anxiety--forced her to step off the media treadmill and examine her life and the stressful twenty-first century world around her. Henley was not alone; North America was facing an epidemic of lifestyle-related health problems. And yet, the culture was continually celebrating the elite few who thrived in the always-on work world, those who perpetually leaned in. Henley realized that if we wanted innovative solutions to the wave of burnout and stress-related illness, it was time to talk to those who had leaned out.

Part memoir, part travelogue, and part investigation, Lean Out tracks Henley's journey from the heart of the connected city to the fringe communities that surround it. From early retirement enthusiasts in urban British Columbia to moneyless men in rural Ireland, Henley uncovers a parallel track in which everyday citizens are quietly dropping out of the mainstream and reclaiming their lives from overwork. Underlying these disparate movements is a rejection of consumerism, a growing appetite for social contribution, and a quest for meaningful connection in this era of extreme isolation and loneliness.

As she connects the dots between anxiety and overwork, Henley confronts the biggest issues of our time.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Tara Henley is a Canadian writer and broadcaster. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared on CBC television, and in The Guardian, The L.A. Times, The Globe and Mail and The Walrus, as well as dozens of other publications across the country and around the world. She currently works as a producer at CBC Radio and has a books column in The Toronto Star.

Excerpt: Lean Out: A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life (by (author) Tara Henley)

From the Introduction

“What do you do when the work you love tastes like dust?”
I first heard this question in an airy newsroom in Vancouver, during a downpour in February of 2016. TED was in town, and I was watching a YouTube talk on burnout from TV mogul Shonda Rhimes. I had pitched a segment on this phenomenon for our morning radio show the next day, and was busy trying to track down an expert to talk about the global epidemic of overwork.

Watching the video, it dawned on me that Rhimes’s story was actually my own. And that her question couldn’t have come at a better time.

I was forty years old, and had been working at breakneck speed for fifteen years. I had traveled the world, from Soweto to Bangkok and Paris to Brooklyn, interviewing authors and community leaders, rappers and philanthropists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. I had trekked the jungles of Borneo. Visited Buckingham Palace. Experienced the thrill of sitting down with Beyoncé. And of debating with Kanye West.

But in that moment, none of it seemed to matter. I was hunched over my desk, holding my torso, racked by chest pains that I was trying—and failing—to ignore.

My drive, always my greatest asset, suddenly felt like a dangerous liability.

Editorial Reviews

Lean Out rang so true for me, and gave me the permission I needed to say no to two assignments that normally I would just say yes to—because I’m terrified of missing a single opportunity, of appearing ungrateful, and falling behind. Adrenaline can play a role in keeping us alive, but it’s no way to live. Beautifully written, brimming with insight and reassurance—I’m so grateful for this book.”
–Olivia Sudjic, author of Exposure
"Provocative and convincing." — Winnipeg Free Press

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