This isn’t, before you roll your eyes, a self-help book. Schulte is a journalist and this book is her journalistic exploration of the current culture of extreme busyness that has sprung up in America over the last few decades. It’s a really fascinating, often enraging, book. Schulte digs into the culture of stress in a lot of powerful ways and then uses it as a springboard to talk about a lot of varied issues. A chapter on the impacts of stress on health is angering and drives home the point of the book: things HAVE to change, unless we all want to die. Continuing in this “stress bath” simply isn’t an option. Then, in a lengthy section about the relationship of the workplace to parenthood, Schulte marshals impressive data about the generally devastatingly bad state of child care and parental leave policies – in this section, she’s less theoretical than in others, talking explicitly about political and legal changes that need to happen. There’s a lengthy interview with Pat Buchanan about child care policies and it’s absolutely damning and absolutely withering. In the end, the book isn’t a self-help book, but many of the researchers she interviews have insightful things to say about finding ways to escape the overwhelming busyness and build a fulfilling life. Seinfeld has made it difficult to take the word “serenity” seriously, but at the end of the book, Schulte uses the small glimmers of hope and ideas that she’s found along her journey to point the way “toward time serenity.” It’s a noble goal and the ending of this book is genuinely emotionally moving; Schulte’s struggle is our collective struggle and her hope becomes our hope. This book doesn’t have a lot of answers; but it brings home the reality of the unsustainability of our current lifestyle and pushes the reader toward finding a way out of it, if for no other reason, because it WILL absolutely kill you. This is a book everyone in America should read. 4 stars.
tl;dr – journalist explores the origins, practices and effects of the modern culture of extreme busyness; not a self-help book, but it dares to imagine a way to time serenity. 4 stars.