Hanging Out – Sheila Liming

Published By: Melville House
Pages: 224
Released On: 26/01/2023

Almost every day it seems that our world becomes more fractured, more digital, and more chaotic. Sheila Liming has the answer: we need to hang out more. 

Starting with the assumption that play is to children as hanging out is to adults, Liming makes a brilliant case for the necessity of unstructured social time as a key element of our cultural vitality. The book asks questions like what is hanging out? why is it important? why do we do it? how do we do it? and examines the various ways we hang out—in groups, online, at parties, at work. 

Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time makes an intelligent case for the importance of this most casual of social structures, and shows us how just getting together can be a potent act of resistance all on its own.


Thanks to Melville House for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review and a spot on the book tour.

I have a love/hate relationship with non fiction books. I find, if they’re good, they’re really good, but they can be too complicated or too patronising. But I think this one just hits the right note.

The chapters include: Hanging Out at Parties, Hanging Out With Strangers, Jamming as Hanging Out, Hanging Out on TV, Hanging Out on the Job, Dinner Parties as Hanging Out, Hanging Out on the Internet, and How to Hang Out……so there’s something for everyone.

I will be honest, it did sound like a peculiar choice of topic to write a book about. You can’t think that there’s enough to fill 200 odd pages.

I think the pandemic has helped and hindered this book. It showed that there’s nothing wrong with hanging out and ‘doing nothing’. But equally, we lost our ability to hang out with people and this book shows the importance of that.

I fell it was well written and well researched; some sections were more enjoyable than others, as I expected. There were some I felt dragged on a bit too much and failed to hold my complete interest, but on a whole I enjoyed reading it.

What was interesting, is the amount of quotes and stories from notable people, including philosopher Walter Benjamin. They’re not necessarily people I would have associated with the idea of just hanging out.

It floats from personal anecdote to fictional to notable quotes, and on some occasions it can get a bit blurred and you have to get yourself back on track.

I did think it was going to be more lighthearted than it is. Not to say it’s depressing, no no, but there’s a lot more literary, cultural and societal criticism than I thought there would be, which makes for an intense and interesting read.

She shows how much hanging out has changed, not just in our recent past, but how it was centuries ago and what it may be in the near and far future. It really gives food for thought.

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