The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism (Hardcover)
"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.
About the Author
Kyle Chayka is a freelance writer and critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, the New Republic, Rolling Stone, n+1, Vox, the Paris Review, and other publications. He has contributed chapters to Reading Pop Culture: A Portable Anthology and A Companion to Digital Art. Chayka is cofounder of Study Hall, a newsletter and digital community for journalists. He began his career as a visual art critic for Hyperallergic in Brooklyn, and now lives in Washington, D.C.
“Kyle Chayka's fascinating new book explores not only how one might live in a minimalist fashion, but in fact where the idea comes from and how it's changed and adapted over the ages.” —Town & Country
“An intriguing deep dive into the many manifestations of minimalism . . . Lively . . . Thoughtful and absorbing . . . A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy in many readers.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Alluringly titled, Chayka's insightful book connects a wide array of thought-provoking approaches to the concept of less is more.” —Booklist
"[A] sharp debut . . . Chayka is in tune with the spirit of the movement." - Washington City Paper
“Kyle Chayka gently urges us to reconsider our inheritance of the minimalist legacy while offering nuanced, profound, and then outright dazzling angles on a subject as loved as it is overexposed. With sophistication and subtlety, his new book champions the necessity of critical self-examination amidst our current cultural obsession.” —Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture & Design, Museum of Modern Art, New York City
“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
“In its lightly worn learning and serious grace, The Longing for Less functions both as a corrective to our shallow form of minimalism and as a guide to a deeper form that still has a great deal to teach us.” —Brian Phillips, bestselling author of IMPOSSIBLE OWLS
“Kyle Chayka nimbly weaves Zen Buddhism and Marxism with Donald Judd and Uniqlo in this lively and sophisticated cultural history of minimalism. He balances a critical view of the mass-market forces churning the minimalist-goods industry with a tender consideration of the emotions underlying it, showing how the urge for emptiness is part of a timeless, tireless human need to reinvent the spaces we inhabit and maximize our feeling of being alive.” —Rachel Corbett, author of YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR LIFE
“I'm no minimalist, but I am not immune to Kyle Chayka's searching, subtle, and finally quite moving exploration of the beauty of less.” —Luc Sante
“Don't let the title fool you: The Longing for Less overflows. It's a parade of artists, architects, musicians, and philosophers, most of them new to me, all of them fascinating. This book is generous and wide-ranging, a genuine adventure; it's thrilling to ride along with Kyle Chayka as he explores this terrain.” —Robin Sloan, author of MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE
“Awake to the paradoxes in our search for peace and simplicity, The Longing for Less quietly observes, with open eyes, heart, and mind, the spirit of iconic places and times when less has been enough.” —Kay Larson, author of WHERE THE HEART BEATS
“In a country fueled by commodification, the act of rearranging your dresser drawer can be billed as the beginning of a shinier, more fulfilling life. Kyle Chayka's impeccably built and consistently fascinating book examines the roots of this movement, which emerges on a loop during times of chaos, bearing aesthetic concepts as quick-fix mantras when the world feels increasingly out of control. Through all Chayka's biting observations about the soothing contours of Instagram or the platitudes of design blogs, The Longing for Less also tenderly deconstructs the universal ache to build a life that matters.” —Kristen Radtke, author of IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS