9 Anti-Hustle Books for When You’ve Changed Your Mind About the Grind

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

If anyone ever hears me say the phrase “rise and grind,” please check on me. I’ve probably been body-snatched or something. I identify strongly with the meme using the image of a bear in its PJs snoozing in front of a fireplace: “Stop glamorizing the grind, start glamorizing the Sleepytime Tea bear.”

Maybe your work ethic is still grinding you down to a nub and you could use some help on your journey with anti-hustle books. I’m here to help.

Capitalism is the air we breathe. It takes conscious thought to undo some of the so-called values a capitalistic mindset has instilled in us. We often look down on people who aren’t ambitious in their careers. We rarely find satisfaction with what we have, and we are always striving for more. We’re susceptible to outside pressures about what our dreams should be and what our lives should look like. And we are simply obsessed with productivity.

That obsession shows up everywhere. One of my favorite hobbies is knitting, which has been dubbed “productive fidgeting.” I hate it! One of the points of knitting is to slow down and create fabrics with intention. Slowing down is frankly necessary for the future of humanity. If you’re living in survival mode, do what you need to do. But if you are realizing it’s time for a reset when it comes to productivity and establishing your self-worth outside of your career, here are some anti-hustle books that can help.

Braiding Sweetgrass book cover

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I rarely think there’s a book literally everyone should read. This might be the exception. Hot tip: the audiobook is fantastic. For most people, our relationship with the earth is purely extractive. We are using all its resources to live our lives, and giving nothing back. Reading about the reciprocal nature of a genuine connection with the more-than-human world will change the way you see everything. And it might help you realize how to find some balance within yourself.

cover of the art of the wasted day

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl

The confusing truth for people gripped with the need for productivity and innovation is that the mind needs to wander to be truly and radically creative. This meandering book looks to examples in history of people who purposefully sought simpler lives, rich with repose, and how they still managed to make a mark on the world. I don’t think your daydream has to be ultimately productive for it to have been a good use of your time, but the point is that it’s important to daydream.

Cover of Rest is Resistance

Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey

If you think anti-hustle books are often rooted in the kind of privilege white people disproportionately enjoy, this is the book for you. Tricia Hersey, founder of the Nap Ministry, bases her manifesto in Black liberation. It’s a transformative book that underscores how worthy everyone is of rest. It also addresses how people who grew up in precarious environments are particularly susceptible to the hustle mindset.

cover of the right to be lazy

The Right To Be Lazy and Other Writings by Paul Lafargue

This book was written in 1880! By Karl Marx’s son-in-law! So this book has some roots in Marxist thought, particularly in how workers should unite to demand fewer working hours. Among anti-hustle books, this is the perfect one to read if you’re a little bit of a theory-head when it comes to anti-capitalism and you want to read a short, provocative book that was very influential on thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

cover of the little frog's guide to self care

The Little Frog’s Guide to Self-Care by Maybell Eequay (Sept 5)

I adore this author’s Instagram presence, full of the Little Frog who so perfectly provides the affirmations we all need, like “You don’t always have to give 100%,” “Whatever you get done today is enough,” and “I just love bagels so much.” This forthcoming book promises to provide even more of our fabulous friend with the mushroom hat and go-go boots. They don’t know what they’re doing, but they’re doing it right.

Book cover of Wintering

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

There are various reasons why school years have summer breaks. One was the 19th century educational theory that the developing mind needed a rest, the way a field needs to lie fallow to restore itself between plantings. And maybe it’s time to bring that idea back. Taking cues from nature, where activity constantly cycles between growth and retreat, is at the heart of this lyrical and quiet book.

cover of Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper

This book is a bit of a left-field choice, but I loved it so much and I really do feel like it fits in this list. Cooper’s life story and personal philosophy are far more interesting than the viral moment that put him in the public consciousness. But he also really communicates the joy of birding. Birding is the perfect anti-hustle hobby. Nothing about being able to identify birds could really be construed as productive. Moreover, developing a connection to the nature around us is key to an anti-hustle mindset, as many of these books attest.

work won't love you back cover

Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe

Raise your hand if you’ve already learned the titular lesson of this book the hard way. It’s me, I’m raising my hand. Many books that critique hustle culture try to instill an appreciation for living rather than working. This book does that while also encouraging workers to put energy into organizing. Life is better when working conditions are better, which happens through solidarity and collective action. This book also gives some history of the labor movement.

cover of pause rest be

Pause, Rest, Be: Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change by Octavia F. Raheem

When I took my first yoga class to fulfill my college Phys Ed requirement, the teacher was consistently annoyed when people fell asleep in savasana, AKA corpse pose. A hilarious hill to die on for someone teaching notoriously sleep-deprived college students, but it did get me thinking about the value of this pose. This book draws from yoga teachings, especially restorative poses like corpse pose and child’s pose, to demonstrate how to gather energy during moments of stillness.

If you’re looking for more anti-hustle books, we have a list of books about doing nothing. Bonus: no repeats with this list! What if you’re looking for something more specific? Less academic and more self-help, perhaps. Or maybe something that centers disabled voices. There’s a chance you’re even looking for fiction, like the cottagecore cozy fantasy romance of your anti-hustle dreams. We can help with that! The dedicated bibliogolists at Tailored Book Recommendations will find you what you want.

a gif with the text: Tailored Book Recommendations: Real Book Nerds Making Tailored Recommendations That Are Really, Really Good