Book Review: Hanging Out

Sheila Liming ~ Hanging Out


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 adult, 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.


I love hanging out with people. And yet, since Covid the concept of being around a lot of people does sometimes feel less appealing than sitting on my sofa with a book. Across the globe, companies are adopting hybrid models as people are choosing to work remotely, rather than in an office. We’re told we need to connect and collaborate with colleagues face to face, but being at home is easy, it’s flexible and – with the cost of living crisis – cheaper. But without social interactions, can we survive?

In Hanging Out, Sheila Liming explains why hanging out is so powerful. There doesn’t have to be an agenda to ‘hang out’, so it’s casual, easy and there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Liming combines theory with personal stories to showcase examples of how we hang out in different situations.

These anecdotes are interesting, but feel too much at times. Shorter excerpts, mixed with more theory and others’ insights would have made for a well-rounded analysis, as a lot of the topics needed further explanation. However, I did enjoy the literary quotes and book references (including Mrs Dalloway and – surprisingly – Trainspotting), which gave it a thoughtful slant. Although some of Liming’s stories are amusing, I was expecting more humour from the book, and at times it felt quite dry and even a little dull.

An interesting concept for sure, but perhaps not executed as well as it could have been.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks to Melville House for my proof copy. Opinions my own.

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