The Jesuit Book Club gathers readers from around the world to read and discuss works that wrestle with big spiritual questions. We host free, live author events and have featured conversations with leading writers Mary Karr, Alice McDermott, Phil Klay, Kerry Weber and Kirstin Valdez Quade.
Our next selection is “The End of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us and How to Build Better Lives” by Jonathan Malesic.
We’ll be meeting with Jonathan on Wednesday, April 20, at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT.
Free registration is required at jesuits.org/bookclub.
Read along with other members of the club and discuss in our Facebook group.
About this timely book
Going beyond the how and why of burnout, a former tenured professor combines academic methods and first-person experience to propose new ways for resisting our cultural obsession with work and transforming our vision of human flourishing.
Burnout has become our go-to term for talking about the pressure and dissatisfaction we experience at work. But because we don’t really understand what burnout means, the discourse does little to help workers who are suffering from exhaustion and despair. Jonathan Malesic was one of those workers, and, to escape, he quit his job as a tenured professor. In “The End of Burnout,” he dives into the history and psychology of burnout, traces the origin of the high ideals we bring to our dismal jobs, and profiles the individuals and communities who are already resisting our cultural commitment to constant work.
In “The End of Burnout,” Malesic traces his own history as someone who burned out of a tenured job to frame this rigorous investigation of how and why so many of us feel worn out, alienated and useless in our work. Through research on the science, culture and philosophy of burnout, Malesic explores the gap between our vocation and our jobs, and between the ideals we have for work and the reality of what we have to do. He eschews the usual prevailing wisdom in confronting burnout (“Learn to say no!” “Practice mindfulness!”) to examine how our jobs have been constructed as a symbol of our value and our total identity. Beyond looking at what drives burnout — unfairness, a lack of autonomy, a breakdown of community, mismatches of values — this book spotlights groups that are addressing these failures of ethics. We can look to communities of monks, employees of a Dallas nonprofit, intense hobbyists and artists with disabilities to see the possibilities for resisting a “total work” environment and the paths to recognizing the dignity of workers and nonworkers alike. In this critical yet deeply humane book, Malesic offers the vocabulary we need to recognize burnout, overcome burnout culture and find moral significance in our lives beyond work.
About Jonathan Malesic
Jonathan Malesic is a Dallas-based writer and a former academic, sushi chef, and parking lot attendant who holds a PhD from the University of Virginia. His work has appeared in the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, America, Commonweal and elsewhere.
Reviews of “The End of Burnout”
“In this profound, humane and timely book, Jonathan Malesic diagnoses our burned-out condition with more clarity than anyone before him. But just as importantly, he shows us a path through and out of the crisis — toward a thrilling yet achievable vision of life with our jobs no longer at the center.” —Oliver Burkeman, author of “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals”
“‘The End of Burnout’ is compassionate and wry, addictive and propulsive. It doesn’t just identify the causes of burnout; it offers us compelling examples of what the alternative offers and what it can look like. It’s one thing to identify burnout in your own life. It’s another to actively seek out the ways to embrace a posture that counters it. This book, one of very few that offer you a graspable glimpse of a different way of a life, feels like a revelation.” —Anne Helen Petersen, author of “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation”
“Jonathan Malesic has written a moving account of an under-acknowledged cultural and spiritual malady. He weaves psychology, theology, philosophy and real-world experience into a convincing argument that we must attend to the prevalence of burnout if — for no other reason — it undermines our ability to seek the good life.” —Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)”