Book Review: Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman

Book Review_For the past 15 years, Tom Friedman has been writing books explaining the changes of our world to his generational cohort – the Baby Boomers.  His latest installment, Thank You For Being Late is attracting all the expected approbation from the punditocracy.  It was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “10 books to read now” and Kirkus Reviews named it one of the best Nonfiction Books of 2016.

Weighing in at nearly 500 pages, Friedman’s tome is a sprawling, ambitious piece.  It has some fine moments, but it suffers from being three books thrown into a blender set on coarse chop.

The first book is a reflection on the value of pausing in our amped up world.  Friedman relates how, as a Washington DC journalist, he often had breakfast appointments showing up 15 minutes late and out of breath.  After a litany of explanation about their hectic schedules, they invariably apologized for being late.  One day, Friedman, answered: “No, thank you for being late.”  He realized that he had just been given the gift of 15 minutes of free time to ponder, to think, to reflect.  He came to realize that by thanking people for being late, he was giving them permission to slow down.

The second book is an explanation of the forces that Friedman sees are driving the world.  He alliteratively summarizes them as Moore’s Law, Markets, and Mother Nature.  By these three forces, he means “exponential technological development,”  “global interconnectedness,” and “climate change and species loss.”  Of course, Friedman includes his recommendations for how our society can adapt and thrive in the face of these forces.

The third book is a nostalgic look back at mid-century life in his hometown in Minnesota.  Friedman makes the case that St. Louis Park, his beloved suburban paradise, was an idyllic community that birthed extraordinary children and a bevy of overachievers.  (As an aside: I’m fascinated with the way that the generation that sang “You say you want a revolution” and waxed poetic about the dawning of the age of Aquarius now yearns for the simpler times of their childhood.)

You will benefit most from this book if you are:

1) Over 55 and befuddled by the changes taking place in the world

2) A legislator, decision maker, or pundit looking for some intellectual fodder


3) A Tom Friedman fan (and I confess, when he slips into storytelling mode, he is quite enjoyable).

Over the next couple of days on the blog, I’m going to share a few highlights from the book that I found interesting and edifying.  Hope you can join us.

UPDATE:  Index of Reflections on “Thank You For Being Late”

In the meantime, what are you reading? What’s challenging you?  Comment below.


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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman

  1. Just finished Startup Nation by Senor and Singer. Been out since ’09 but updated a few years later and important for a business I am launching. Its a study of how it is that Israel produces so much innovation for such a small country facing so many challenges. Insightful and well researched but also almost comical it its ignoring of religion and the special place Israel occupies. Also recently read Switch on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf, Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson and Prayer of Jabez by Wilkinson. Steve’s self-help trilogy:) Now to binge watch new season of House of Cards.

    • I enjoyed the Wilkinson books, but I’ve never read Caroline Leaf – I’ll have to check that one out. Hadn’t heard of Startup Nation. I’ll put that on the list as well. Thanks for the recommendations!

  2. Pingback: The Power Of The Pause: Reflections on Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late” – Horizons of the Possible

  3. Pingback: The Leverage Of Lifelong Learning: Reflections on Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late” – Horizons of the Possible

  4. Just finished “Hillbilly Elegy” …if I had read it while living in Cincinnati it would have explained the regional politics better than many editorials. A good read though not entirely accepted by the Appalachian scholarly types.

    Cinda G

    10413 Dale Avenue Cleveland, Oh 44111 USA Cinda’s mobile phone 216-688-9755 Steve’s mobile phone 216-801-2036

    Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Galatians 6:4-5The Message (MSG)


    • Thanks Cinda. I read “Hillbilly Elegy” over Christmas. I found his story to be inspiring and challenging – a fascinating read. I think you’re right – it does explain some of the dynamics of our region very well.

  5. Pingback: Is God In Cyberspace? (Reflections on Tom Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late”) – Horizons of the Possible

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