How to Do Nothing

How to Do Nothing

Resisting the Attention Economy

eBook - 2019
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** A New York Times Bestseller **
"A complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto."—Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times Book Review

One of President Barack Obama's "Favorite Books of 2019"
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: Time The New Yorker NPRGQ Elle Vulture Fortune Boing BoingThe Irish Times • The New York Public Library • The Brooklyn Public Library

Porchlight's Personal Development & Human Behavior Book of the Year
In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity, it can seem impossible to escape. But in this inspiring field guide to dropping out of the attention economy, artist and critic Jenny Odell shows us how we can still win back our lives.

Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. And we must actively and continuously choose how we use it. We might not spend it on things that capitalism has deemed important ... but once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind's role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.
Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.


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Aug 22, 2020

I enjoyed the premise and gained a few interesting new insights, but it was like reading a book about other books. The author's excessively "cultured" and professorial tone was more often a turn off than a distinct point of view. I'm as left-leaning as they come, and even I thought most of it read like a caricature of academic intelligentsia. Halfway in, I found myself thinking "if this author name drops one more obscure essayist, blogger or artist, I'm gonna lose my mind."

Jul 10, 2020

More enlightened, alternative, and hopeful ways of looking at our world, instead of just blindly accepting social and economic structures as they are now. Not the easiest book to read, but if you pay attention, you just might like it. A lot. I sure did. And it sounds like a few of the negative reviews here were from people who didn't actually read much of the book, or even understand what they did read.

Jul 03, 2020

I've tried. I promise I've tried hard. I'm so guilty of spending too much time on social media and the internet and everything else that tries (successfully) to steal my attention away from the here and now. But I'm just not getting anywhere with this book. I first checked it out on May 22 and here it is, June 29, and I'm 27% finished with it. That's abysmal for me.

I'm the biggest problem. I'm more of a fiction reader but I do like to concurrently read a nonfiction book and I add that in at night. This book asks for more thought than I'm able to give at that point in my day. I would find myself pulling up trail guides on my Kindle instead. Trail guides! They aren't exactly meant to be read cover-to-cover.

Part of the problem is that, ironically enough, my attention span has been almost non-existent since the beginning of the COVID stay-at-home orders in March. I've really struggled with fiction too. I've finally realized that lighter, more fast-paced fiction is all I have in my wheelhouse right now, and I'm okay with that. At least it's something. I have friends who aren't able to read at all.

And yet another problem is that I just don't think in the same way that the author does. I don't mean that we disagree about ideas; I mean that she presents information in a way that I don't understand. I just can't wrap my mind around what she's trying to say. She's also a visual artist and she describes the opening of an art project that she had spent three months working on, when a woman asks her, " did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?" I can appreciate (some/most) art, but from the description of this project, I would have felt as perplexed as the woman.

There is definitely an audience for this book. It's well-reviewed on GoodReads. That audience just isn't me, at least not at this point in my life.

Jun 28, 2020

I read the first chapter and found it underwhelming. The author largely quotes famous writers/philosophers and intersperses personal stories to make a basic observation you’d hear around the water cooler. And she doesn’t rely on evidence to proved her point. Her writing style lacks artistry for a book focused on being artful. I felt like the was reading an undergrad paper.

AnnabelleLee27 Jun 17, 2020

With a delightfully misleading title, this book packs a powerful wallop as a call to action in resisting the current social structures that bind our attention and choices to algorithmic capitalistic pressures. The work is academic, footnoted, and references a wide range of thinkers, writers, and artists. A challenging but rewarding read that deserves reading and rereading at length.

Jun 15, 2020

For a book about "how to to nothing" the author sure mentions the Trump Administration a whole lot. It reads more like a book about nothing, then a book about how to DO nothing. She just rambled on about her backyard bird watching and other ways she fills her days. I would not recommend.

Jun 10, 2020

This is a decent book with some interesting observations on the power/impact of managing your attention, but it didn't really deal much with "the attention economy" and it's observations on self and attention are much less than can be found in nearly any basic Buddhist text.

JCLFlanneryC Apr 03, 2020

It's complicated to give and take advice in 2020, about how to live and how to exist, and one could easily shake down the author of this book for her credentials. It's not exactly advice either; this book investigates some of my favorite subjects, including 60s utopianism and twenty-teens' techno-libertarianism, the problems of dropout culture, and asks (but does not answer) what our responsibilities might be in this increasingly dystopic future. It's a gentle, exploratory book that incorporates some interesting radical history and urges us to consider our way forward. I expected very little of this book, to be honest, but was surprised and enlightened. Recommended for people struggling to accept the rise of the machines.

Jan 09, 2020

I wanted to love this book, but I was just so bored by it. There was nothing particularly unique about it, there was no new ideas/tips/tricks or reasons as to why we should put our phones down more often and get out into the world. It was just a re-hashing of self help ideas and anti-consumerism with the only twist (if you could even call it that) being how this particular author worded those ideas. With such rave reviews and a long wait to finally get the book I was expecting to be blown away by the authors insights not think "I guess there really isn't anything new anymore". Maybe this will really speak to you but I just didn't get the hype.

Dec 25, 2019

This isn’t a book about getting off your phone and watching birds, although there’s that. It’s going to get into your head and make you think. Not in a hurtful way like doing differential equations, but in a way that makes you more interesting at parties. She’s an credible writer and curious, and makes leaps that make you think. With well-researched history and facts to back her up. And a writing style that’s like butter. Which is why she’s a successful artist and a popular professor at the fanciest of all our esteemed universities.

Why do you do the same things? Or why don’t you? She writes, “I once dated someone whose very intelligent brother only ate at chain restaurants when he traveled, his reasoning being that he wanted to know what he was getting and that he didn’t want to waste time risking something he wouldn’t like.” Solves my question of why perfectly smart people go to Denney’s.

And then there are those nasty algorithms that keep giving you content that is just like the content you keep clicking on. She says, “After all, if you were reading a book whose pages began to seem more and more similar until you were reading the same page over and over again, you would put the book down.”

Who thinks like this? Someone who gets off their phone and watches birds instead of being “productive.” Makes you think, heh heh.

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