- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Melville House (April 9, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612197493
- ISBN-13: 978-1612197494
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
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From the Publisher
"How to Do Nothing is genuinely instructive, elaborating a practical philosophy to help us slow down and temporarily sidestep the forces aligned against both our mental health and long-term human survival. You can knock the hustle — and you should."—Akiva Gottlieb, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Approachable and incisive. . . . The book is clearly the work of a socially conscious artist and writer who considers careful attention to the rich variety of the world an antidote to the addictive products and platforms that technology provides. . . . [Odell] sails with capable ease between the Scylla and Charybdis of subjectivity and arid theory with the relatable humanity of her vision."—Nicholas Cannariato, THE WASHINGTON POST
"The sentiment behind How to Do Nothing is one of defiance.”—Casey Schwartz, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"An erudite and thoughtful narrative about the importance of interiority and taking time to pay close attention to the spaces around us."—Annie Vainshtein, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"An eloquent argument against the cult of efficiency, and I felt both consoled and invigorated by it."—Jennifer Szalai, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"The path to freedom lies within the covers of this book."—Lauren Goode, WIRED
"How to Do Nothing mimics the experience of walking with a perceptive and sensitive friend, the kind of person who makes you feel, in your bones, that it’s a miraculous gift to be alive."—Katie Bloom, THE SEATTLE TIMES
"Odell’s great strength as a writer is her ability to convey art’s unique power without overestimating or misstating its social impact. . . . Ultimately, what sets her book apart from self-help is not a less quixotic set of demands but a more life-affirming endgame."—Megan Marz, THE BAFFLER
"Thoughtful, compelling, and practical."—Clay Skipper, GQ
"Jenny Odell’s brilliant How to Do Nothing is the book we all need to read now. With wonderful precision, passion, and artfulness, Odell finds the language to meet this cultural moment. She has written a joyful manifesto about resistance that is also an eccentric and practical handbook on how to reclaim your colonized and monetized attention."—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
“Self-help for the collectively minded, How to Do Nothing is as thoughtful and morally serious as it is fun to read. This book will change how you see the world.”—Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days
“Your chaotic, fraught internal weather isn't an accident, it's a business-model, and while 'thoughtful resistance' isn't 'productive,' Odell proves that it is utterly necessary.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway
“In a media and tech ecosystem simultaneously obsessed with "digital detox" and building personal brands, How to Do Nothing is a breath of fresh air grounding readers in the complex, interdependent actual ecosystems of the physical world. Jenny Odell writes with remarkable clarity and compassion. Each chapter reads like going on a fascinating walk through a park in conversation with an old friend (who happens to also be able to tell you about every single bird in the park, which is awesome). It's a book I already know I'll be returning to and referencing for a long time.”—Ingrid Burrington, author of Networks of New York
“In How to do Nothing Jenny Odell breaks through the invisible yoke that binds 21st century first-worlders to our app-driven devices. With a thoughtful look at the attention economy, Odell’s book is a self-help guide for re-learning how to look at the world. The book braids threads of ancient philosophy together with contemporary visual and technological culture, and weaves an original route to re-wilding the mind. Wide-ranging and erudite, this book is also entertaining, and brings the reader along with enthusiasm to Odell's philosophy of “manifest dismantling.” —Megan Prelinger, author of Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age
"Odell introduces the idea that within our world there are endless other worlds; many of the alternatives sound much better. We need only pay attention."—VICE'S Broadly
About the Author
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If you’re looking for a digital detox guide, go elsewhere (though she does spend time dismantling the very concept). If a capitalist critique (by a woman in academia, no less) gets your knickers in a twist, avoid. If you want some genuine inspiration as to how to exist, resist, and survive in the world as it is today, you won’t be disappointed.
How to Do Nothing is an amazing exploration of our current attention-competing, dizzying world of information overload—and it would be a fabulous book if it just stopped there. But Odell actually offers insights into how to fight this modern cacophony of too-muchedness, leaving us with an improbably optimistic and refreshing view on a decidedly 21st-century problem.
I'm anxiously awaiting my nieces' and nephews' transitions into adulthood, so I an share this work with them. Because it's just that necessary.
Top international reviews
It's not about how to shut yourself off from society and live as a hermit. It's not a bunch of shallow hand-wringing about social media and "kids these days." It's not even a detox or retreat guide. How To Do Nothing is a careful, well-researched look at how we choose to engage with our world and with each other, so that we can find ways to restore nuance, context and a sense of belonging. To do this, Odell investigates everything from history and politics to literature, art, sociology, even bird watching.
Though this book is written in a slightly academic style and the reader may benefit from some knowledge of critical methods or modern philosophy, it's so honest that I believe it would resonate strongly with anyone. I have personally taken a lot from this book and have been thinking about it for weeks since I read it.
I think one can relate more to the book (and some of the examples) if one is familiar with California.
The work was a little contradictory at times about our relationship with our ‘app-driven devices’. And, I found a mention of the author ‘killing time’ simply bizarre given the underlying emphasis on what might be seen as ‘mindfulness’.
Perhaps this was just a figure of speech? That said, I did find the author’s prose style rather clumsy at times. Is this because she writes in American English and I’m a British English writer? Or it might be generational?
I’ve got a background in computing going back to the late 1960s, and was involved with AI work in the mid 1980s. Even then, some of the problematic aspects of technology were evident - if only in embryo.
Jenny Odell offers lots of suggestions for resisting but I see little evidence that her impassioned pleas will have much impact on most of those trapped in the ‘Attention Economy’. If one does want to resist (perhaps even ‘drop out’ to some degree) opportunities to do so seem very dependant on how much personal autonomy one enjoys. This is, to be fair, something she recognises.
The one, overwhelming depressing aspect of the book is the assertion that there’s ‘hundreds of designers and engineers predict(ing) and plan(planing) for our every move on these platforms’. In other words, getting us to ‘click’ for reasons that are essentially about generating income for these corporations.
In a world facing a myriad of problems from climate change to a global refugee crisis, it’s more than a pity that these talented people can’t find something more constructive to do with their time and energy.