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The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  277 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Professor Forni, founder of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins, is America's civility expert. In his first two books, Choosing Civility and The Civility Solution, he taught readers the rules of civil behavior and ways of responding to rudeness. Now, in The Thinking Life, he looks at the importance of thinking in our lives: how we do it, why we don't do enough of it a ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by St. Martin's Press
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Apr 22, 2014 Susie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiftyfiftyme
P.M. Forni recommends disconnecting from the internet for 3 hrs a day, at minimum & to make a daily appointment with yourself to reflect and focus only on thought, stop multi-tasking, stop over scheduling, stop answering "how are you?" with "busy", to focus on doing things right the first time, to stop entertaining ourselves / chronically avoiding our own minds

To this, I'm all ears.

"Every day, millions go to work predisposed to endure and leery to commit, which is just about the worst possi
Jun 15, 2012 Courtney rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
2.5 stars. I have several issues with this book. But first, let me start with the (scant) praise. In The Thinking Life, Forni offers practical suggestions for thinking when we are constantly overwhelmed by pressure to do the opposite. I was especially intrigued by his description of the shifting historical usages of leisure time. While many of us associate leisure with recreation and pleasure, that connotation is relatively recent. Back in the day, leisure time denoted time away from work that w ...more
Chris Aldrich
Oct 15, 2014 Chris Aldrich rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
While some might categorize this as a "self-help" or "business" book, it's really a broader reaching thesis which is perfect for almost any reader. It's both a descriptive as well as prescriptive manual for the human thinking machine. Similar to his previous two excellent must-read books on civility (Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude), this is a well-written, clear, and concise text whose aim is the noble go ...more
Mar 23, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
I bought this book after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. I had high hopes for this book. I was drawn to the idea of a productive thinking life, as opposed to the non-productive, anxiety-ridden, ADD type thinking I frequently engage in. Honestly, I've been trying to read it for a couple of months, and I just can't power through it. I find this book to be almost preachy in its tone. There are some broad generalizations about generations lacking self-control. There are also assumptions ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, american
Preachy, but a good short read for those brought up in the internet age of distraction, who mostly do not know what it's like to sit and think rather than being 'entertained'.
Hannah Emery
I found this book thought-provoking, in part because I completely agree with the author's premise that contemporary people (particularly millennials, a group of which I count myself among the leading edge) spend too much time in mindless distracting pursuits -- the particular targets of his wrath are Internet browsing and social media, but you could make the same general argument for TV Tropes, newsfeeds, binging on mindless TV or spending your day with your iPod earbuds in. Forni suggests that ...more
Alex T.
Jul 16, 2015 Alex T. rated it really liked it
P.M. Forni brings the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers to present-day situations to create a compelling argument for all of us to slow down, to do less, and to think more. Interspersing his thoughts with the sage advice of the Stoics and modern anecdotes, he provides an easy-to-read guide to fostering deeper introspection. While there were some aspects of his writing style that I did not particularly care for, the greater message of "The Thinking Life" is one worth considering by all, whethe ...more
Sehar  Moughal
Dec 26, 2014 Sehar Moughal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a reminder about the importance of spending a few minutes each day on self-reflection. The era of technology is beneficial yet it is threatening to take away the simple pleasures in life: having a meal without any technological distraction such as TV, cellphones or computer screens. I am not sure how much a novice thinker would benefit from this book. When I say a novice, I mean a person who, at all times, is suffocated with technology around them and does not have time to actively ...more
Ramesh Prabhu
May 15, 2013 Ramesh Prabhu rated it really liked it
Nuggets of wisdom from a gem of a book -- (The Reading Room)
Dec 27, 2015 Senthil rated it it was amazing
Tools for safeguarding against the distraction devil !
Jun 28, 2012 Melanie rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was pretty disappointed with this book overall - it has some interesting moments, but not enough to redeem it in my eyes. The author seems to spend a lot of time denigrating the current generation, technology, movies and tv, and pretty much anything else he can think of that isn't pure thought and meditation. The thing is, you simply cannot survive in this world without being immersed in popular culture, in social activities, etc. For example:

"He [Michael Phelps, after being caught on camera w
Sheli Ellsworth
Feb 02, 2013 Sheli Ellsworth rated it liked it
Shelves: my-reviews
Do you spend every waking moment either on your phone, computer or watching television? If you do, you may be missing out on what John Hopkins Professor, P.M. Forni, describes as “the first necessary step toward life’s elusive grand prize—true happiness.” In //The Thinking Life,// Forni extols the virtues of introspection and reflection as the process by which we learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. In an age where every waking minute is spent on competing technology, the art of t ...more
Semper Liber
Aug 10, 2016 Semper Liber rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2012 Eric rated it liked it
This book was challenging in a good way. I was encouraged to be a more intentionally thoughtful person rather that a reactively thoughtful person. The book suffered from a lack of focus though. Several times he would apply topics to business situations that weren't introduced in that context and then sweep along to talking about personal relationships and then to a persons interior life. It left me wondering what kind of book I was reading. It wasn't the best written book. I enjoyed how the auth ...more
Barrette Plett
I was really captivated by the beginning, and pulled out a number of salient quotes. After the first 40 pages, or so, however, I felt it kind of lost momentum. Now I'm stuck trying to decide whether to buy a copy (I read one from the library) so that I can sit with it and digest it and do the response questions (as was my inclination at the beginning), or whether the first 40 pages really justify the investment...
Clark Knowles
Jul 04, 2016 Clark Knowles rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I was with the author until he used Michael Phelps as an example of someone "not thinking" through their actions when he did a bong hit and some jerk took his picture and everyone lost their mind when the photo went viral. The author doesn't question the reaction, only the act. Seriously? Aren't their better examples of people not thinking? Maybe he was thinking! Maybe he was thinking "I'd like to unwind but I don't want to drink because I'm driving later so I think I'll just do this harmless bo ...more
Steve H
There are a lot of good elements to this book, but the text could use some editing to improve organization, tie ideas together, and sustain the overall argument of the book, which in its present form gets somewhat diffused. This is a cross between self-help (How to thrive in an age of distraction) and unsupported advice and platitudes. The author frequently refers to and recommends striving for "the good life," but doesn't really define the concept other than to repeat some ancient greek adages ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Monique rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing read. It is one that will make you ask questions of yourself. Do you really think before you speak? How often do you think about how your words make other feel? Do you really have true leisure time? This would be a good book for helping students learn about critical thinking? Or for a person that needs to find themselves, increase their self-worth, and honor those around them.
Oct 27, 2012 Gini rated it liked it
Shelves: ditched-books
If I am anything, I am a thinking woman. If I am anything, I am TOO introspective, to the point of anxiety and fear, etc. So many things in this book I already do, and so many other things in this book just led me to have more anxiety. Like, oh no! I think a lot, but my thinking time could be so much more PRODUCTIVE or something.
Which i suppose it could, but really. really. this book was not for me. I have been kind of pretending to read it every once in awhile for a couple months now, but I am
Mar 30, 2016 Todd rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I liked the exploration into the mechanics of thought, reflection, and introspection in the first half of the book. The latter half of the book was primarily "case studies" applying the principles; while good, I definitely enjoyed the first half more.
Mark Pare
Mar 06, 2014 Mark Pare rated it it was ok
Not a bad book but it does have a very judgemental overall tone to it. The book languishes in several spots where the author seems to have an axe to grind. As a civility advocate this comes through several times in certain spots to the detriment of the book.

Just not a great read. One man's opinion.
Jennifer Stringer
Mar 05, 2012 Jennifer Stringer rated it liked it
I heard the author on NPR and thought it was an interesting interview. A lot of the advice seems fairly obvious, but it's surprising when you think about it how "multi-tasking" has crept into so many aspects of life. The book breaks down the different qualities required for a thoughtful life-style and ends each chapter with a list of exercises designed to cultivate a more thoughtful life. Not wanting to take the time, I didn't do any of them. (Yes, I recognize the irony)Many involved writing or ...more
Apr 06, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it
This book was shared with me by one of our Media Specialists in my high school. I returned it on the last day of school, but only after ordering my own copy on Amazon.

A person once accused me of 'thinking too much.' I found both the statement and the person really stupid(!). Over the years, though, I've often wondered why people don't (appear to) think more....

Then there are my high school students. Asking them to THINK is like pulling teeth. Dr. Forni helps me understand why. His ideas confirm
Cristian Marrero
Aug 23, 2015 Cristian Marrero rated it really liked it
If you have an open mind, you will enjoy the different short stories and ideas to self help and improve your way of life if you're lost and scattered.
Dec 26, 2012 Joyce rated it liked it
this little volume would't convince anyone to join the world of thinkers. It's too philosophic in tone and quite dry. Makes the point that we are over stimulated to death by information and most modern people would be healthier to take ten minutes to look at their toes. Nothing new about that opinion. I know people who couldn't remain silent for ten minutes if you paid them. Not mentioning any names.
I really don't worry about the technical overfunctioning of today's young people. They'll get ti
Jul 03, 2015 Zuly rated it it was ok
Nothing new here but a reminder. There are some journal prompts that might be helpful to some.
Excellent - every high school senior should read this book - it's inspiring.
I read about a 1/3 of this book and then I put it down and never felt inclined to pick it back up. Finally, I was forced to finish because it was due at the library. I enjoyed the ideas that Forni broached. I especially enjoyed the chapters on positive thinking and being a thoughtful person. There is a lot to be said (or thought) for the ideas he proposed. People do spend too much time rushing around without considering their actions or words. All of could benefit from a more thoughtful approach ...more
Marci Stone
Dec 31, 2013 Marci Stone rated it liked it
The thought behind this book is interesting. We don't learn how to think or are not taught how. We just move from one decision to another. Spending time thinking about what we want and then consistently thinking about how to get it is powerful. After expressing those thoughts though...the book loses steam. It becomes more of an overall this is how you should live your life and this is what you should be thinking about.
Jul 14, 2015 Gregory rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gregory by: Alex Valencic
I think that Forni is right on with just about everything he says.

The problem with the book is that it is really easy to read. To really get benefit from the book you need to force yourself to slow down, think about what is said, and try it out.
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Dr. Pier Massimo Forni is a professor in the Department of Germanic and Romance Languages and Literatures, Johns Hopkins University. In 1997 he co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, an aggregation of academic and community outreach activities that is aimed at assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society. It has been reconstituted as The Civility I ...more
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