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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  494 ratings  ·  113 reviews
This thrilling critique of the forces viying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment, and reveals all that we've been too distracted to see about our selves and our world.

When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and produ
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Melville House
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4.13  · 
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 ·  494 ratings  ·  113 reviews

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Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, I understand the negative reviews of this book. The title is misleading as this is not at all a how-to on unplugging or leaving social media (for that, maybe read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism or Catherine Price’s How to Break Up With Your Phone). Instead it’s a really well-researched book on some abstract and sometimes seemingly esoteric concepts: the self, attention, bioregionalism, what it means to refuse/resist in place, and the effects of late stage capitalism on all of the above. ...more
Felicia Edens
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book at the library where I work, so I was able to read this before the public gets to it this April. None of the other librarians had taken it, and I usually don't end up reading ARCs, but after looking at the cover a couple times, I found myself genuinely intrigued. As I finished the first chapter, I knew that I was going to read the entire thing. I am personally in a state of constant love and hate as well as inspiration and anxiety in terms of my rel ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: snoot, learning
Anyone who has run a public event where you show people other organisms has fielded the horrible, soul-crushing question, "But what does it do?" or worse, "What's it good for?" They're not unreasonable questions, perfectly understandable, human questions really, and at the same time completely maddening to an ardent naturalist, as if you'd just introduced your beloved mother to someone who then asked, "Nice to meet you, but what are you good for?" If I'm feeling forthright, I'll reply, "Nothing, ...more
Andrew Sampson
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
full disclosure i literally only one page left to read in this book but i left my backpack with it inside a chipotle, anyways it still changed my life
Jay Smith
Delightful book to read, though I’m not quite sure that the author’s wandering argument that social media can (and should) be replaced by bioregionalism (in her case, replacing time spent on Facebook with bird-watching) can be extrapolated to a universal solution for everyone everywhere (for someone else, less Facebook, more marathon running might work; or, for an isolated victim of a hate crime in an impoverished country, maybe connection to a global network is more crucial than placid nature w ...more
Sweetheart Seer
*I was sent an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Let's start with the negatives and work our way to the positives to end on a high note, shall we?

The Bad:
♤ Bogged down with information dump at times.
♤ Not very cohesive at times/jumping around too much.
♤ Not as engaging as I thought it would be.
♤ Odd topic changes and reaches to try to make certain information fit that didn't feel right or necessary. Like, more should be edited out to make the points better and not over expl
Guillaume Morissette
This book rules, this felt so good to read
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, on-nature
this book is what I needed to read all along! I found a shared obsession with birds, a connection between social media and the environment, a beautiful chapter on attention, and a chapter on refusal that talked about Diogenes. I’ll be rereading this over and over during the summer when I go out birdwatching!!
Sarah Paolantonio
I was excited and eager to read this book after reading about it in Jia Tolentino's essay 'What It Takes To Put Your Phone Away' which mentioned it and partially reviewed it (and others). The cafe I manage is connected to Melville House, the press that published Odell's book, so I eagerly bought it (along with The Muller Report, which they printed which is in the public domain, side note).

Odell was asked to give a talk and came up with the title How To Do Nothing. It since has become a book wit
Robyn Neville-kett
I was immediately compelled to read this based on the title and cover art alone. A guidebook on how to do nothing? I am already a self-professed expert at this but am always open to improvement (as long as I can do so from the comfort of my couch, neglecting all other chores and expectations). This ended up being much more highbrow than I expected - the author is a multiplatform artist and instructor at Stanford so I should have known! - and she used a lot of examples of performance art and even ...more
Nick Klagge
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While superficially similar to "The World Beyond Your Head" by Matthew Crawford, a book that I really disliked, HTDN could not be more different. Dealing with the topics of distraction and the attention economy, this book is all mountain-eroding-water yin, where the other one is all world-mastering yang.

I knew I would like this book when my partner was reading it and recounted to me Odell's story about the Old Survivor redwood in Oakland. I said, huh, that sounds a lot like a story from Zhuangzi
C. S.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Odell has created a truly special work in this book.

While its possible that it's a mixture of the two, I feel like the book was either too smart for me or was just a high level thought experiment. There were several moments while reading where I felt just on the verge of something extremely profound, but ultimately I finished reading with a sense of wanting, which is why I settled on a 4 star rating instead of 5. But since superficially easy answers are also a product/invention of the attention
Like others, this book is not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a how-to, self-help book but instead this is a very heady, very academic and well-researched treatise on attention, culture, and our society at large. I didn’t get to finish because of a slew of family events, but what I read I did...respect? I never was excited to pick the book back up, but once I did I always found the author’s arguments original and well-founded - I found myself wanting to highlight a LOT. This book i ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rarely have I resonated with a book on so many levels - sociopolitically, regionally, philosophically. Please read this book and then talk to me about it! Let us resist-in-place together.
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Books that I keep looking for reasons to bring up in conversations" is probably too long of a tag for a Goodreads bookshelf, but thoroughly describes this book.
To-read: first I saw this on Jenny Z's Goodreads, and then I read Felicia Edens' excellent review, which pulled out this quote that intrigues me even further:

"...we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and regenerative. Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way."
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book so much. If I had used a yellow highlighter to mark the parts of this book that spoke to me, nearly the entire book would be yellow and I'd have spent a lot of money on yellow highlighters. I know I will return to this book many times as I continue to learn to be present, resisting persuasive design and the attention economy.
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lately I've been waking up around 6:00 in the morning. Sometimes I think it's because I have to pee; other times I think noises wake me up. I usually try to fall back asleep, an opportunity I am afforded by my bohemian lifestyle. When I awake prematurely, the first thing I observe is often the sound of birds chirping. Normally, I become irritated and fearful that the noise may prevent me from falling back asleep. I mutter to the birds, shut the fuck up already.

But yesterday morning, I instead co
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
While the information in here is good and well-researched, it read like a thesis paper for a somewhat unconventional Ph.D. program. That said, I agree with her premise, loved many of her examples, and only felt my eyes glaze over in certain sections that were probably fascinating to someone more familiar with art history than me.

No, the book won't tell you how to do nothing. This was the title of a talk she gave many years ago and doesn't apply literally: "The point of doing nothing, as I define
Gordon Jack
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell feels like the right book at the right time for me. I spend enough time online to worry about what it’s doing to my sense of self. “My experience,” as Odell writes, “is what I agree to attend to". So, when I scroll through my news and social media feeds, I not only get a nonsensical view of the world, but I further alienate myself from myself. Maybe this is why I feel so alone and depressed after spending too much time online. “Expression on social media so often ...more
Tess Malone
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book like this before. Although it may be billed as a self-help book, it's more environmental activism disguised as philosophy with a hearty dose of personal essay. Odell isn't here to tell us how our phones are so addictive or how to get off them, but why it matters. She doesn't want to increase our productivity, but question the capitalist agenda behind it all. Using history, arts criticism, philosophy, and science, she puts all of this in context because the point of this ...more
Everything became capitalism* and capitalism became everything, but there are small, subtle actions we can take to resist it.

Hold on--didn't I read this book when it was called No Logo by Naomi Klein?

Well, no. First of all, No Logo was written when the digital landscape (and the accompanying "attention economy") was a fraction of what it is now. Second, while No Logo presented some concrete examples of why the corporate takeover was bad and gave steps of how people could resist it, How to Do N
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really special book, but at the same time, not for everyone (I will recommend it carefully to certain people who I think will appreciate it!). There are so many wise and profound snippets in this book, but at the same time it can come off a little 'highbrow' or snooty (your typical Bay Area smugness). There are so many references to people and places near and dear to my heart: West Oakland, The Elkhorn Slough, Lake Merritt, Grand Lake Theatre, Walden Pond, Jia Tolentino, Audre Lorde, birdwatch ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because of the ideas in this book I am thinking differently about the natural world and my place in it. The ideas about thinking of nature only in terms of a resource than can be monetized resonated with me, especially as I realized that I had to been taught to experience myself this way. I am now practicing the gradual undoing of this point of view. Interestingly, I went on a bird hike in a local nature preserve and some of the trees were labeled with tags that assigned a monetary value to the ...more
Katie Foster
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book and got a lot out of it. I do wish, however, that it had a different title. "How To Do Nothing" feels very click-baity. Doing Nothing isn't the point of this book - it's doing Something, Anything with a bit more care and attention. I also wish Odell had let herself really dive into her anticapitalist thinking and name it as such. This book to me was much less about putting down your phone/getting off social media and much more about how the machinations of capitalism ...more
Devon DeRaad
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So so so good. I read this after reading digital minimalism, thinking the two would be extremely similar. Instead this book takes a completely different stance. Digital minimalism encourages you to disconnect from the attention economy so that you can be more productive and get ahead. How to do nothing instead asks what it means to be productive and asks who we are being productive for. The idea of resistance in place will stick with me for a long time. May we all have the perspective to see out ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite what the title may imply, this (thankfully) does not read as yet another generic self-help guide on how to log off. Instead, it's a far more nuanced, lyrical, and ecological reminder to pay attention, to really pay attention. It's not enough to defiantly unplug; we still *do* have to stay connected with the world, with nature, and with other people, but we can do this in a far more sustainable way. This book is ultimately a reminder to be intentional, in every way, and to not fall into d ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I expected this book to be an extended think piece but it's much smarter than that! Very, very well written and well researched. Many things "up my ally," including the problems with dropout culture, the overlap of 60s utopianism and the 20-teens' techno-libertarianism, combined with things up my ally but unknown to me, all very exciting! Recommended for people struggling through "the Age of Surveillance Capitalism" i.e., me, and other people interested in internet critique but burnt out on hot ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most non-fiction: I wish it'd just been a long essay. I felt like she was grasping to make this academic - grounding in philosophy and other classic texts like Bartleby - when it's really a quasi self help book. I soured on her inflammatory use of words like "capitalism" and "algorithms." That said, I loved the Exercises in Attention chapter on a cultivating a disciplined deepening of attention: recognizing when you see things but don't _notice_ them. Reminded me of DFW's "This is Water" sp ...more
Dan Gibson
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a long time to read for a couple reasons, but mostly just because it’s so dense. There’s a lot going on - birding, philosophy and more than I’m currently able to remember. I’m not sure this book answers how to do nothing, but it’s rich enough make you want to question your space in the attention-based economy at times and wonder what on earth she’s talking about at others.
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