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Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention- and How to Think Deeply Again

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  17,034 ratings  ·  2,076 reviews
Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes a groundbreaking examination of why this is happening--and how to get our attention back.

In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds at a time, and office workers average only three minutes. Like so m
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published January 25th 2022 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published January 6th 2022)
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Amy A bit unfair, I think. I have always been an avid reader. As a child, I would have to be called repeatedly or even given a tap to bring me out of a bo…moreA bit unfair, I think. I have always been an avid reader. As a child, I would have to be called repeatedly or even given a tap to bring me out of a book in which I had immersed myself. Through my teens and young adulthood, I consumed books in days. Then the internet became a phenomenon with smart phones following closely behind. In the past 7 - 10 years, I've found myself struggling to stay engaged while reading. In the last 5 years since joining Instagram and TikTok, I've found my ability to focus on tasks in general slipping. I can still read if I'm interested in a subject, but I've noticed a disturbing change to my concentration, so I decided to read this book to get insight into the causes.(less)
Steph That would depend on the edition. The hardcover is 357 pages, but if you click the "All Editions" link, which can be found just above the "My Activity…moreThat would depend on the edition. The hardcover is 357 pages, but if you click the "All Editions" link, which can be found just above the "My Activity" section, you can see a full list of published editions with their page counts.(less)

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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  17,034 ratings  ·  2,076 reviews

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Aaron L
Jan 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This was so good!
One of those books everyone should read.

My sometimes lazily taken notes:

• In 2013, on twitter, a topic would remain in the most discussed topics for 17.5 hours. In 2016, this had dropped to 11.9 hours.

• Scientists used an algorithm to check how long people spend on a topic before going onto something new. They scanned books from the 1800 hundreds up to now and analysed the Internet. They found convincing data which showed a sharp decline in attention, or the ability to sustai
Chris Boutté
Nov 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
When I finished this book, I was extremely conflicted, and I figured out why. I hold Johann Hari to an extremely high standard because I truly believe that his previous book Lost Connections is one of the most important books ever written about depression, and I’ve read it multiple times. Johann and his team were kind enough to send me an early copy of this new book, and I binged it. Johann is an amazing writer, and I can breeze through just about any book he puts out there because his style is ...more
Johan Agstam
Jan 17, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved most of the book, there's been quite some good advice I've been able to use to start healing my focus and I found the sections on how these sites are intentionally made to worsen our attention problems very enlightening. There is however a caveat - the chapter (or was it 2 chapters) on ADHD. Now, I'm not completely against touching on this as the problems with attention and how the environment is made to make it very hard certainly doesn't help people with ADHD, but he comitts all of the ...more
Feb 26, 2022 rated it liked it
I read this book—and Hari’s other popular book, Lost Connections—before I realized that he has a somewhat checkered past as a journalist. I loved Hari’s writing, and he can certainly weave together compelling interviews to craft a strong argument. His books are a breeze to read. But once I Googled him, it really soured the experience of this book for me. I found myself constantly skeptical of Hari’s claims, unsure of how much I could believe and how much was distorted to fit the author’s narrati ...more
Rachel Chambers
Jan 16, 2022 rated it did not like it
I was really interested to read this book. For the sake of clarity my eldest son has ADHD and having lived with his struggles I perhaps am more sensitive than most to the topics raised.

The first3/4 of the book tell us nothing we don't already know (my grandma knows how to suck eggs, thank you) interspersed with the opinions of some scientists. The last 1/4 deals with ADHD and children and this is mostly where I take issue. Hari writes that there should be no judgement on parents for ADHD and the
Mar 01, 2022 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I did not finish this book. The chapter on ADHD is ableist nonsense and the author cherrypicks information from doctors and scientists to match his confirmation biases. The author insinuates that ADHD is caused by environmental factors, can be eliminated by changing the environment (spoiler: it can't) and implies that medicating people for ADHD is dangerous. He doesn't mention neuro-diversity, dopamine, or executive function. Yes, strategies for managing ADHD symptoms do help people with ADHD an ...more
Lois Bujold
Apr 29, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Some parts superb, other parts made me go hm, not sure. Hari's own focus got awfully broad in parts, as if he were trying to fit 3 books (and several editorials) into the space of 1. The writing style is lucid, supple, and persuasive (and "lucid" is my highest praise for nonfiction writing.)

One of the some-several things the book attempts is to be a sort of anti-virus program for high-tech efforts to hack our brains, though people who live less under a rock than I do may already be up to speed o
Feb 25, 2022 added it
This was a really good read and I highly recommend it. It’s a conclusive book on the attention economy and its ramifications, and puts the emphasis on government and corporate responsibility over individual responsibility.

I haven’t read any other books on this subject so I don’t know if anyone covers it *better*, but Stolen Focus is very easy to read and understand–a factor I really appreciate as it makes an important topic more accessible to learn about!
Karen Patrick
Jan 11, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
It's weird that the book is about focus but the author meanders off from the main path so often that I have no idea what he is trying to tell us. Eventually, he starts talking about the evils of big tech and the book peppers us with all sorts of information and rabbit holes. Data tracking, Facebook, Instagram, digital profiles etc. It feels related to focus but at the same time, I couldn't finish it because the book got really tedious and off-topic at this point. ...more
Tanja Berg
Jan 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
This an easily accessible book about focus and attention. Of course we know a lot of the answers ourselves - we let ourselves get distracted by our devices and struggle to achieve flow. Cut out the notifications, sleep your minimum of 8 hours a night, eat right - and this will help somewhat.

However, we are up against big tech, who want us addicted and keeping updated, and in order to this, also radicalize and polarize us. So you're not to blame that you can't concentrate, you are a victim. That
Feb 15, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't disagree with the general theme about distraction. Unfortunately, this book is itself an example of that restless unproductiveness. The author literally flies all around the world to talk to various people, presumably to gain insights he could have gotten by sitting still and reading some books. This is particularly annoying because one of the main reasons he gives for why we need to pay attention more is to deal with big complex problems like global warming. He does comment on this cont ...more
Lisa Vegan
I loved this author’s book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions and this one also appealed to me so I was looking forward to reading it, even though I didn’t expect it to be nearly as good as the other book. This book wasn’t quite as good. It wasn’t quite as groundbreaking, but it was still great and it also explored innovative ideas and solutions for a wide range of sub-topics.

I didn’t listen to them but I appreciate that the author has post
Nicolay Hvidsten
Jun 28, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, audible
I fundamentally agree with this book's central thesis:

Your attention is being fragmented and your political views are radicalised through the Outrage Economy by large tech monopolies beholden to Surveillance Capitalism, particularly Twitter.

However, Hari's narrative raised some red flags. In short, he seemed entirely blind to his own ideological blind spots, and thus I found myself highly skeptical of many of his claims. I was about to write a review to this effect, but it turned out someone alr
Jan 28, 2022 rated it liked it
This book was good in that it motivated me to take another long, hard look at how I interact with the Internet. Like the author, I’ve found my ability to focus for long periods of time has gotten worse and that anytime I’m not doing something, I instinctively reach for my phone. Stolen Focus puts a huge spotlight on that and has some good suggestions for ways to try to regain some of that attention.

Stolen Focus also dedicates quite a few pages to talking about the systemic problems with trying t
Emma Sea
Feb 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperback, i-own-it
Just fantastic. Can't recommend enough.
Andrea McDowell
In, I think, the fall or winter of 2020/21, I hit a wall with social media.

I was doing my own job plus the jobs of two redeployed colleagues, taking care of my kid solo while their health deteriorated and chronic pain soared due to pandemic health-care shutdowns, then caring for them solo after their surgeries, and like many people at the time my entire working and social life happened on screens.

This should have been social media's golden moment to shine; if it connected us all in a genuine and
Rick Wilson
Feb 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best examinations of attention across personal, societal, and physiological issues that I have found. Goes beyond the superficial and digs into things like diet, stress, sleep, and pollution. I disagree with the place that the author takes some of these points but the foundation of what’s presented is phenomenal.

What is within is one of the better examinations of the larger societal changes and problems facing us today. And while it’s viewed through the lens of “attention“ it’
May 10, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2022
This book itself is a demonstration in being unfocused. It jumps form one topic to another, never deepening any of the information. It name drops people, while presenting their ideas in the most superficial manner possible. And worst of all it’s exhaustingly alarmist.
I have read a few books about the topic including Cal Newport, Jaron Lanier, and Shoshana Zuboff’s books. This is by far the worst addition to this sub genre of self-help/tech nonfiction. It’s exhausting to read because it’s so hyp
Katie ♡
Mar 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
An overall great read on the study of focus. It is quite refreshing to read this one at a slow pace while absorbing each chapter and frankly, I think it is one of the main points of the book as well: To maintain one’s focus through reading, without distractions in a world full of noises and flooded information.

The book certainly reasonates a lot with a recent documentary which I have seen, namely The Social Dilemma. Thus, I would suggest other readers check it out, if you have yet to do so and a
Jun 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eve Dangerfield
Mar 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
It took me ages to finish this... Damn my lack of focus.
Ben Rogers
I Took Back My Focus
This book is another life-changing read.

A very good book on focus, the ills of social media and digital devices, and how to reclaim your life and focus.

What I Liked
I found this book an excellent book that detailed and parallelled the philosophy behind Tristan Harris of The Social Dilemma fame.

Similar Books
I recommend a few companion books to read alongside this book. They are:
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing
Kate Henderson
I've really enjoyed Johann Hari's previous books, particularly when the focus is on mental health. Unfortunately I just couldn't get on with this book.

I found Hari's writing to go around the houses a little bit, i didn't like how it just felt like a diary entry or memoir at the beginning. It took a long time, before the 'facts' started coming. I didn't like how Hari kept going back to the 'Graceland' story. I appreciate this was the idea that linked everything together, but I personally just fou
Feb 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I was overjoyed when I realized Hari had a new book out, and like before, I wasn’t disappointed. He manages to look at problems differently, filling a gap in our understanding of how the world works. Stolen Focus discusses why we can’t focus and how that drains our energy and hollows out our lives. What I’m always fascinated by when it comes to Hari’s book is how he shifts perspective from the individual to society. Often we overlook how culture affect us and thereby where we should put our effo ...more
Mar 20, 2022 rated it it was ok
Having coached college athletes and seen firsthand the damage inflicted upon young people's attention by social media and technology, I agree wholeheartedly with the author Mr. Hari that we are in the middle of a human crisis even more pressing than Climate Change. My scholarship college athletes struggled to make it through a 90 minute practice without incessantly checking their phones. Many adult friends experience the same withdrawal.

The first half of Stolen Focus identifies all of the major
Phil Hopper
Jan 15, 2022 rated it it was ok
The arguments in this book felt quite tenuous at times, and I'd say that once again Hari has cherry-picked data in places and then drawn incorrect conclusions.

Ironic that a book about a lack of focus feels like it's taken quite the scattergun approach.
Jan 09, 2022 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
A competent writer who can chain fallacies to craft a political discourse that won't help the reader, but it will keep the audience feeling ”now I understand”. ...more
Jan 20, 2022 added it
as always, i blame capitalism
Apr 20, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help, society
Stolen Focus is a well-meaning book about a problem that most people struggle with: a lack of focus. Hari posits the comforting thesis that this focus is being “stolen” rather than being lost – it is not our fault, rather it is a systemic issue propagated by big tech.

I think there are valuable insights in the book and I find myself agreeing with many of the individual things he writes. But I just don’t think he makes a solid enough case.

Hari commits one of Nietzche’s “great errors”: confusing
Jul 26, 2022 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
I hate reviewing books bc I no longer willingly invite strangers to argue with me on the internet BUT for the sake of my own records: I keep telling everyone to read this so that we can discuss it. A few favorite quotes:

"...we all have a choice now between two profound forces—fragmentation, or flow. Fragmentation makes you smaller, shallower, angrier. Flow makes you bigger, deeper, calmer. Fragmentation shrinks us. Flow expands us."

"In a society dominated by the values of consumer capitalism, 's
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Science and Inquiry: January 2023 - Stolen Focus 2 19 Dec 01, 2022 11:10AM  
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Johann Hari is an award-winning British journalist and playwright. He was a columnist for The Independent and the Huffington Post, and has won awards for his war reporting. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Le Monde, El Mundo, the Melbourne Age, El Pais, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Irish Times, The Guardian, Ha'aretz, the Time ...more

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