Joe Bathelt's Reviews > Attention: A Love Story

Attention by Casey Schwartz
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In this book, the author investigates the concept of attention and our relationship with it in the 21st century, drawing from her personal experience with Adderall addiction. The book touches on many aspects of attention from its historical roots in the writing of William James, conceptualisation in modern-day cognitive neuroscience, treatment by writers like Aldous Huxley and David Foster Wallace, thoughts by philosophers like Simone Weil, and contextualisation by neo-psychoanalysts like Gabor Maté. A large part is dedicated to the cultural discomfort with attention, namely the effort to control and medicalise attention with pharmaceuticals and the fight for our attention in the face of ever-present technological distraction. The author relays her personal feelings on these matters drawing from her experience of Adderall addiction. I liked that this did not fall in the usual black-and-white depiction or doomsday visions of scattered minds in the 21st century, but was a more nuanced reflection on her feelings that likely reflect how many contemporaries experience it. The personal style also made the book very readable. It felt a bit like reading a personal journal of someone who is not only knowledge, but also reflective, honest, and supremely sharp. However, the book also felt, like its subject, elusive and a bit scattered. The book was touching on a lot of aspects of attention but never delved deep enough into any topic for my liking. It’s more of a collection of thoughts on attention. Fortunately, there are plenty of references to get deeper into each topic. It is certainly a new kind of non-fiction book that mixes autobiography with the factual content, which makes even seemingly dry subjects like attention relatable. Perhaps, this itself if emblematic of our modern relationship with attention.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 9, 2020 – Shelved
July 9, 2020 – Finished Reading

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