A galvanising critique of the forces vying for our attention – and our personal information – that redefines what we view as productivity and reveals what we’ve been too distracted to see about ourselves and our world.
Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our data productivity, doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.
So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to slowing down. Odell sees our attention as the most precious – and overdrawn – resource we have. Once we start paying a new kind of attention, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humanity’s role in the environment, and arrive at a more meaningful understanding of happiness and fulfilment.
Far from a simple anti-technology screed, How to Do Nothing is an action plan for thinking beyond capitalist narratives of efficiency and value. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, it shows us how to preserve our inner lives and bring about change in a world that needs this more than ever.
‘A manifesto for the internet age.’ —The A.V. Club
‘An invigorating meditation on ways of seeing and being more present … It’s a book that could change you for the better.’ —LitHub
‘[Odell] wants to give readers permission to be a human, in a body, in a place.’ —The Guardian
‘Thoughtful, compelling, and practical.’—GQ
‘Compelling, provocative and hopeful – a roadmap for stillness and reflection in an age of distraction.’—Jill Stark, author of Happy Never After and When You're Not OK
‘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
'Nuanced, sympathetic, thoughtful and imaginative, Odell's book explores the ways you can take back your attention without turning your back on the world. If, like me, you are trying to conserve your energy for creative or transformative projects; if you want information and connections but not distraction; if you want less despair, less anxiety and more world-changing action, start here.’ —Jane Rawson, author of From the Wreck and A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists
‘The book we all need to read now. With wonderful precision, passion and artfulness, Odell finds the language to meet this cultural moment. [This is] a joyful manifesto about resistance that is also an eccentric and practical handbook on how to reclaim your colonised and monetised attention.’—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jenny Odell’s fascinating and wide-ranging manifesto is a breath of fresh air. The Oakland-based author and artist offers a thoughtful perspective on what’s happening to us as individuals who are neck-deep in social-media culture. Odell’s solution goes deeper than so-called digital detoxes—she calls on us to embark on something like habitat rehabilitation for our minds. She entices us to step away from our computers and phones with a collage of ideas about paying attention to the places where we live and the nature that surrounds us. She draws on the writings of John Muir and Greek philosophers and explores diverse topics like bird-watching, labour strikes, and ’60s communes. How to Do Nothing is deep and totally absorbing. We came away from reading it feeling hopeful—and excited to go outside and look up at some trees.