How To Do Nothing
This thrilling critique of the forces vying 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 products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.

How To Do Nothing Details

TitleHow To Do Nothing
Author
ReleaseApr 9th, 2019
PublisherMelville House
ISBN-139781612197494
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Self Help, Psychology, Science, Technology

How To Do Nothing Review

  • Felicia Edens
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 relationship to social media (particularly Instagram), and this book spoke volumes to me about a term that is curiously not found anywhere within these pages: mindfulness. Odell probably omitted that word intentionally, as her goal in her personal and business life does not want to seduce readers into "hot" and "trending" terminology, as we know mindfulness has become over the past few years. Instead, she clearly explains her goals with the book right away, determined to tell us that How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy is not about convincing anyone to delete their social media accounts or to optimize their life via a mindset based on positivity or to learn how to focus on what it is *you* really want rather than caring about what others are telling you to want. Nor is it a scathing critique of the political and/or libidinal economy. Rather, what Odell is talking about in her book is this: simply, a contemporary understanding of time and space. But instead of these terms becoming vague philosophical abstractions, she roots the concepts of time and space in a sensible context: that of the here and now.Odell does not hide behind a mask of non-identity. She talks about where she grew up in California, her half-Filipino identity (despite never being to the Philippines), her experiences in the fast-paced corporate world of Silicone Valley, her boyfriend, her father, her friends, her home life and hobbies (bird watching), her affinity for the art-world, and more... she uses all of her experiences to draw out a fascinating map of history, geography, and present socio-political circumstance that surprisingly - at least for the next few years - will be able to speak to everyone that grew up with the proliferation of technology. Taking this personal vantage point, Odell traces back to the communes of the 1960s - explains what worked about them and what didn't (prepare yourself for a brilliant deconstruction of social design versus social activism). She goes back to Ancient Greece and reminds us of the cynic Diogenes, who lived life of resistance among the very community he denounced. She describes something that happened not too long ago in California: the strike of longshoremen who were over-worked by manual labor and the string of problems they encountered and how they began to work to solve them. How does this work into her title: *How To Do Nothing?* Well, her argument is that (and I agree), sometimes when you "do" nothing, you actually begin to pay attention to what's actually happening outside of yourself and consequently begin to engage with the world in a new, more nuanced, and intentional way, a way that understands context (which can be horrifyingly forgotten in the virtual realm), and a way that understands the self in relation to everything else. In a word, doing nothing enables us to interact with the environment *intelligently*. Using herself as an example, she explains her love for art via a review of her fascination with the art of David Hockney, via her interpretations of Thoreau, via her analysis of writers native to this land. She comes up with the concept of bioregionalism: an acknowledgement of the natural world that is understood as both specific to geography yet contingent on all other geographies within the world.You will find much about the expected (or not) topic of exploitative algorithms of current internet platforms. A topic always due for a reiteration. Keep in mind that this information is coming from first hand accounts of someone who worked in the industry for a time. Most importantly, you will find much about a form of presence that is inherently organic and ecological, something I think humanity is dire need of as we go through an almost traumatic, and actually traumatic for many, loss of natural resources. "...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."This book is a product of the 21st century, and it by no means intends to bring you something innovative and new. Odell's writing is a reiteration and underlining of stuff we have all heard before: stuff that Odell writes with enough attention, intention, and care that is becomes authentic. Now hurry up and read the book before authenticity becomes the newest commodity. Just kidding. But read the book before it's too late. Voluntate, studio, disciplina!
    more
  • Ken-ichi
    January 1, 1970
    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, 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, really. What are you good for?" but maybe what I should start doing instead is kidnap the questioner and force them to listen to me read this entire book aloud.On the day last week when this book was published (or the media campaign began) a co-worker linked to it, an online colleague notified me about it, and my partner brought home a copy from one of our favorite bookstores, all totally independent of each other. It quickly became apparent that the author* lives in my town* lives in my old in neighborhood in my town* likes looking at birds and plants* cites Ursula K. LeGuin, Wendell Berry, Westworld, "Bartleby, the Scrivener," East Bay Yesterday, and countless other authors and works that have also passed through my brain at one time or another* uses the natural history recording tool and social network I help maintainGiven this overwhelming karmic necessity of at least trying it, I'm happy to report the book hit home. It's awkward trying to summarize a work so concerned with holism, so maybe I won't and just dance around it like I usually do anyway. Odell describes something I have always found particularly compelling about natural history, namely that it is not about you, or not exclusively about you and your species and their concerns, but about all the other things around you, and what a profound relief it is to direct your attention wholly beyond your concerns, culture, economy, religion, etc., and focus on other beings. To Odell it's one manifestation of a mindset of selective attention, the titular "doing nothing" which really means doing anything other than creating value in capitalist terms, an entryway to an attentiveness that leads away from distraction and optimization and toward connections with land, with other organisms, and with other people, but it's also her chosen way to enact that mindset.Despite the fact that Odell cites iNaturalist as an example of tech that can assist with cultivating such attentiveness, it is kind of complicated. She writes,Once, when I was giving a talk on my research for this book at a Stanford urban studies working group, somebody asked whether using iNaturalist wasn't alienating me from the landscape, since it represented an itemizing, scientific view. I answered that while I had to admit it looked that way, the app was a necessary step in the remediation of my ignorance, a temporary crutch.This is something I've thought about a bunch over the years, and I don't think iNat is unambiguously on one side of this dichotomy or the other. I think everyone who finds it rewarding has a bit of that itemizing instinct, and the itemizing mindset *can* be somewhat alienating. Mastery over taxonomy and nomenclature is satisfying in and of itself, and there is a temptation to just name things and move on, to catalog without understanding and observing more about each individual being you behold. Take it too far and you get Pokemon, a mindless leveling-up that is meaningless outside of the game. The camera is also alienating. In addition to physically separating you from your subject, taking a picture often means disturbing your subject, or at least depicting it in an atypical situation (every picture of a wrentit has the bird perching on a twig, in the open, in bright sunlight, while a more typical viewing would be a microsecond glance of that dolefully pale iris peering at you from deep inside the dark center of a coyotebush).I should also point out that we employ many of the distracting devices Odell warns against, from red notifications in the header of our site to annoying emails, and even gamification in certain contexts (largely despite my misgivings; I still maintain the green "Research Grade" label was a bad move, despite people's attachment to it). And, let's face it, the time you spend looking at your phone using iNat in the field is time you're not witnessing the thing you're ostensibly observing.That said, it's also true that I've learned a lot from iNat (as a user, not just as staff). I've used it in the way Odell describes, as a crutch in situations where I was ignorant, particularly while traveling. It has also elaborated on my interests and attentiveness in ways I would never have guessed: I pay attention to butterflies almost entirely because of the infectious interest of someone I met on iNat; I often recognize and appreciate creatures in the field *because* I saw them on iNat; I can't count the number of times I've noticed some novel detail or creature simply because I slowed down to take a picture of something else entirely.Even our computer vision system, which provides the "magical" automatic identifications our software is becoming known for and which could be described as a very shallow way to understand nature, is really the distillation of the sort of attentive focus Odell describes, applied by many thousands of people and delivered quickly by an algorithm. The technical processing is, of course, impressive, but the real value comes from all those people focusing their attention. And the hope is that even if the interaction is shallow, people will want to keep wading toward the depths.Ach, enough about iNat. While this is not really a self-help book, I think one lesson for me is to apply my naturalist's attentiveness more generally. I also share the author's interest in human history, but I haven't really made the leap to engaging in human community (like, actually getting to know different people), let alone to activism. The connection between attentiveness to the natural world and attentiveness to other people doesn't strike me as naturally as it does Odell, but perhaps it would if I was more self-conscious about my attention.Ok, there you go, Goodreads. Monetize my thoughts!
    more
  • Truce
    January 1, 1970
    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. 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.There is really no how-to in this book, and I don’t think Odell’s work here can be even halfway summarized with buzzwords like “mindfulness” or “digital detox” or whatever. The bulk of this book is about the things that we are unable to do when our attention is tied up in social media or the news cycle. Yes, at the most basic level, social media and the news cycle take away our ability to reflect and think deeply about what’s actually happening underneath the status updates and headlines. But beyond that, it can erode our relationships with other people, with time, and with the environment around us. What parts of our identities get lost when we boil all of our ideas down to 280-character tweets that offend no one? When we think of people as brands and corporations as people, how does that effect our ability to actually connect with others or even with ourselves?Odell first asks us to rethink the idea of “usefulness” and to really challenge this tendency to think of time and attention as commodities, something we’ve mostly taken for granted in the gig economy. She uses an example of an old-growth redwood tree in Oakland that is useless for human consumption — ironically it is its “uselessness” that saves it from being cut down for timber, making it the only tree of its generation to survive. They even call it “Old Survivor.”Yes, there are parts of the book that were near-inaccessible. Many of her descriptions of art exhibits were difficult to grasp, and her focus on bioregionalism was sometimes challenging to get through. I imagine there are a lot of us who just don’t see ourselves giving up our phones for a life of birdwatching or going to symphonies where a pianist plays nothing for three movements. But I thought of those parts as stretching my limits of understanding — this book was kind of a key to get me to try to pay attention to something different. I did, admittedly, download the iNaturalist app after reading this book.What I appreciate about Odell’s approach is that she earnestly considers race and class in the how and why of resisting the attention economy. When reading Digital Minimalism, I found Newport had some stark blind spots — he says little of race and class, and women were conspicuously absent from his book. In contrast, Odell’s references are wonderfully diverse; yes, she references Thoreau a lot, but she also draws wisdom from Audre Lorde, labor movements, and environmental justice, among many other things. She provides historical context to all this, as an antidote to social media’s tendency to keep us forever anxious about the present.Also, while other books about the same topic tend to treat the hijacking of our attention and the tyranny of algorithms as foregone conclusions, thereby making digital detoxing seem like a life or death situation, Odell manages to avoid sensationalizing and instead invites us to another way.What had me screaming “YAS QUEEN” at my Kindle was the stuff she had to say about the right to not express oneself. I am a writer, but in the past two years I rather counterintuitively deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts (my whole platform!) because I was so f*cking tired of reading everyone’s hot takes and of the pressure of having to constantly post hot takes myself. I wanted silence, the time and space to actually think my own thoughts about a situation or event or thing. I also really wanted to consider the question of what makes an opinion worth expressing and why. I truly thought I stood alone on this, that maybe I was just bitter because I haven’t been able to quit my day job for “a job in social media that I’m passionate about” that seemingly everyone on Twitter has. It was comforting and refreshing to know that someone out there felt the same way and was able to articulate those feelings much better than I ever could.
    more
  • Jay Smith
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 walks). Though the book argues more for a middle ground of moderation versus quitting all social media, it doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing what that might look like, on a day to day basis. But the discussion it raises about the downside of the “attention economy” is well worth reading, even when it starts to sound a little like a college student’s essay expanded to book-length dissertation. I wanted very much to see this book address the downside of social media in a cohesive way, but it kept wandering and swerving, never quite pulling all the pieces together. Some writers excel at wandering (Lawrence Weschler, Rebecca Solnit, Oliver Sacks), managing to weave a tapestry around a theme. Odell hasn’t quite reached that level. Still— all in all— a thought-provoking book with some honest observations that need to be heard.
    more
  • Guillaume Morissette
    January 1, 1970
    This book rules, this felt so good to read
  • Robyn Neville-kett
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 good ol' Diogenes as examples to support her thesis.And what is her thesis? It's that doing nothing is an act of political resistance to the attention economy. She says that life is more than an instrument. It's a "....refusal to believe that the present time and place, and the people who are here with us, are somehow not enough. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram act like dams that capitalize on our natural interest in others and an ageless need for community, hijacking and frustrating our most innate desires, and profiting from them. Solitude, observation, and simple conviviality should be recognized not only as ends in and of themselves, but inalienable rights belonging to anyone lucky enough to be alive" (page xi... yes she is knocking it out of the park before the actual page numbers even begin!). She outlines that her argument is anticapitalist (I am SO here for this), especially with capitalist platforms that consume our "...perception of time, place, self and community". She is "...opposed to the way that corporate platforms buy and sell our attention, as well as to designs and uses of technology that enshrine a narrow definition of productivity and ignore the local, the carnal and the poetic". She is "...concerned about the effects of social media on expression - including the right not to express oneself - and its deliberately addictive features. But the villain here is not necessarily the Internet, or even the idea of social media; it is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction" (xii...indeed, we are still in the introduction here, people!).Yes. Yes. Yes. I love her criticism of market-driven social media yet she doesn't renounce or suggest we entirely withdraw from its use (In fact, Odell has a delightful Twitter account that I gave much of my attention economy to yesterday). She believes "...it's hard not to see social media as a contextual monoculture" which disables us from changing our opinions and understanding the opinions of those with whom we initially disagree. As well, the speed of social media, and its roots in sharing only up-to-the-minute information "... threatens visibility and comprehension because it creates an information overload whose pace is impossible to keep up with". I love her reflections of sitting in a local rose garden soon after Trump was elected, just sitting there and being - not reading, not writing, not on her phone, just being - and how she began to appreciate not only the flowers but the birds that surrounded her, to the point where she became a "birder" and learned to identify species and even formed relationships with specific birds (including a night heron she often saw at the local KFC, who she affectionately named the Colonel). It opened up a whole new appreciation for her, of the natural world, and just what "is". She is critical of our society's obsession with the individual, our "...customized filter bubbles, and personal branding - anything that insists on atomized, competing individuals striving in parallel, never touching - (and how it) does the same violence to human society as a dam does to a watershed" and that really is the biggest takeaway for me. Our focus on our individuality, our individual growth, progress, and "success" in the capitalist realm is what's brought us to this point of environmental peril and existential angst. Once we slow down, look up more frequently to the sky with the birds rather than always down to the screens of our capitalist-driven, anxiety-inducing handheld machines, can we begin to THINK, to FEEL, to WRITE VERY LONG AND INDEPTH GOODREADS REVIEWS RATHER THAN SCROLLING MINDLESSLY THROUGH TWITTER. We can begin to heal our environment and connect with the other members of this world, both human and beyond.
    more
  • C. S.
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 economy, perhaps this isn't fair. Would HIGHLY recommend for artists, writers, thinkers, and ...well, let's go inclusive with "humans"
    more
  • Rhea
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • drl
    January 1, 1970
    "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.
  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    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."
    more
  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • Andrew Sampson
    January 1, 1970
    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
  • Brooke Salaz
    January 1, 1970
    This really spoke to me. She reports a similar depression following the election of our idiot in chief very similar to what I felt. Don't worry, he has but a tiny cameo. The parts I was most taken with discussed how focusing on ones bioregion and observing current life forms there (esp. birds) and learning the human and animal history of the area while simultaneously, and always, a tale of degradation and destruction thanks to anthropocene activities, can lead to resistance of what we traditiona This really spoke to me. She reports a similar depression following the election of our idiot in chief very similar to what I felt. Don't worry, he has but a tiny cameo. The parts I was most taken with discussed how focusing on ones bioregion and observing current life forms there (esp. birds) and learning the human and animal history of the area while simultaneously, and always, a tale of degradation and destruction thanks to anthropocene activities, can lead to resistance of what we traditionally call "progress". We can say no and she lists creative and, for this introvert, what seemed doable and not jumping up and down crazily but involved more in the realm of education and thoughtfulness. Really loved it.
    more
  • Parker
    January 1, 1970
    What a beautiful book! Odell is also a visual artist who works with "context," and her ability to bring in a million threads into a coherent presentation is striking. "How To Do Nothing" is fundamentally about reclaiming your own attention and using it on your own terms. Despite the title, it's not exactly a how-to book, but a shining example of the kinds of lessons we can learn from the places we inhabit and occupy.
    more
  • Jason Diamond
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. One of the most important nonfiction releases of 2019.
  • Ben
    January 1, 1970
    I got an advance copy of this from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for a review.I found out about Jenny Odell's book after reading a fascinating piece by her in the New York Times last fall about 3rd party sellers on Amazon. This book feels in the same vein - how do we live with the internet and use it without completely letting it take over our attention? It's a little meandering in places, but there are good points inside if you take the time to sit with them. I would have loved this t I got an advance copy of this from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for a review.I found out about Jenny Odell's book after reading a fascinating piece by her in the New York Times last fall about 3rd party sellers on Amazon. This book feels in the same vein - how do we live with the internet and use it without completely letting it take over our attention? It's a little meandering in places, but there are good points inside if you take the time to sit with them. I would have loved this to be a bit more focused, and a little less aware of itself as a book (there's a lot of "as I discussed in chapter..." instead of letting points naturally build on one another). This was a valuable read, and I look forward to following this author's work more.
    more
  • Annarella
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting and stimulating book that makes you reflect on the continuous inputs we are receiving from the attention economy.This book is full of theories, ideas and it force you to think about it and find your own solution.There aren't a lot of advice and hint, this is no self help book it will keep your attention till the last page.It's well researched, well written and full of insights.I liked and recommend it.Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
    more
  • Sunshine Nelson
    January 1, 1970
    *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 *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 explain as much.♤ Overuse of phrase "I can't help but wonder" like, okay Carrie Bradshaw.♤ Strong political slant.♤Too many big sections of quotes were used. Now for the good stuff:♡ Several good points made.♡ VERY well researched.♡ Clear points of not trying to completely abandon social media, but rather to make good use of it and not let it consume you.♡ Included references to HBO show "Westworld" ♡ All the talk on bird watching. Seriously, ever since I read "Odd Birds: by Ian Harding, I enjoy me some books on birding.The good stuff was really good, but the bad was just too bad. I was so tempted to rate it at a three, but the bad weighed in heavier for me here and it just is what it is. Worth a read, but maybe skim the extra stuff to get the main points cause it dragged on and on in a lot of spots where it didn't need to.
    more
  • Adriana
    January 1, 1970
    I found Odell to be a great writer, truly. She has an airy, atmospheric and journalistic tone to her prose, while also imbuing her ideas with an impressive amount of supporting research.However, this book doesn't know what it wants to be - a guide for others, or her personal journaling/thesis on how the author lives her life. The basis on which it was written, at first, is to demonstrate resisting a constant state of capitalist productivity - so the idea presented here is for those of us who hav I found Odell to be a great writer, truly. She has an airy, atmospheric and journalistic tone to her prose, while also imbuing her ideas with an impressive amount of supporting research.However, this book doesn't know what it wants to be - a guide for others, or her personal journaling/thesis on how the author lives her life. The basis on which it was written, at first, is to demonstrate resisting a constant state of capitalist productivity - so the idea presented here is for those of us who have drunk the Kool Aid from the Digital Detox movement, realized that it has its own agenda (making sure your time is well spent...in productivity, of course), and are looking for alternate philosophies to navigating today's murky waters, while insisting fishies pulling us in all possible directions...If Cal Newport's Deep Work/Digital Minimalism is at one end of the spectrum, telling you how to free up space in your life for what is important (with the focus, however, being on economically important work/craft), How to Do Nothing is at the other end - this doesn't discuss actually doing nothing at all with your life, but making space for the the ephemeral, soul-growing-type things which make us human, that aren't, and can never be, quantified by an economy as ''useful''. Things such as this can include: communing with nature (sitting in parks, walks, hikes, gardening, the like), connecting with strangers/your community, art (in all contextual mediums), personal activities such as making your own autonomous choices about what to read/watch/enjoy, and others. However, the bulk of Odells' book spends too much of its time explaining the cultural, historical, and empirical evidence for how the author herself ''does nothing'' via birdwatching (bird ''listening'', rather), creating/speaking about art, trying to reconnect with her Bay Area land/neighborhoods...which is all great for her, but doesn't necessarily connect with the reader, and it didn't connect with me at all. Even her final chapter bit about social media provided no new insights other than what you'd probably discuss with your own friends/family or overhear at a coffee shop.While I do appreciate her own insights, I didn't feel that this book accomplished what it sought out to do - ''how'' to do nothing implies a methodology, an organized way of thinking through a process - even if the process is more philosophical than material - which was lacking here. Perhaps this had better been called ''I did Nothing: And Resisted the Attention Economy''.
    more
  • mik
    January 1, 1970
    Odell questions what we currently perceive as productive, and in doing so, brings us face to face with the mythology of productivity. In a world where we are “overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought” and the stakes (especially environmental and cultural) are tremendously high, this book is an absolute beacon of hope. Living up to the title, Odell calls out our toxic modes of thinking/what most of us are paying attention to and tells us what IS important to pay attention to now: t Odell questions what we currently perceive as productive, and in doing so, brings us face to face with the mythology of productivity. In a world where we are “overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought” and the stakes (especially environmental and cultural) are tremendously high, this book is an absolute beacon of hope. Living up to the title, Odell calls out our toxic modes of thinking/what most of us are paying attention to and tells us what IS important to pay attention to now: the earth and how we want to connect with the beings that live here. She asks “Why is it that the modern idea of productivity is so often a frame for what is actually the destruction of the natural productivity of an ecosystem?” Convenience isn’t worth it.I do not want to participate in this greedy, inaccessible capitalist venture. Instead I want to connect with others in sustainable ways that are entirely useless to corporations. I encourage everyone to read this book. Not only is it the most thoughtful and critical work that I’ve read all year, it’s an absolute essential read that can help facilitate less anthropocentricity and more awareness in the ways we go about living. If there is a way to say no to corporate greed, capitalism, consumerism, and the spaces that encourage all of that, this is it. Let’s start here.
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Melville House Publishing for allowing me to read How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell for an honest review. Publishing April 9, 2019.The concept of How To Do Nothing was exactly what I was looking for, oddly enough. As someone who uses Instagram as much as I do, I am looking for ways to keep it contained a little so I can be more present in everyday moments, especially when with my young son. I want to be mindful that my time with him is limited as I will soon be embarrassing to be around Thank you Melville House Publishing for allowing me to read How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell for an honest review. Publishing April 9, 2019.The concept of How To Do Nothing was exactly what I was looking for, oddly enough. As someone who uses Instagram as much as I do, I am looking for ways to keep it contained a little so I can be more present in everyday moments, especially when with my young son. I want to be mindful that my time with him is limited as I will soon be embarrassing to be around and barely tolerated.How To Do Nothing is a well researched, maybe overly researched, look into attention culture and why we should be resisting the pings and constant refreshing, especially when it comes to news and things we should be thinking about seriously rather than sharing and moving on to the next notification.I found this book to be a lot of idea and little action. I know I should resist the attention economy, that is why I chose this book to review, but it was a lot of lofty ideas and little action for me. I found the language was overly complicated making this a book that might be hard to access and understand and unnecessarily complicated her message. Overall, lots of flowery quotes and language and research papers and very little action, and no real life ideas except to resist attention culture, which was honestly in the title.
    more
  • angelareadsbooks
    January 1, 1970
    I was immediately drawn to this books based on the concept of it. Like many, I struggle with burnout and am tired of being caught in the race our culture sells us. Though there were some amazing gems in this book, they were hard to discover through the meandering and seeming disorganization of the rest of the book. This quote was pure gold:“I don’t mean this to be a weekend retreat or a mere treatise on creativity. The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and I was immediately drawn to this books based on the concept of it. Like many, I struggle with burnout and am tired of being caught in the race our culture sells us. Though there were some amazing gems in this book, they were hard to discover through the meandering and seeming disorganization of the rest of the book. This quote was pure gold:“I don’t mean this to be a weekend retreat or a mere treatise on creativity. The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive.” I wanted more of this and less of the wandering thoughts through art, culture, philosophy, etc. It wasn’t that I wanted more specific application. It’s just that I struggled to make the connections between the many topics the author threw at me. Some great concepts that stuck with me but I’m reluctant to recommend this one. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book
    more
  • Vuk Trifkovic
    January 1, 1970
    Outstanding book. The best I've read YTD. Kind, insightful and surprising. Language is just the right side of poetic and expressive without becoming opaque and perpendicular.A few things could have been elaborated a bit more or developed a bit further. Nevertheless, it is the best articulation of a response to a "surveillance capitalism" and a very practical approach to putting object-oriented ontology into practice.As a huge plus - Adam Greenfield gets a big mention in the acknowledgments.
    more
  • Divya
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley. I was intrigued by the blurb that this would be an action plan to learn to do nothing. What it ended up being was a long treatise on the attention economy with a variety of tangential studies mixed with the author's experiences and the evolution of her thinking on this topic as an artist and teacher. Interesting but very slow reading.
    more
  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    This definitely wasn't what I was expecting. I got a few things out of it, but it was too over my head to be a truly enjoyable read.
  • Natasha
    January 1, 1970
    You know nothing, Jenny Odell.
  • Graeham
    January 1, 1970
    Great book for the mind.
  • Ipshita
    January 1, 1970
    The irony of the title is hilarious and insightful. A great life step back book
Write a review