Short-ish Review #1: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019)

Title: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
Author: Jenny Odell
Published: 2019 (Melville House)
Pages: 240 (But I listened to the audio book)
Genres: Nonfiction, Philosophy, Sociology, Essays, Research, Artist
Link Here

Hi all! I wanted to try something different with the reviews. Sometimes I don’t even want to go on and on about a book (yes, even me… who writes these). It’s not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I do not have a lot to say about certain books I read. Introducing – Elizabeth’s Short-ish reviews (It’s not a clever title, I know), where I will be talking about certain books I read, but in somewhat fewer words.

“Simple awareness is the seed of responsibility.” – Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Like many others who have read this book and talk about it online, at first I thought this book was about staying off of social media or disconnecting from the masses. But it was really a complex investigation of taking a break from the masses and reconnecting with ourselves in order to really pay attention to our surroundings. Pulling from multiple historical and sociological examples, Odell discusses potential theories on how society can escape traditional capitalism, and the growing problems produced by fear and productivity.

What I had to keep in mind though is that Odell is an artist, and this book was not like reading a normal non-fiction book by a scholarly philosopher or sociologist. Odell is speaking from a place that reminds me more of a self help book than something written by a tenured philosophy professor at Harvard. I’m not doubting her opinion or knowledge on the subject, I’m only commenting on her ability to communicate clearly to a larger audience because of her place as an artist who is trained in engaging with the public. Sometimes only an artist, a self-help guru, or a philosopher can convincingly tell the public to look within themselves to find worth and purpose instead of looking towards productivity as their worth.

“I want to be clear that I’m not actually encouraging anyone to stop doing things completely. In fact, I think that ‘doing nothing’—in the sense of refusing productivity and stopping to listen—entails an active process of listening that seeks out the effects of racial, environmental, and economic injustice and brings about real change….” – Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

This book had it’s more dense and disorganized moments, but otherwise I thought it was an informative and thought provoking read. Odell makes some valid points about where our true priorities lie as a society, and how we deceive ourselves. What I got out of it the most was a reminder to look around once in awhile at the greater picture instead of getting caught up in what our neighbors, friends and social media instigators think. There are many more ideas than what I just discussed that Odell covers extensively relating to the same topic, even Bioregionalism comes up.

Was this review short? I believe it was relatively short, but I’ll try better next time to make it even shorter. Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5!