How to Do Nothing
Resisting the Attention Economy
"She struck a hopeful nerve of possibility that I hadn’t felt in a long time."
—Jia Tolentino, THE NEW YORKER
How to Do Nothing is genuinely instructive, elaborating a practical philosophy to help us slow down and temporarily sidestep the forces aligned against both our mental health and long-term human survival. You can knock the hustle — and you should."
—Akiva Gottlieb, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Approachable and incisive. . . . The book is clearly the work of a socially conscious artist and writer who considers careful attention to the rich variety of the world an antidote to the addictive products and platforms that technology provides. . . . [Odell] sails with capable ease between the Scylla and Charybdis of subjectivity and arid theory with the relatable humanity of her vision."
—Nicholas Cannariato, THE WASHINGTON POST
"The sentiment behind
How to Do Nothing is one of defiance.”
—Casey Schwartz, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"An erudite and thoughtful narrative about the importance of interiority and taking time to pay close attention to the spaces around us."
—Annie Vainshtein, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"An eloquent argument against the cult of efficiency, and I felt both consoled and invigorated by it."
—Jennifer Szalai, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"The path to freedom lies within the covers of this book."
—Lauren Goode, WIRED
How to Do Nothing mimics the experience of walking with a perceptive and sensitive friend, the kind of person who makes you feel, in your bones, that it’s a miraculous gift to be alive."
—Katie Bloom, THE SEATTLE TIMES
"Odell’s great strength as a writer is her ability to convey art’s unique power without overestimating or misstating its social impact. . . . Ultimately, what sets her book apart from self-help is not a less quixotic set of demands but a more life-affirming endgame."
—Megan Marz, THE BAFFLER
"Thoughtful, compelling, and practical."
—Clay Skipper, GQ
“This is a potentially subversive book. Affirming that we should take more time offline for nurturing our own thoughts (and so our own being) does not sound that new, but here it is so gracefully articulated in irresistible arguments.”
—Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural
"Jenny Odell’s brilliant
How to Do Nothing is the book we all need to read now. With wonderful precision, passion, and artfulness, Odell finds the language to meet this cultural moment. She has written a joyful manifesto about resistance that is also an eccentric and practical handbook on how to reclaim your colonized and monetized attention."
—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
“Self-help for the collectively minded,
How to Do Nothing is as thoughtful and morally serious as it is fun to read. This book will change how you see the world.”
—Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days
“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
—Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway
“In a media and tech ecosystem simultaneously obsessed with "digital detox" and building personal brands,
How to Do Nothing is a breath of fresh air grounding readers in the complex, interdependent actual ecosystems of the physical world. Jenny Odell writes with remarkable clarity and compassion. Each chapter reads like going on a fascinating walk through a park in conversation with an old friend (who happens to also be able to tell you about every single bird in the park, which is awesome). It's a book I already know I'll be returning to and referencing for a long time.”
—Ingrid Burrington, author of Networks of New York
How to do Nothing Jenny Odell breaks through the invisible yoke that binds 21st century first-worlders to our app-driven devices. With a thoughtful look at the attention economy, Odell’s book is a self-help guide for re-learning how to look at the world. The book braids threads of ancient philosophy together with contemporary visual and technological culture, and weaves an original route to re-wilding the mind. Wide-ranging and erudite, this book is also entertaining, and brings the reader along with enthusiasm to Odell's philosophy of “manifest dismantling.”
—Megan Prelinger, author of Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age
"Odell introduces the idea that within our world there are endless other worlds; many of the alternatives sound much better. We need only pay attention."
Jenny Odell is an artist and writer who teaches at Stanford and has been an artist-in-residence at places like the San Francisco dump, Facebook, the Internet Archive, and the San Francisco Planning Department. Her writing has appeared in the
New York Times, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, The Believer, The Paris Review, and
McSweeney’s, among others. She lives in Oakland.