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How to Do Nothing

Resisting the Attention Economy
Written by: Jenny Odell
Narrated by: Rebecca Gibel
Length: 8 hrs and 10 mins
4 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A galvanizing critique of the forces vying for our attention - and our personal information - that redefines what we think of as productivity, reconnects us with the environment, and reveals all that 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 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance. 

So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it). Odell sees our attention as the most precious - and overdrawn - resource we have. Once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind's role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress. 

Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we hear so often, How to Do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.

©2019 Jenny Odell (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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    5 out of 5 stars

amazing!

what a fascinating listen. I loved all the themes Odell threaded through the narrative: bioregionalism, public space, activism and community engagement. this will merit several more listens, as it's packed with ideas.

I'm very pleased I didn't let the negative reviews on the narrator keep me from buying this. I found her to be just fine - she has a "radio" style rather than that of a fiction narrator, but it is very much in keeping with the tone of the book. absolutely worth listening to!

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narrator ruins it for me

That's all I wanted to say - the ideas are great, the narration sounds like a Hallmark movie..... ruined it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-08-24

great book, voiceover is brutal

it’s difficult to listen to this book about resisting technology when the narrators voice sounds computer generated. unfortunate because this is a wonderful book with meaningful insight about navigating today’s world — it’s just plain hard to listen to. in practice of the book, read the print version instead!!!

12 people found this helpful

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  • Joan Q Public
  • 2019-09-10

just cant listen

I wanted to listen to this book, but the narration was too mechanical and irritating.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-16

the narration is shockingly bad

The voiceover really does a disservice to the work. It's almost hard to comment on the work itself because I'm still trying to figure out how to listen to what feels like Alexa talking at me for 8 hours.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Rob
  • 2019-11-19

Unlistenable

I know that narration is harder than it seems, but this narrator can’t even complete a sentence. She ends a phrase with a level tone (not up, like a question, nor down like a period). It’s just silence and you think it’s a pause but it was the end of a sentence or paragraph.

I’ll check this out on kindle.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Eddie
  • 2019-08-29

Long Essay Not A Novel

I love the topic and really enjoy the concept. You need to deliberately refuse certain parts of the attention economy if you're going to live a balanced life. Simply deleting social media apps and running away isn't sustainable. However, the way in which it was delivered felt like listening to a really long essay in which each chapter proves one point, and feels like one long paragraph. I found myself skipping to the next chapter halfway through once I understood the point of it. It is also obviously read by a robot. Sounds like the book is read by Siri. It didn't bother me at first, but once I noticed I could no longer pay attention without the voice distracting me.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Cassie Meyer
  • 2019-11-01

Very stimulating!

While I didn’t agree with everything the author said I thought this book was super well written and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the historical tidbits as well.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Alexey Badalov
  • 2019-09-05

Not convinced narration is not computer-generated

I find it admirable that the author discovered curiosity about the natural world, but it was hard to listen to the book narrated in this detached voice with a consistently panicked expression, often as if on the verge of tears.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Wiley Youngblood
  • 2019-07-17

Insightful, well-researched

A complex, interwoven, insightful study of the past and present of disconnecting from harmful currents of culture--focusing heavily on today's "attention economy."

Odell pulls from diverse traditions for her work and connects then in surprising ways.

The book at times feels like it's trying too hard--its voice working overtime to prove itself academic. Odell pulls on her own lived experience for examples, which is warranted and very effective, but then sometimes tends to talk about herself talking about herself in a way that feels unnecessarily metacognitive. She also at time takes on familiar voices of "academic urgency," I suppose, that don't ring quite as true as the clear and evident, real and solid world she is already presenting. Perhaps this is an attempt to speak over the din of the attention economy itself, but it was not needed--she already had my attention.

All in all, I came away from the book with fresh insights and a renewed intention to focus on what's real. She gave a master class in the dangers of passive surrender to the shiny objects of the attention economy, and for this I'm very grateful. I felt my habits and my ways if looking and noticing change as I listened.

The narrator, though clear and engaging, had a habit of overdoing the pronunciation of places, names, and things that came into English from other languages (the San Jacinto mountains near Palm Springs were pronounced in an attempted Spanish accent that would likely cause locals to that area to roll their eyes, English- and Spanish-speakers alike). The one notable exception to this was German philosopher Walter Benjamin, whose name was pronounced as if he were American. This too led to an impression of trying too hard.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Josh S Weissburg
  • 2019-10-04

Fresh, interesting ideas - awful narration/voice

I will have to finish this very interesting book - full of new and provocative ideas about how we allocate and employ our attention in the digital age - on paper or kindle. The vocal performance sounds like a robot, absolutely awful.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Maria V. Bissex
  • 2019-06-30

some good nuggets

I suppose I should have known from the subtitle, but this book was far more political than I expected, which hampered my enjoyment of it. I still got some interesting tidbits out of it though.

4 people found this helpful