Like most people in the 21st century, Jenny Odell feels the relentless pull of digital technologies on her already busy life. Targeted advertising, social media, personal brands, the gig economy: these modern manifestations demand attention often to the detriment of their participants, she argues. "In an endless cycle where communication is stunted and time is money, there are few moments to slip away and fewer ways to find each other." How to Do Nothing, however, goes beyond the notions of unplugging and retreat. Instead, Odell encourages readers to slow down and cultivate a sense of attention that prioritizes the physical realm.
She recognizes that wholesale permanent retreat is unrealistic. Instead, her argument strives for balance, subverting the capitalistic drive of productive content creation by questioning the very terms of its demands. To that end, she draws heavily on Bartleby, the Scrivener (famously declaring, "I would prefer not to"). Add to this the finely tuned attentiveness in David Hockney's art, the careful work of Hannah Arendt and a full palette of other brilliant creators, and How to Do Nothing emerges as a lush, sensible argument for balance in an unrelenting world. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness