How to Do Nothing

Front Cover
Melville House, 2019 - ART - 256 pages
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 read 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.

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User Review  - jonerthon - LibraryThing

Perhaps I'm already doing what the author proposes by stubbornly reading all these books in actual print. It is nice to slowly and aimlessly enjoy something even if it offers no remuneration or ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - terriks - LibraryThing

Oddly, this book that was just released in 2019 already feels dated. It could be that the Covid-19 pandemic made the author's arguments for turning out and turning on seem less urgent than when it was ... Read full review


The Case for Nothing
The Impossibility of Retreat
Anatomy of a Refusal
Exercises in Attention
Ecology of Strangers
Restoring the Grounds for Thought
Manifest Dismantling

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About the author (2019)

Jenny Odell is an artist and writer who teaches at Stanford, has been an artist-in-residence at places like the San Francisco dump, Facebook, the Internet Archive, and the San Francisco Planning Department, and has exhibited her art all over the world. She lives in Oakland.

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