January 15, 2021

Buzzing on Bookstagram: Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing


Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing just celebrated its paperback release. And believe us when we say, this book is *blowing up* on social feeds. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking about your self worth as something that’s contingent upon your level of productivity, then this is the unparalleled “new year, new you” read for you. How are we going to define our personal success this year? Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing aims to reveal the deceptive narratives that capitalism tells us. What is our attention being diverted away from? How do we create a sincere existence amidst all of the distractions and learn to hit the pause button? 

It’s time to pass the mic to the #bookstagram community and hear what they have to say about Jenny Odell’s compelling ode to doing nothing.

Our friends over at New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia are diligently taking notes on the paperback release of How to Do Nothing. ⁠In a recent Instagram post they said, “Jenny Odell’s bestseller, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, is now available in paperback! It’s been called ‘an eloquent argument against the cult of efficiency’ & ‘the book we all need to read now.’”


Does guilt creep up on you when you’re not being productive? Mallory’s got some compelling words on this: “If you’re like me and have the hardest time refusing to be constantly productive, then this is the book for you. How to Do Nothing explores how our creativity and sense of self become limited by the pressures of productivity and the confinement of social media. It grapples with the concept of usefulness vs. uselessness, an idea that I think all of us have questioned and can relate to. I really loved this book and it’s capacity to make me think critically about myself and the networks I’m inserting myself into. 5 stars from me!”


In this charming post, bookstagrammer Emily shares how the universe compelled her to purchase this book. She says, “When How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell was first released in April 2019, I saw the cover and immediately fell in love. I mean, LOOK AT IT. A lot of people who read it early on were saying good things about it and I thought it sounded intriguing—criticism, art, attention, technology? Yes. Interested. Definitely a meaty book, though, and one I knew I wanted to own a copy of so I could take my time with it.”



Our fellow bookseller friends at Flying Books in downtown Toronto made a witty post to kick off the book’s paperback release. The cheeky post reads, “Perhaps you’ve been doing a lot of nothing these past few days/weeks/months. Here is your vindication — now in paperback!” 




Think it’s safe to say we all wish we were sitting on the beach reading a book right now. Imogen digs into the questions Jenny Odell asks readers in her direct and sincere post: “In life there are books that so profoundly change your way of seeing that there is a clear distinction between life before and life after. How to Do Nothing is such a book for me.

I hope this book will be a Silent Spring for the millennial generation: a book discussed 50 years later in reverent tones because it reminds us of how close we came to self-annihilation.

Just like Silent Spring exposed the danger of increasing productivity at any cost (through toxic pesticides), How to Do Nothing exposes a more intangible menace: The Attention Economy. Our near-constant anxiety, distraction and disconnection from the natural world is not an accident: it’s a business model.

The book raises several compelling questions: What does it mean to build digital worlds when the real world is crumbling before our eyes? What does it mean to build personal brands when our sense of self and self-worth is being eroded?

. . . 

How to Do Nothing isn’t really about doing nothing. It’s about interrogating the value of human productivity when we start to ask: What are we producing exactly? And what are we losing because of it? It’s a call to put down our phones and truly see the environment and people around us who are crying out for our attention.

It’s a call to escape . . . towards each other, and perhaps find that everything we’ve been looking for was already here. Thank you, Jenny Odell, for bringing this to our attention.”

Jeanna’s got a date with her fresh copy of How to Do Nothing and a glass of wine. She says Odell’s book is a “gem” that’s been on her TBR (to be read) list for a while now. 





Nicole gets real with her bookstagram audience as she analyzes her thoughts on Odell’s captivating work. “As someone who feels overwhelmed by social media sometimes, I came away from it with a new commitment to spending my time and attention more intentionally . . . [Odell] succeeds in her mission of bringing awareness to the attention economy and how it occupies our time and minds. I’d say it’s worth a read if you’re on the fence — it certainly changed the way I spend my free time and had a tangible positive impact on my life!” 


Veronika discovered How to Do Nothing through one of her book clubs. Her thoughts on the book? Well, there’s no shortage of them. Veronika takes a thoughtful approach while highlighting her key takeaways. “Having come across this one through one of my book clubs, the title seemed quite fitting to the lockdown & quarantine period the majority of us are currently living through. ⁣⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣⁣I would recommend it to those who already have a tendency of questioning themselves whether they spend a bit too much time in the online world, to find a little push towards activities that are deemed as ‘doing nothing’ by the modern society. Going bird, flower or tree watching, hiking, silently meditating, as well as numerous other suggestions are brought up by the author. ⁣⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣⁣Jenny Odell touches upon such a broad variety of topics, so that you will probably find at least a little something of interest for you. Environmental activism, the humans’ involvement in nature, the general stigma of judgement towards human beings, the addictive design of apps, it’s all in there. Especially if you’re familiar with the environment of the San Francisco Bay Area, this might be a great read for you! ⁣⁣⁣⁣. . . It makes you reflect on your habits & question them.”



Allison Green is the social media manager at Melville House.