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Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention Paperback – 10 January 2023
* THE SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER *
'If you read just one book about how the modern world is driving us crazy, read this one'
'This book is exactly what the world needs right now . . . Worth your time and certainly worth your focus'
'A beautifully researched and argued exploration of the breakdown of humankind's ability to pay attention'
'A really important book . . . Everyone should read it'
Why have we lost our ability to focus? What are the causes? And, most importantly, how do we get it back?
For Stolen Focus, internationally bestselling author Johann Hari went on a three-year journey to uncover the reasons behind our shortening attention spans. He interviewed the leading experts in the world on attention, and learned that everything we think about this subject is wrong.
We think our inability to focus is a personal failing - a flaw in each one of us. It is not. This has been done to all of us by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen. Johann discovered there are twelve deep cases of this crisis, all of which have robbed some of our attention. He shows us how in a thrilling journey that ranges from Silicon Valley dissidents, to a favela in Rio where attention vanished, to an office in New Zealand that found a remarkable way to restore our attention.
Crucially, he learned how - as individuals, and as a society - we can get our focus back, if we are determined to fight for it.
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I think this book is exactly what the world needs right now . . . I hope everybody buys the book. I promise you it will be worth your time and certainly worth your focus-- Oprah Winfrey
Johann Hari writes like a dream. He's both lyricist and storyteller - but also an indefatigable investigator of one of the world's greatest problems: the systematic destruction of our attention. Read this book to save your mind -- Susan Cain
I don't know anyone thinking more deeply, or more holistically, about the crisis of our collective attention than Johann Hari. And this is a crisis that we must address if we are to meet any of the other pressing emergencies we face as a species, whether ecological or social. Which means that this book could not be more vital. Please sit with it, and focus -- Naomi Klein
A brilliant book about one of the most important topics of our time -- Dr Rangan Chatterjee
A story that so many of us have felt needs to be told, but whose cause and consequences are hard to capture and articulate without guesswork, prejudice or ideology. Hari not only achieves this and more, but he does so it with the pace, sparkle and energy of the best kind of thriller writer. I can't remember reading a book which made me shout out "yes! That's it!" quite so many times -- Stephen Fry
This mind-blowing book explains everything. Read it and be free -- Simon Amstell
A highly original and wide-ranging investigation into the causes of our epidemic of flagging attention. Written with Hari's trademark incisive prose, indefatigable search for scientific evidence vividly presented, and illustrated with telling anecdotes, Stolen Focus is a bracing and necessary wake-up call to us all -- Gabor Maté M.D.
A fascinating journey into the mind and how it is being manipulated with devastating effects. Hari's subject is something that is affecting us all and this seminal work will be one of the defining books of our era . . . Get off social media, switch off the TV, put down your smart phone and do one thing - read this book' -- Dr Max Pemberton
Stop whatever you're doing and read this book. A deeply researched, disturbing, and yet ultimately hopeful exploration of the primal crisis of our time: our diminishing ability to focus on what really matters -- Rutger Bregman, author of HUMANKIND
If you want to get your attention and focus back, you need to read this remarkable book . . . [Hari] has cracked the code of why we're in this crisis, and how to get out of it. We all need to hear this message -- Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
Thanks to this brilliant book, I have got to know myself and my fellow humans better. It educates and entertains you - the stories will suck any reader in, and then slowly change your mind. Everyone should read it. It has changed my habits - way beyond just putting away my phone more. Stolen Focus is a really important book -- Philippa Perry
In his unique voice, Johann Hari tackles the profound dangers facing humanity from information technology and rings the alarm bell for what all of us must do to protect ourselves, our children and our democracies -- Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State
An entirely necessary book, a miracle of clarity and depth, a resonant, deeply researched warning followed by a truly inspiring clarion-call to action. Read it and weep, then dry your eyes and join in -- Emma Thompson
A visionary, systemic, revolutionary and practical guide for creating the new world. Through tireless research and genius insight Johann Hari certainly snapped me to attention. A life changing book -- V, author of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing (10 January 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1526620219
- ISBN-13 : 978-1526620217
- Dimensions : 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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When discussing negative aspects of internet chat / Facebook groups, his examples thereof is the alleged rise of white nationalism. White nationalists haven't have killed as many people in the US in the last decade as get shot in Chicago on a pedestrian week.
It's a considerable yet consistent failure of progressives. They focus their attentions on make believe problems whilst ignoring real ones. Imaginary white nationalists are a growing concern yet liberals rioting, mass looting, burning down city blocks doesn't even rate a mention.
This is legitimately because they don't see that as being bad. Not even close to bad. These criminal activities are so mundane to progressives it's akin to watching someone get on a bus. It's mundane, or not even worthy of noticing (let alone noting), as those people wreaking that havoc, destroying those buildings and businesses and beating up those pensioners are on my team, they're the "good guys"; so it's like they have an invisibility cloak on. Whereas the "other guys" simply raising objections to third trimester abortions or stating that males aren't women for example, are apparently fascists on the verge of dismantling democracy for merely voicing an opinion or objective truth.
Another example the author uses is about the possible negative aspects of standardised testing in US schools. It's prioritised rote learning over free play he says and he likely has a valid point.
Yet again however, the author cannot help himself. How so? He pins this on George Bush's No Child Left Behind program.
I'm not defending Bush or the program, I know nothing of the latter and hold no great affection for the former. I'm sure it's a horrible end result wrapped up with good intention. But surely you're either wilfully ignorant or have deployed the progressive invisibility cloak yet again here if you believe schools are influenced by a long disposed conservative.
Schools, school teachers, school administrations, school curriculum, school boards and school unions are overwhelmingly liberal enclaves. Top to bottom, the entire schooling system is lousy with liberals. Well over 80% of those bodies are occupied by progressive liberals. Yet the example he plucks from his pocket for the woes of school education structure and how this damages children's development manages to lay the blame with a conservative.
In the book he makes a very strong argument for allowing and encouraging children to engage in unsupervised free-play. In it he tells of parents who agree unsupervised free-play sounds great, that they did it themselves as children and have the most fondest memories of it. Yet when challenged if they'll allow their children to do what they themselves did (and loved), they promptly do nothing of the sort.
His assertion that education problems are based on conservatives that have essentially zero say in education in the US makes those parent's decision making prowess seem Einsteinian in comparison.
Look at the school Covid lunacy in progressive hotbed states in the US. Kids masked eight hours a day, behind plastic screens, sitting distanced from each other out in the freezing cold during winter. Meanwhile in the red states, which are apparently on the precipice owing to Facebook not censoring their chats, children are engaging in exactly the activities he's advocating for in his book. They're outside, playing sport, living normal lives and not dying of Covid.
In the scheme of his book, these gripes I have with his ideological blindness are not large as a percentage of the content. But it is consistent enough and annoying enough in it's hypocrisy to detract from an otherwise very good book.
These deep-seated social forces and powerful tech monopolies might seem overwhelming and impossible to change, but one thing I liked about this book is the mix of pragmatism, honesty and hope. We CAN change society to preserve our focus and attention better, just as women fought for and won the vote and lesbians and gay men fought for and won legalization, anti-discrimination protections and, now, equal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Acutely observed and masterfully interwoven in its treatment of the many causes and consequences of stolen focus, this book is essential, urgent reading for everyone.
Anyway, I liked this book and I hope you do too.
Top reviews from other countries
He also takes time to shine a critical spotlight on the self-serving nonsense spouted by Nir Eyal.
And then,... Well, he rather loses his way.
Instead of providing, say, trenchant criticisms of the management of Google, Facebook, et al, or any practical advice on fending off surveillance capitalism's worst excesses, Hari gets distracted by wishful thinking on minimum wages and so forth.
The end result is rather disappointing. Neither fish nor fowl.
If you're concerned by how technology may be tinkering with our ability to focus, skip "Stolen Focus". Instead, I recommend the following:
"Digital Minimalism" by Cal Newport. Excellent starting place, with plenty of practical advice and a decent, clear explanation of the problems tech has brought to our lives
"The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr is a fine (if slightly dry) examination of how the Internet has changed the way we think and read.
Lastly, the erudite and humane Jaron Lanier has written a wonderful pithy book, the title of which speaks for itself. :) "Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now"
Things go slightly awry however in the second half. Johann interviews a man who says that chemicals are not tested before they are used in the environment - this is untrue (at least in the UK, if this is in the US only it should be made clear). The field of ecotoxicology may be small but it does exist and I have worked in it myself. I have LITERALLY lab-tested chemicals before they are allowed to be used in the environment. After this error I wasn't able to take the book so seriously.
Johann moves on to ADHD, which is interesting, but a lot of the information comes from neurotypical people, rather than neurodiverse people themselves.
All in all I loved the first half, I have loved Johann's other books, but the second half of this one didn't quite hit the mark.
In summary, it’s a fascinating insight and perhaps worth a read (certainly for curious conspiracy lovers!), but it is definitely not worth the price …