BOOK REVIEW: How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Kkhushi Sahaii
6 min readFeb 20, 2021
  1. What is your favorite quote from the book and why do you find it meaningful?

“Let’s not forget that, in a time of increasing climate-related events, those who help you will likely not be your Twitter followers; they will be your neighbors.”

This was one of the few quotes that really stuck with me. This quote has to be my favourite. This made me realise that we live in such a superficial world and gain importance from our followers who don't even know us or who wont ever even help us. The true people in our life are the ones around us who would be there in our thick and thin and not the people behind our screens. This quote even hints the increasing climate related crisis we are soon going to face, which many people are oblivious to.

2. Why do you think this book, released by indie publishing house Melville Press, has become an unexpected bestseller in Corona Times?

How to Do Nothing perfectly sums up what one could do when they don't want to do anything or when they don't have anything to do. It also explains the importance of doing nothing from time to time. This book has become a bestseller in Corona Times as people were in quarantine with ample of free time at hand. People found themselves relating to the book and believed and trusted the author when she suggested to take breaks from social media and for it to not take over your life. She showed and explained to people the importance of forming deeper connections and connecting with oneself, nature and other people.

3. How does the attention economy benefit from our social media activity and media streaming consumption?

Attention economy is a resource that cannot be bought by money as the users pay the service or information, they receive online though the attention. Millions of users engage in these social network sites every day- it has become part of their daily routine and important aspect of their life. Social media attracts the users, from which celebrities and companies profit. So it is a win-win situation. Most of the profiting from social media attention economy system is from brand endorsement from celebrities or even ads.

4. How does this book relate to the topic of celebrity culture?

Celebrity culture is a high-volume perpetuation of celebrities personal lives on a global scale. It is inherently tied to consumer interests where celebrities transform their fame to become product brands. This book relates to the topic of celebrity culture as celebrity culture is a part of our everyday life and entertainment. Mostly all citizens keep up with the trends, follow their suggestions and get influenced by celebrities. Celebrities

5. Do you take digital detox breaks? If yes, describe them. Have they been more challenging during the quarantine era? Why?

I often take digital detox breaks, specially when I wake up I like to go sit in the sun, during this time I keep away from my phone and laptop and sip my early morning coffee. I often even have a day when I stray away from them but in quarantine times it has been very challenging, as everything is online now. Be it classes, assignments or even zoom calls with friends. Another reason why taking diftal breaks is difficult in quarantine era is because I'm mostly at home and cant resist myself from being on Instagram, Youtube and Netflix.

6. Do you sleep with your phone or computer? Are you aware of impacts on your sleep cycles and relaxation caused by overnight proximity?

I am one of the people that knows about the negatives and impacts of phones and computers but still sleeps in close proximity of it. I often times even have the music turned on while sleeping because it helps me to sleep, however I am also aware that my sleeping problems could be because of the radiations as smartphones emit high levels of radiation which cause unbalance to the biological clock. I however am not fond of sleeping with light, so my phone is always turned upside down while I sleep.

7. What is the role of nature in Odell’s book, in particular the role of birds? (P.S. Did you know that birdwatching has become a HUGE pastime in the Covid era with a Snow Owl becoming a celebrity in NYC’s Central Park? See NY Times (Links to an external site.) article on Birdwatching and another on the snowy owl (Links to an external site.))

Odell very beautifully said, During bird watching, we can not look for birds, they find us which is the opposite of looking for things on social media. This according to her is something that enriches us which social media can’t do. This is the beauty of nature and the importance of ‘doing nothing’ in her sense.

8. Experiment: Leave your phone at home for one hour to talk a walk in your neighborhood. Write down your observations when you return and draw a map of your path. What did you observe? Take a photo of your map to include in your book review. Did the experience provide any revelations? Were you anxious, relieved, inspired? Did you notice anything you’d never seen before?

I live in a farm in my hometown Delhi, where I am currently. I walked a round of my neighborhood which was a 45 minutes walk. I knew the entire area so I didn't need the help of my phone for navigation. As I walked I bumped into my neighbours(whom i hadn't seen in long), came across cute puppies, terryfing monkeys and millions of trees. The walk was calming, insightful, peaceful and much needed. Throughout the walk I felt like I was missing something — ie my phone. But towards the end when the sun started to set down I fell in love with this experience. An experience that I didn't document from my phone(i love taking videos, photos), an experience that will live in my memory forever. The birds chirping was so soothing to my ears, even though I am used to it as I live in a farmhouse, I paid attention to them for the first time. It was like they were talking to me, trying to communicate. I noticed so many new things about my neighborhood that I hadn't before. I noticed how the roads were sloaped downwards on one side of the neighborhood and how outside every house there was a different smell, a different vibe and a completely different mood. I felt connected with myself and the nature after this walk.

9. What does Odell mean by ‘doing nothing?’ Are we capable of doing nothing?

Odell’s meaning of ‘doing nothing’ is not to literally do nothing but to do things we wouldn't normally do like smelling a flower on the street, building friendships, working on personal growth, or observing the world around. His nothingness has a deeper meaning which is to take a pause from our routine 9–5 tech life and do nothing for a moment. Doing this would bring us inner peace.

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