Originally posted on 26 Dec 2022

1 minute read

Another recent and temporary acquisition thanks to my local public library. When I took it home, I didn’t realise it had only just come out this year. Considering that, I feel lucky to have found it on the shelves at all. It’s the sort of book I’d expect a lot of people to want to read.

If those people did check out the book, they would, as I did before them, likely face difficult thoughts in the opening chapters as the author discusses their own experiences with focus, attention, online services, and life. I found these chapters so doom-and-gloom that I nearly closed the book and walked away. In retrospect, I’m not sure some of that doom-and-gloom wasn’t self-inflicted.

Regardless, those people should know that the subtitle of this book—Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply—is deceiving (undoubtedly unintentionally so). This is not a self-help book. In it you will not find a checklist for identifying the root of your focus woes followed by a trademarked program for developing your attention muscle. Thankfully for me, the book was what I expected: a well-researched tour through the scientific research on various physical, mental, and sociological factors that influence a person’s ability to focus.

Overall, I liked the book. Hari put an immense amount of work and himself into it and it shows. Because I’ve done a lot of previous reading on this subject, at a high level I didn’t learn much that was new to me, but the way he pulled all the elements together to form a more cohesive picture was useful. My opinion of the work undoubtedly is helped by my agreeing with the author, but even with that and my prior readings, this book still had me asking myself a lot of questions for which I still don’t have answers that I feel I probably should find.