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If you’re constantly asking yourself where the time has gone at the end of the day and always working toward trying to be more productive, the answer you’re looking for may be counterintuitive. Here, authors break down the cause of our inability to focus and do, suggesting a common cure to achieve those goals: do less. Discover the reasoning behind this strategy and take control of your life -- and happiness -- with these six nonfiction books ranging from philosophical manifestos to instructional how-tos backed by history, research, and practice.

 

The Lost Art of Doing Nothing: How the Dutch Unwind with Niksen by Maartje Willems, illustrated by Lona Aalders

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The Lost Art of Doing Nothing How the Dutch Unwind with Niksen by Maartje Willems and Lona Aalders

Noting the benefits to an individual’s mind, body, creative abilities, and finances, Willems outlines the long-held Dutch tradition of niksen, a lifestyle of doing nothing. Learn how to apply the cultural concept to your life with advice on prying yourself from the constant onslaught of digital notifications, obligations, and other burdens that keep you from living your best life. Complete with engaging and inspirational illustrations, The Lost Art of Doing Nothing will have you reclaiming your time in a snap. Also available as an ebook.


How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

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How to Do Nothing Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

With a more academic flavor of writing, former Stanford art professor Odell takes readers on a tour of attention and engagement, citing everything from Socrates to performance art pieces that have explored the idea of inactivity. Bringing a special appreciation for third places like public parks and libraries, How to Do Nothing is less instructional and more a meandering thought process recorded on the page that gives you permission to take a minute or two to just breathe. Also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook.


In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman, illustrated by Dola Sun

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In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman

Drawing from research on the benefits of “time wasted,” Lightman points out the resulting increased creativity, self-knowledge, and cognitive abilities in people who deliberately pursue downtime. Paired with charming art, the thesis of In Praise of Wasting Time is not only supported in-text but also by Lightman’s life, which boasts an impressive resume including work in physics, teaching at Harvard and MIT, several novels, and other achievements.


Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

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Do Nothing How to Break Away from Overworking Overdoing and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

With a focus on work and capitalism, radio journalist Headlee dives into the history of (mainly) Western society’s obsession with overworking at the individual’s expense. After a well-researched look at how the work of yesteryear brought us to today, Headlee makes recommendations based on personal experience -- with a heavy side of the acknowledgement of her privileges -- around recovering leisure time and the importance of doing so. Also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook.


Stolen Focus: Why We Can’t Pay Attention -- and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

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Stolen Focus Why You Can't Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

A massive hit in 2022, author Hari’s Stolen Focus tells the story of how we lost our way in attention and what we can do about it alongside a personal narrative depicting his deliberate withdrawal from the nonstop grabs for our eyes and ears in an attempt to reset his attentive abilities. Compulsively readable and full of fascinating research on the elements most guilty of robbing us of our time and attention, Hari proposes practical solutions at the societal and individual level -- including disengaging and doing nothing -- while raising awareness about the machinations of social media, potentially harmful exposure to chemicals, and other driving forces leading to our detriment. Also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook.


Look: How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World by Christian Madsbjerg

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Look How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World by Christian Madsbjerg

Using his university course on the topic as a springboard for the book, entrepreneur and philosopher Madsbjerg addresses the drought of attention in Look. Marked up with practical advice on recovering your ability to pay attention, Look advocates for a strategy of slowing down and observing rather than relying on sorting through storms of information. With historical examples, Look offers a philosophical look at the power of doing nothing but watching.

About the Author

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Abby H

Abby is a New-Hampshire-grown Assistant Branch Manager at Southwest Neighborhood Library. In addition to writing book lists for DC Public Library, she's written for Book Riot, School Library Journal, Library Journal, Booklist, and other professional library and bookish publications. She reads broadly, but often enjoys literary young adult fiction, contemporary young adult fiction, and young adult fantasy. She lives in Virginia with her husband and her cat, Oopsilon.