Tag Archives: Johann Hari

The Best of EatReadSleep, Part 2

General Adult Nonfiction and Anti-Racist Reads

I love nonfiction so much that I am going to divide it up into categories. I read widely across the Dewey Decimal System (a little library lingo) because I am omnicurious. If you don’t see your interests in general nonfiction, I have a couple of specialized categories coming up in this post and the next.

Click on the title links for the full review.

General Nonfiction and Memoirs

Think Again, by Adam Grant. The review on this title has been very popular, with continuing interest over the past year or so. Grant examines the value of changing our minds in both business and personal decisions.
Deep Work, by Cal Newport. The most creative people guard their uninterrupted time. This book has brought about positive innovation in many lives and organizations.
Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari. A fantastic title that did not get enough love. Listen to the audio. Important and engaging.
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, by Dr. Richard Bernstein. This famous doctor is a pioneer in the field of diabetes research. Anyone with diabetes, type 1 or 2, should own this book.
A Craftsman’s Legacy, by Eric Gorges. I have a longer, related post on TheReaderWrites, and both have received tons of hits from mechanics to knitters. I think we humans love to create with our hands.
Salad Love, by David Bez. Of all the many cookbooks I’ve reviewed, this simple, thorough volume with a crystal-clear layout is still a favorite in our house after 7 years.
Educated, by Tara Westover. This harrowing memoir of a woman raised in the fundamentalist Mormon church was on the bestseller list for years. Riveting.
Vincent and Theo, by Deborah Heiligman. A young adult biography of the famous artist and his brother that won all the awards and is perfect for art-loving adults.
The Dark Queens, by Shelley Puhak. Two wild women of the Dark Ages whose stories had been nearly erased. Think Brunhilda and Circe Lannister.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. A difficult American story out of Appalachia, honestly revealed by one of its favorite sons. Oh, I had such hopes for Vance before he sold out.

Anti-Racist Reads

A few years ago, David and I looked around at our very white world and realized that we lived in a bubble. We started intentionally reading as many books as we could on race in America. I began with White Fragility, which was a complete mistake, since I found it elitist and ridiculous. It is one of the very few negative reviews I’ve ever written. However, things improved greatly after that, and many of these books have been influential in our lives. Some are aimed at the white evangelical church and its members. These are all adult nonfiction, but many fiction titles in the blog, especially children’s and young adults’ banned book reviews, are also anti-racist.

Click on the title link for full reviews.

Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. This is the most scholarly and thoroughly researched of all the anti-racist books we own. A must-read for everyone.
Rediscipling the White Church, by David W. Swanson. Written by a pastor for other church leaders, really. Wisdom for those seeking to be part of the solution.
Be the Bridge, by Latasha Morrison. This was the best book we read by a black Christian leader, compassionately targeted to white Christians. She has a network of discussion groups all over the country.
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. The best-organized anti-racist book we read. It is set up in question-and-answer format to make it easy to navigate and understand.
How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith. Learning racial history by geography. Very effective, and filled with surprises.

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Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari

We can’t pay attention anymore. An appalling percentage of adults no longer read any books at all. A soaring number of children have been diagnosed with ADHD. We’re getting less and less sleep. You’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah. Social media.” But your parents’ attention span was also shorter than their parents’ attention span. It’s been going on for as long as we’ve been keeping records.

Johann Hari set out to find out why he couldn’t focus for long periods of time. He loved to read, and his to-be-read pile probably resembled mine, but he could only fondly remember getting lost in a book for hours. He observed his nephew’s inability to look away from his phone, so Johann took him where he had always longed to go: Graceland. Standing in Elvis’s famous mansion, he saw that his nephew and all of the tourists of every age were staring at pictures of Graceland on their phones, rather than looking up at the actual rooms. When he started yelling at another man in exasperation, he realized that he needed to take a break.

Hari booked a three-month stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He left his laptop and phone with a friend far away and gave only six people the number to a dumb phone that he had bought for emergency use. It was grueling, but by the end, his mind felt calm, and not only did he get through all of the books he had brought, he also found a lovely bookstore in town where he bought even more great books. He went to the local pubs and talked to real, live people, and he started to write again.

Unhappily, it didn’t last, and he was determined to find out why. Johann started traveling around the world, to almost every continent, not only speaking to experts in the expected fields of high tech and social media, but also to brain scientists, sleep experts, ADHD physicians, scientists in pollution and food research, and many others. The interviews were fascinating, and Hari spends a chapter discussing each topic, combining scientific studies with personal anecdotes. So many of the stories resonated with changes I had seen in my own life or in the people around me, but others were shocking and desperate.

Johann believes that, although we can all make individual changes to help ourselves, there are massive problems that can only be solved if we all work together to force power structures to change. He likens this grassroots effort to the feminist and gay rights movements. While he is hopeful for the future, he also reveals that, at this moment, the problem is much deeper and more far-reaching than we understand.

I listened to an audiobook of this title, which the author reads himself. Johann is from London and has a warm and charming voice, and since he is so personally invested in his subject, there isn’t a dry moment in the book, even in the nerdiest bits of scientific study. This book is so important. Even those of us who are older and use very little social media have noticed a change, and the inability to concentrate is a serious issue for our world today, when there are critical problems that require deep thought and united action. There’s something going on that’s beyond our control, and Hari does an excellent job of putting the puzzle pieces together. His conclusion may surprise you; it’s not just social media. Let’s start a movement.

Disclaimer: I listened to an advance audiobook from Volumes. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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