Attention: A Love Story

Casey Schwartz. Pantheon, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4710-7
Journalist Schwartz (In the Mind Fields) presents an insightful hybrid of memoir and academic study on the subject of attention. She approaches her topic from the perspective of a person who began abusing Adderall in college, recounting her multiple attempts at quitting—she finally succeeded after a decade of use—before moving on to others’ stories. These include a psychiatrist who, with intent focus, learned to interpret the initially indecipherable communications of an aphasiac stroke patient, and famous authors who have written about the subject, such as David Foster Wallace and Aldous Huxley. Thankfully, Schwartz goes light on the overexposed subject of the internet’s effects on the attention span. When she does discuss this, it’s with thought-provoking research, including work done by Tristan Harris, Google’s “design ethicist,” who writes about how apps and websites are engineered to monopolize their users’ attention. The narrative takes an odd turn near the end, as Schwartz recounts dealing with a family crisis with no particular bearing on the subject of attention, before visiting a spiritual retreat in Central America. Nonetheless, this is a rich inquiry into what it means to pay (and maintain) attention in a world increasingly permeated with distraction and interference. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 11/20/2019
Release date: 04/07/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-525-43598-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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