Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Focus

Stolen Focus Book Cover





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All over the world, our ability to pay attention is collapsing. In the US, college students now focus on one task for only 65 seconds, and office workers on average manage only three minutes. New York Times best-selling author Johann Hari went on an epic journey across the world to meet the leading scientists and experts investigating why this is happening to us – and discovered that everything we think we know on this subject is wrong.

We think our inability to focus is a personal failing – a flaw in each one of us. It is not. This has been done to us – by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen. Johann discovered there are twelve deep cases of this crisis, all of which have robbed some of our attention. He shows how he learned this in a thrilling journey that takes him from Silicon Valley dissidents who figured out how to hack human attention, to veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD; from a favela in Rio where everyone lost their attention in a particularly surreal way, to an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore their workers’ attention.

Crucially, he learned how – as individuals, and as a society – we can get our focus back, if we are determined to fight for it. The answers will surprise and thrill you. This is a book about our attention crisis unlike any you’ve read before.

Johann Hari’s books on addiction and depression transformed those debates, appearing in 37 languages, praised by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Noam Chomsky to Hillary Clinton. His TED talks have been viewed 78 million times.


What They’re Saying About “Stolen Focus”

‘I think this book is exactly what the world needs right now … I hope everybody buys the book. I promise you it will be worth your time and certainly worth your focus.’


‘If you want to get your attention and focus back, you need to read this remarkable book. All over the world, Johann Hari interviewed both the leading scientists investigating why we’re losing our focus, and the people developing solutions. He has cracked the code of why we’re in this crisis, and how to get out of it. We all need to hear this message.’


‘A visionary, systemic, revolutionary and practical guide for creating the new world. Through tireless research and genius insight Johann Hari certainly snapped me to attention. A life changing book.’


‘Johann Hari’s superb STOLEN FOCUS is a beautifully researched and argued exploration of the breakdown of humankind’s ability to pay attention. It’s a story that so many of us have felt needs to be told, but whose cause and consequences are hard to capture and articulate without guesswork, prejudice or ideology. Hari not only achieves this and more, but he does so it with the pace, sparkle and energy of the best kind of thriller writer. I can’t remember reading a book which made me shout out “yes! That’s it!” quite so many times. The same brilliant voice that has made us rethink so convincingly the real solutions to the global epidemic of addiction and mental health (Chasing the Scream, Lost Connections) is not satisfied with hand-wringing or tub-thumping – Hari as ever also offers ways out, one which we would do well to … to concentrate…’


‘Stop whatever you’re doing and read this book. A deeply researched, disturbing, and yet ultimately hopeful exploration of the primal crisis of our time: our diminishing ability to focus on what really matters.’


‘I don’t know anyone thinking more deeply, or more holistically, about the crisis of our collective attention than Johann Hari. And this is a crisis that we must address if we are to meet any of the other pressing emergencies we face as a species, whether ecological or social. Which means that this book could not be more vital. Please sit with it, and focus.’


‘A brilliant book about one of the most important topics of our time’
‘Johann Hari writes like a dream. He’s both lyricist and storyteller — but also an indefatigable investigator of one of the world’s greatest problems: the systematic destruction of our attention. Read this book to save your mind.’


‘A gripping analysis of why we’ve lost the capacity to concentrate, and how we might find it again. STOLEN FOCUS won’t just capture your attention—it will keep you thinking and rethinking long after you’ve finished it. Johann Hari is one of the most insightful critics of our modern malaise, and he’s written the book the world needs to win the war on distraction.’

– ADAM GRANT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THINK AGAIN and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

‘A brilliant book about one of the most important topics of our time’


‘Thanks to this brilliant book, I have got to know myself and my fellow humans better. It educates and entertains you – the stories will suck any reader in, and then slowly change your mind. Everyone should read it. It has changed my habits – way beyond just putting away my phone more. ‘Stolen Focus’ is a really important book.’


‘In his unique voice, Johann Hari tackles the profound dangers facing humanity from information technology and rings the alarm bell for what all of us must do to protect ourselves, our children and our democracies.’


‘An entirely necessary book, a miracle of clarity and depth, a resonant, deeply researched warning followed by a truly inspiring clarion-call to action. Read it and weep, then dry your eyes and join in.’


‘In a world that in Johann Hari’s deft phrase suffers from “mental jet lag,” his new book is a highly original and wide-ranging investigation into the causes of our epidemic of flagging attention. Written with Hari’s trademark incisive prose, indefatigable search for scientific evidence vividly presented, and illustrated with telling anecdotes, Stolen Focus is a bracing and necessary wake-up call to us all.’


‘A bold, troubling and penetrating tour de force that lifts the lid on something parents, teachers, psychologists and doctors have been increasingly worried about. A fascinating journey into the mind and how it is being manipulated with devastating effects. Hari’s subject is something that is affecting us all and this seminal work will be one of the defining books of our era. Johann Hari is quickly proving himself to become the chronicler of our time. We must all wake up and pay attention to this book’s message. It is a clarion call for us to take back our focus. Get off social media, switch off the TV, put down your smart-phone and do one thing – read this book.’


‘This mind-blowing book explains everything. Read it and be free.’


‘If you read just one book about how the modern world is driving us crazy, read this one.’