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Jenny Odell

New York Times-bestselling author of How to Do Nothing and Saving Time

  • About Jenny Odell

    Jenny Odell is a writer and artist whose work centers around the power of observation and attention in shaping our reality. Her first book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, is “a complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto” (New York Times Book Review). A New York Times bestseller that Barack Obama named as one of his favorite books of the year, How to Do Nothing resists categorization, touching on everything from ancient Greek philosophy to birding to labor strikes to performance art. In it, Odell argues that our attention is our most valuable (and scarce) resource, and we must actively and continuously choose how we use it—instead of letting the forces of capitalism choose for us. Instead, we can use our attention to reimagine and reconnect with our environments and our communities.

    Jenny Odell’s highly-anticipated, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, answers the question, “What if you don’t have time to spend in quiet contemplation?” Odell takes a deep dive into the fundamental structure of our society—time—and finds that the clock we live by was built for profit, not for humans. When life has become a series of moments to be bought, sold, and converted into productivity, Odell argues, our painful relationship to time becomes interwoven with social inequities, climate crisis, and existential dread. In Saving Time, Jenny Odell offers different ways to experience time, pulling from pre-industrial cultures, nature, and geological time scales, that provide a respite, a source of meaning, and a more humane way of living.

    In her expansive, tailored talks to students, creatives, and communities, Odell shares powerful presentations that combine sociology, ecology, geology, economics, and cultural history to create a truly unique argument for reclaiming our relationships with attention and time. She also draws on her art background to ask questions about how art changes our relationships with the world around us. A fascinating and charming speaker, Odell leaves audiences renewed, invigorated, and with fresh perspectives.

    Jenny Odell is also a talented visual artist who has been exhibited at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the New York Public Library, the Marjorie Barrick Museum, Les Rencontres D’Arles, Fotomuseum Antwerpen, Fotomuseum Winterthur, La Gaîté Lyrique, the Lishui Photography Festival, and apexart. She has also been an artist in residence at Recology San Francisco (a.k.a. “the dump”), the San Francisco Planning Department, the Internet Archive, and the Montalvo Arts Center. From 2013 to 2021, she taught digital art at Stanford University.

    In addition to her bestselling books, Odell’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Sierra, and other publications. She lives in Oakland, California.

    Contact us for more information about booking Jenny Odell for your next event. 

  • Speaking Topics

    Saving Time

    Jenny Odell’s book, Saving Time, combines research spanning sociology, ecology, geology, economics, and cultural history in order to explain the dominant ways in which we perceive time. But this research is also inflected through deeply personal experience, questioning, and a desire to find hope. In this talk, Odell tells the story of how these strands came together, and what they taught her about time.

    How to Do Nothing

    Tasked with presenting at an art conference following the 2016 election, Jenny Odell wrote a lecture that would eventually develop into the book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. It was a plea on behalf of things like nuance, earthliness, care, and maintenance, all things lost in the scroll and sidelined by a narrow vision of what productivity means. This talk is an updated version that includes lessons and insights from the pandemic.

    Art and Perception

    How does art change the way we encounter the world, and what counts as a technology of seeing? In this talk, Jenny Odell draws on her years as an artist and arts educator to approach these questions with a wide range of examples, with a special emphasis on digital and machine-mediated works.

  • Video

  • Praise for Jenny Odell

    Praise for Saving Time

    This important book is a revealing exploration of the forces that keep us locked in a shallow, commodified, and adversarial relationship with time. But it is also a portal to a far richer alternative. To read it is to slip through the bars of our modern temporal prison and experience how freedom might feel.

    Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

    Odell’s journey to find the best way to use our limited time on earth is an eye-opening look at what it really means to be alive.


    The visionary author of How to Do Nothing returns to challenge the notion that “time is money.” In this hopeful and subversive cultural history, Odell traces the origins of our market-based understanding of time, arguing that how we organize our days has always been “a history of extraction, whether of resources from the earth or of labor time from people.” Odell’s research is rigorous, but Saving Time’s real triumph lies in her road map for experiencing time outside the capitalist clock. Instead of “hoarding” time, we should “garden” it, attuning ourselves to the natural world and prioritizing meaningful human connections. Expect to feel changed by this radical way of seeing.


    At this pivotal historical moment, when so many of us are struggling with burnout, anxiety about the future, and a gnawing dissatisfaction that things don’t have to be like this, in strides Jenny Odell with the exact book that we needed. Odell masterfully dissects the origins of our many destructive beliefs around work, leisure, and self-improvement, while also offering a way for us to be free of them. Saving Time is an exposé of our past, an antidote to our present, and a manifesto for the future. It is rigorous, compassionate, profound, and hopeful. It is one of the most important books I’ve read in my life.

    Ed Yong, author of An Immense World

    Praise for How to Do Nothing

    A complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Your chaotic, fraught internal weather isn’t an accident, it’s a business-model, and while ‘thoughtful resistance’ isn’t ‘productive,’ Odell proves that it is utterly necessary.

    Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway

    She struck a hopeful nerve of possibility that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

    The New Yorker
  • Books by Jenny Odell

  • Media About Jenny Odell

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Jenny Odell travels from Oakland, CA

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