What We Are Reading Today: How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Updated 02 May 2019

What We Are Reading Today: How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

How To Do Nothing is one of the most important nonfiction releases of 2019, according to some reviews.

“An interesting and stimulating book that makes you reflect on the continuous inputs we are receiving from the attention economy,” said one of the reviews in goodreads.com.

In a review published in The New York Times, Jonah Engel Bromwich said author Jenny Odell “understands and acknowledges that doing nothing — by which she means taking time out of one’s day to engage in an activity without considering whether it’s productive — is not something that’s available to everyone.”

But her book “is least convincing when she suggests that meaningful political change would follow if the strategies she has adopted were taken up en masse. Though she acknowledges that she was lucky to be able to exercise the freedom to while away the hours in her favorite rose garden or to go bird-watching, Odell seems to disregard just how individualistic her strategies are,” said the review. 

“She lives an artistic life, one that lends itself wonderfully to aesthetic expression but is less useful in the political realm,” it said.

What We Are Reading Today: A Wonder to Behold

Updated 11 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: A Wonder to Behold

Authors: Anastasia Amrhein, Clare Fitzgerald, and Elizabeth Knott

In the ancient Near East, expert craftspeople were more than technicians: They numbered among those special members of society who could access the divine. 

While the artisans’ names are largely unknown today, their legacy remains in the form of spectacular artworks and monuments. One of the most celebrated works of antiquity — Babylon’s Ishtar Gate and its affiliated Processional Way — featured a dazzling array of colorful beasts assembled from molded, baked, and glazed bricks. 

Such an awe-inspiring structure demanded the highest level of craft; each animal was created from dozens of bricks that interlocked like a jigsaw. Yet this display of technical and artistic skill also served a ritual purpose, since the gate provided a divinely protected entrance to the sacred inner city of Babylon.

A Wonder to Behold explores ancient Near Eastern ideas about the transformative power of materials and craftsmanship as they relate to the Ishtar Gate, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies an exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.