The best attention books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about attention and why they recommend each book.

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Stand Out of Our Light

By James Williams,

Book cover of Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy

This is a rare book. It is written by a philosopher. It can be read in an afternoon. And it will change your life. Forget your next self-help book. Read this instead. In Stand Out of Our Light, James Williams gives a straightforward (but extremely satisfying) account of the digital ‘attention economy’ and what is wrong with it. Williams used to work for Google, before he realised that things weren’t quite right. After all, the world built by big technology companies isn’t the one many of us would choose.


Who am I?

I grew up with digital technologies. It was the 1990s. Things could only get better. Or so we were told… I went to study computer science at Cambridge in the 2000s. Switched subjects a few times, and ended up with a degree in the history and philosophy of science. By the time I graduated, life had changed. The world economy was on the brink of collapse, China was on its way to becoming a superpower, and right-wing nationalism was on the rise. That experience absolutely shaped me as a historian and writer. The world of science and technology suddenly seemed a lot more politically fraught.


I wrote...

Horizons: A Global History of Science

By James Poskett,

Book cover of Horizons: A Global History of Science

What is my book about?

We are told that modern science was invented in Europe, the product of great minds like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein. But this is wrong. Science is not, and has never been, a uniquely European endeavour.

Horizons pushes the history of science beyond Europe, exploring the ways in which scientists from Africa, America, Asia, and the Pacific fit into the story. Challenging both the existing narrative and our perceptions of revered individuals, above all this is a celebration of the work of scientists neglected by history.

Flow

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,

Book cover of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow is a groundbreaking book, embodying the ideal combination of depth and simplicity. A trendsetter from 2008, it offers readers a compelling case for the value of entering a ‘flow’ state—which can also be described as immersion or singletasking. Beautifully presented, memorable, and—yes—a life-changer. I learned from Mihaly that the impact of immersing in tasks is immeasurably profound.


Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.


I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

The Attention Economy

By Thomas H. Davenport, John C. Beck,

Book cover of The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business

To me, this book is a classic, and isolating 'attention' as the real currency of business and individuals is pure genius. The author observes that attention actually has many of the same attributes as money. People who don’t have it want it. People who have it, often want it even more. You can trade attention, and you can purchase it.

I like the way the author explains how we covet our time and resources in relation to attention: people work to preserve and extend what they already have, and so caller ID and email-filtering software are popular because they screen out whatever might divert one's attention."

The authors note that similar to airplane seats and fresh food, attention is a perishable commodity. They cite Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, who proclaimed that, "What information consumes is rather obvious; it consumes the attention of recipients. Hence, a wealth of information…


Who am I?

I hold the registered trademark as "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," and work with organizations that seek to enhance their productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. I've spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, Lockheed, American Express, the IRS, Wells Fargo, and Westinghouse. My books have been published in 19 languages and have been featured in 68 of the top 75 American newspapers, as well as Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. At heart, I'm a simpler living advocate. I believe in giving back to his community and am an active volunteer for Art Space in downtown Raleigh, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.



I wrote...

Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society

By Jeff Davidson,

Book cover of Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society

What is my book about?

Breathing Space is a big concept book on the topic of work-life balance that is easy to read and easy to understand. It explains why most people are drowning in the over-information age. If you face too many emails, too much to read, or simply too much to do, this book will change your life. It explores the socio-cultural roots of our rush-rush society, and then shows how, against all odds, you can craft a personal plan that will enable you to stay productive, competitive, happy, and balanced, most of the time.

Breathing Space is the breakthrough book for a time-pressed generation, with major features in USA TodayThe Washington PostBoston HeraldChicago Tribune, and 75 other newspapers, plus Executive FemaleOffice SystemsLeaders, and Men's Health. Get in control of your space, and control of your time and life will follow.

Captivology

By Ben Parr,

Book cover of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention

Of all the marketing challenges facing us today, the biggest by far is the immensely difficult task of getting and keeping the attention of our target customers in a ridiculously noisy world.

Captivology isn’t necessarily a marketing book per se. But it’s the best guide to the art and the science of capturing attention. It shows you what gets people to take notice of something, to pay it deeper attention, and then to keep coming back and devoting time to it. You can apply these lessons across all your marketing and of all the marketing ideas and concepts I’ve come across in the last decade, this one has had the deepest and most positive impact on me and the results in my business.


Who am I?

I'm a writer and consultant on marketing and creating online courses. I’m obsessed with “cracking the marketing code.” Ever since I saw firsthand what a huge impact even small marketing changes could have on a business's success I’ve been determined to figure out what the really big impact but low workload changes are. I’ve written about some of them in my book Email Persuasion and I share others in my blogs and videos.


I wrote...

Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email

By Ian Brodie,

Book cover of Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email

What is my book about?

Email Persuasion is the definitive guide to engaging your audience, building authority, and getting more sales with email marketing. Described as a “results getting tour de force” and “inspiring but practical” it will take you step by step from getting subscribers to nurturing relationships to winning new clients.

Email Persuasion was created for small businesses and sole practitioners. It’s written in clear and straightforward language and includes real-world tips that will elevate your results from email marketing whether you’re a beginner or an advanced-level marketer.

Focus

By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

The subtitle of Focus is The Hidden Driver of Excellence, yet this driver is arguably hidden no more upon the book’s release. As a journalist, psychologist, and top-notch researcher, Goleman is uniquely qualified to delve into the ‘science of attention.’ Plus, he has accumulated plenty of street cred from the various iterations of his Emotional Intelligence canon. 

Goleman compares attention to a muscle; requiring regular use to build it up. I couldn’t agree more. This premise is supported by myriad examples, accompanied by useful techniques for application in all aspects of life.


Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.


I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

The Organized Mind

By Daniel J Levitin,

Book cover of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

This book is a hefty one—I recommend the audiobook if you’ve got a bad back—but it will help you understand how your brain works in a way that almost no other book can. And the better you understand your mind, the better you’ll be able to make it do what you want, and how to protect yourself from the things that might otherwise sabotage your creative thinking.


Who am I?

You know how most young kids go through a phrase where they ask “why” about everything, and then they ask it again, and again, and again? Well, I never really outgrew that. I studied journalism because it gave me permission to be curious about new things every day, and to ask experts “why.” Marketing gave me a new way to chase my curiosity: Why are people clicking this ad, opening this email, following that social account or searching for that phrase? I’ve helped 30% of the Fortune 100 answer the questions about why their content is working, or isn’t, and my first book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas, was born from my introspective curiosity about how my own idea generation process worked. 


I wrote...

The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas

By Melanie Deziel,

Book cover of The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas

What is my book about?

In The Content Fuel Framework, trained journalist and award-winning content marketer Melanie Deziel shows you how to maximize your creativity by systematizing it. This simple framework catalyzes the brainstorming process, making idea generation effortless and nearly automatic. No more writer's block. No more asking "what should I post?" No more waiting for that "big idea" to show up in its own time. 

Never before have we consumed as much content, in as many forms, and in as many places as we do now. This means marketers, creators, and anyone who communicates with an audience is under more pressure than ever to deliver unique content, consistently. How can you fill all those web pages, social feeds, blogs, and newsletters, every single day?

Wherever You Go, There You Are

By Jon Kabat-Zinn,

Book cover of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the founding teachers of mindfulness practice in the United States. Wherever You Go There You Are, another simple yet profound gem, sets forth the benefits and techniques for living in the moment. I really enjoy how he talks about the many ways to meditate. There is no one posture, no one practice, it is all about what you do with your awareness. As the subtitle says, the book explains how to take mindfulness meditation off the cushion and into everyday life.


Who am I?

As a thirty-year meditator, certified meditation leader, and award-winning author, it’s my job to keep up on the latest books about mindfulness and Zen practice. Despite seeing new volumes being published regularly, I return to these books as great sources of solid practice information. Each of these authors explains meditation in accessible terms, easy for readers to follow and understand. I can’t remember who said that a confused reader is an antagonistic reader, but they are right. The books I’ve suggested offer clarity. They help readers begin or continue their practice and understand how and why meditation is worth their time.


I wrote...

How to Make Every Move a Meditation: Mindful Movement for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Insight

By Nita Sweeney,

Book cover of How to Make Every Move a Meditation: Mindful Movement for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Insight

What is my book about?

Why bother with meditation? You’ll find freedom using the mind-body connection as you transform any movement into a powerful mindful meditation practice. What is meditation? Silent retreats? Yoga? Tai Chi? What if you could meditate during fitness or daily activities such as lifting weights, dancing with your love, or walking across a room? What if you could make every move a meditation?

In Make Every Move a Meditation, award-winning author, meditation leader, and mental health advocate Nita Sweeney offers centuries-old techniques to help readers connect with the present moment, bringing mindfulness into any activity. Studies show both exercise and meditation reduce anxiety, stabilize blood pressure, improve mood and cognition, and lead to a deeper self-relationship and wisdom. Movement is medicine, and meditation is medicine. Let’s combine the two.

Everyday Blessings

By Myla Kabat-Zinn, Jon Kabat-Zinn,

Book cover of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a world-renown specialist in mindfulness – the mind-body experience of being fully present and aware in the moment. Mindfulness is an effective practice for optimal emotional and physical health and well-being. We know that people around the world parent in many different ways, depending upon their background, culture, life experience, etc. What I love about this book is that if you want to learn to be more present in our highly-distracted, busy world, there is a gentle way to move toward having more of this presence in life, no matter your background – with your children, partner, and others. The wisdom of mindfulness found in this peaceful book helps develop greater empathy and connection with ourselves and those in our family.


Who am I?

As a trained therapist, educator, and coach for expectant and new parents, I understand on a deep level the importance of creating a strong foundation in building a family. I also was personally humbled at how difficult the transition to parenthood was for me and the challenges it presented in my relationship with my husband. While we’ve grown exponentially, I wanted to make it a little easier for other expectant parents to avoid some of the pitfalls that aren’t spoken about as much in becoming parents. I also wanted to help the new little beings arriving in the world to have more resourced, present parents. It’s a win-win.


I wrote...

Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families

By Stephanie Dueger,

Book cover of Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families

What is my book about?

Couples often spend surprisingly little time getting ready for this huge rite of passage. The first of its kind, this interactive book provides couples with essential conversation-starters and action items to complete before becoming parents. In Preparing for Parenthood, you’ll discover how to transition to parenting in ways that align with your own beliefs and values by: learning the biggest concerns couples face when becoming new parents and how to discuss them; finding your unique strengths as a couple, and addressing challenges as you embark on this journey; and developing greater confidence as parents so you can feel more relaxed and prepared.

This small and indispensable book will help you alleviate stress and answer some of the biggest questions you’ll want to address before your baby arrives.

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