Self-help books

Don’t listen to Johann Hari to help your attention span

In 1887, Friedrich Nietzsche made a complaint about the modern world, writing in The Gay Science: Even now one is ashamed of resting, and prolonged reflection almost gives one a bad conscience. One thinks with a watch in one’s hand, even as one eats one’s midday meal while reading the latest news on the stock market; one lives as if one always ‘might miss out on something’. Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus rehearses this complaint. We fill our lives with distractions, he says, and have no time to think. He adds a few new problems, though they’re also pretty familiar: we are constantly on our phones; social media is bad for

Why is Robert Burton’s masterpiece Anatomy of Melancholy being sold as self-help?

The BBC has been having a good pandemic. Stuck at home, a generation raised on podcasts and YouTube has discovered the comfort of a radio that babbles quietly in the corner. The concerts from the empty Wigmore Hall, streamed live on YouTube once a day, have been the first classical concerts of my life that could honestly be described as cultural events. And in the initial terror of the disease’s spread, everyone reverted to watching the BBC simply to find out what would happen next. Perhaps our vaunted passion for fake news was only a fad of convenience given that, when our lives depended on it, we really listened to