Feb 7, 2023
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.
‘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
‘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.’
‘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.’
ohann Hari is the author of three New York Times best-selling books, and the Executive Producer of an Oscar-nominated movie and an eight-part TV series starring Samuel L. Jackson. His books have been translated into 40 languages, and been praised by a broad range of people, from Oprah to Noam Chomsky, from Elton John to Naomi Klein.
His latest book, ‘Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention’, was published in January 2022, and received rave reviews everywhere from the Washington Post to the Irish Times to the Sydney Morning Herald. It has been a best-seller on three continents.
Johann’s first book, ‘Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’, was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film ‘The United States Vs Billie Holiday’. It has also been adapted into a documentary series which is available to view now.
His second book, ‘Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions’ was described by the British Journal of General Practice as “one of the most important texts of recent years”, and shortlisted for an award by the British Medical Association.
Johann’s TED talks have been viewed more than 93 million times. The first is named ‘Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong’. The second is entitled ‘This Could Be Why You Are Depressed or Anxious’.
He has written over the past decade for some of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Spectator, Le Monde Diplomatique, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Politico. He has appeared on NPR’s All Thing Considered, HBO’s Realtime With Bill Maher, The Joe Rogan Podcast, the BBC’s Question Time, and many other popular shows.
Johann was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and when he was a year old, his family moved to London, where he grew up and where he has lived for most of his life. His father – a Swiss immigrant – was a bus driver, and his mother was a nurse and later worked in shelters for survivors of domestic violence.
He studied Social and Political Science at King’s College, Cambridge, and graduated with a Double First.
Johann was twice named ‘National Newspaper Journalist of the Year’ by Amnesty International. He has also been named ‘Cultural Commentator of the Year’ and ‘Environmental Commentator of the Year’ at the Comment Awards.
He lives half the year in London, and spends the other half of the year traveling to research his books.
You can email Johann at chasingthescream (at) gmail dot com.
To read about what Johann is working on now, and what you can do to support him, please click here.