Listen free for 30 days

  • Stolen Focus

  • Why You Can't Pay Attention
  • By: Johann Hari
  • Narrated by: Johann Hari
  • Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (985 ratings)

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £31.99

Buy Now for £31.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Bloomsbury presents Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, read by Johann Hari.

Why have we lost our ability to focus? What are the causes? And, most importantly, how do we get it back?

For Stolen Focus, internationally best-selling author Johann Hari went on a three-year journey to uncover the reasons why our teenagers now focus on one task for only 65 seconds, and why office workers on average manage only three minutes. He interviewed the leading experts in the world on attention and learned that everything we think about 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 all of us by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen. Johann discovered there are 12 deep cases of this crisis, all of which have robbed some of our attention. He shows us how in a thrilling journey that ranges from Silicon Valley dissidents, to a favela in Rio where attention vanished, to an office in New Zealand that found a remarkable way to restore our 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.

©2022 Johann Hari (P)2022 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic reviews

"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." (Susan Cain)

"A really important book.... Everyone should read it."  (Philippa Perry)

"A beautifully researched and argued exploration of the breakdown of humankind's ability to pay attention." (Stephen Fry)

What listeners say about Stolen Focus

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    767
  • 4 Stars
    160
  • 3 Stars
    36
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    8
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    664
  • 4 Stars
    132
  • 3 Stars
    34
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    11
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    631
  • 4 Stars
    147
  • 3 Stars
    40
  • 2 Stars
    11
  • 1 Stars
    9

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

No substance and not much style

I truly wanted to like this, I’ve been reading books related to similar subjects and have found them fascinating. Unfortunately, this is way too anecdotal, and the anecdotes feel forced and - at times - entirety made up. But whereas the likes of Glennon Doyle can get away with a suspiciously well-timed and engrossing happening, Hari’s personal tales are so on the nose they read like they should come with a ‘insert relevant thematic story here’ disclaimer. As for the journey he is trying to thread through the book, it’s not only an affront to climate change – travelling halfway around the world to find peace and quiet. Really? It’s also completely unrealistic for anyone who has a regular job, children or a functioning relationship. Do yourself a favour and return the book, then download Oliver Burkemas ‘Four Thousand Weeks’. It covers the same topic and far more, it’s also incredibly well researched and well written and without the solipsistic overtones.

38 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Bravo 👏 👏

Bravo to Johann Hari for this absolute masterpiece! I have listened to many audio books on this subject, most will point you in the direction of mindfulness meditation, which is not a bad thing, but in this book Johann tries to get to the root cause of our inability to focus, the way that external forces influence our behaviour, from tech giants to the food we eat, and everything in between.
I don't know if i will listen again, this book was so well written and so well read by the Author, every sentence relevant and memorable.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars

Lacks Focus

This feels like Hari has read over social science book of the last twenty years, paid attention to every major news story in that same time span, struggled to find a way of knitting them together and then gone, "balls to it, I'll just write about focus."

It times its incoherent and unfocused, at other times far too anecdotal. There are flashes of insight and occasionally it's thought provoking, but by and large this is a dull book. The narration is pretty poor too.

I enjoyed Lost Connections immensely, but Hari's shtick has worn very thin. If I ever hear one more barely believable fabricated anecdote or one more example of him visiting an 'expert' followed by a paragraph which begins "he told me" I'll end up hurting someone nearby.

Even if you're a fan usually, avoid this.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the most important books of this time!

I have been suspecting something has been very wrong and this book has confirmed it all and given me real support in rectifying the problem and reclaiming my own mind! Thank you Johann for bringing this into our awareness and offering real solutions.
The reflections you have given on how change has been made in the past has given me so much hope that we can change the current systems and we can create a better world for ourselves.
May this book reach far and wide!

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is good

It's like somebody shining a light of clarity through the dark fog of misinformation and manipulation that is, no so gradually, engulfing us all. I'm not sure that it will be enough to save us, but at least it gives us a glimpse of what we are up against!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Masterpiece

This book is lifechanging. I've been struggling with fragmented attention for some years now and read and listened to what I could on the matter. This book is a masterclass on the subjest. I loved Hari's last book "Lost Connections" so when I got a Kindle notification (yes that was a distraction but a welcome one in this case) that he'd just released this one I immediately bought it along with the Audible narration. This, in my view, is a must read/listen for anyone living in the digital age.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Bait and switch writing of the worst kind

If you decided to read/listen to this book after listening to Johann on the Chris Williamson podcast, you've already heard anything of any real use the man has to say.

The first 5 chapter of 'Stolen Focus' cover the subject of how social media is destroying your ability to focus. It is thought-provoking material.

Then it all goes horribly wrong.

The idea of stolen focus is used as a platform for the author to sell his ideological and hilariously social justice wares, such as how awful anything except Left-leaning politics is, why poor people are simply incapable of focusing why government controlled Internet and social media is actually a good thing, why everything is a social injustice, and how feminism has literally saved the world from the evils of men.

If that wasn't bad enough his constant fawning over the likes of Tristaaawn Harris and others is beyond cringe, especially considering Harris and his ilk are directly responsible for the social, societal and psychological problems teenagers and young adults experience today.

I coughed and laughed my way from chapters 6 - 10 and then called it a day.

The author knew he could never hope to sell a book that peddled his laughable ideological beliefs, so he used the premise of "Saving you from social media" to trick you to make the purchase...and then slips the social justice content in through the back door.

The only book out of the hundred I've ever purchased on Audible where I am strongly considering asking for a refund.

You're a dishonest hack, Johann Hari.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Created awareness, overshoots in the end.

Wonderfully narrated and written by Johann. Builds up nicely and gives great insights in how your attention is diminished by several causes, like social media, diet, schooling and more. Especially the discussion on personal versus societal responsibility furthered my own thinking. This book was a great introduction to the topic for me after I notice my own dwindling attention span. A point of critique is that Hari seems to aim for the moon in the end with attacks on the economic system which are left without foundation. Suddenly he argues for a universal basic income and a four day work week. These can be argued for, but the connection with attention remains vague. This discussion should have remained out of scope and blur his points earlier in the book.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting ideas; shame about the author

Interesting ideas, some of which have made me re-consider my own technology usage and concentration habits. Intriguing discussions around ADHD too.

Downsides: The narrator/author. His voice and inflection are incredibly irritating. The amount of upspeak made it difficult to take the author's points seriously.

He is also incredibly entitled and self-important; snatching his godson's phone because he didn't approve of him using it, chastising people in a museum for commenting on technology, judging a stranger on a train for choosing to daydream out of the window...the list goes on. Some of the book was read an indignant, condescending lecture, his voice getting higher pitched and inflections erratic as he made his points.

Some of his claims were a bit odd, especially when describing people he'd interviewed. They were the best in their field, most famous, most researched, or in one case...had read more about the subject than anyone else in the world. Really...? I read the book as it was recommended by a friend, but it's worth noting the author has a history of plagiarism; form your own conclusions about his arguments.

Worth reading - paper version, or by another narrator. Take the general gist, which has a worthy message, but be wary of the author himself.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Time well spent

This is such a well-crafted book about a subject which impacts all of our lives. It’s accessible enough but also credible and mature. He comes up with some lovely figurative turns of phrase and reframes ideas with compassion and humour. It’s a blend of personal experience and thorough, painstaking research - Hari has more than blown away any former clouds about the authenticity of his sources and is reliable and likeable.

4 people found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Justinas Matusevicius
  • Justinas Matusevicius
  • 11-06-22

incredibly disappointing book

Such a waste of time. the writer could be someone like Karl Marx, focusing solely on collective responsibilities and evil corporations and not giving really any tips how to regain focus. Everyone else is at fault but not you, so you cannot regain focus. what a bummer. I genuinely hated listening to this book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Domagoj Petrovic
  • Domagoj Petrovic
  • 28-05-22

Feminine story telling

After two hours of listening I stopped and deleted it. Reminder of the book might be better but probably isn’t. Shallow, emotional and useless story telling, you probably know the kind. It offers little new to learn and instead fills pages with emotion loaded personal stories.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Michael Alf
  • Michael Alf
  • 13-08-22

Must read to gain back your life

An incredibly well researched and written book about one of the biggest crisis of our time - losing our attention.

How can we solve climate change without our attention?

We cannot.

And this week is a start on a journey back.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Helen Oulie Fuhr
  • Helen Oulie Fuhr
  • 24-07-22

A book everyone should read

Focus is our human superpower, but in today's society few of us manage to focus for more than a few minutes at a time. We are facing several crises today and an important key to getting through these crises is that we can focus so that we can find good solutions. Therefore, I believe this is one of the most important books you should read.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 05-07-22

Amazing book

Alerting info, though if one lives mindfull and attentive life, nothing new said. Every single person should read it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Dr. John Barksenius
  • Dr. John Barksenius
  • 04-07-22

Insightful but political

Very nice book, but too much left-wing propaganda in the second half of the book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 30-06-22

As inspiring as it is alarming

Johan draws an outline of a startling crisis which while he relates to our times deepest challenges

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 23-05-22

this book is bad

this book is highly political. most chapters go something like this. Here are facts and here is science (this is fine) and then the conclusion of the chapter is: and thats why my political beliefs are correct. let's go and start a marxist revolution against our tech overlords!

The author has very little understanding of B.F. skinners works and paints him as an evil scientist. Yes his experiments were used to manipulate people and make them addicted to phones, but skinner died in 1990 long before the age of social media. Its like calling Alfred noble evil cause people used his invention to bomb houses.

B.F. skinners work was about explaining the effect the environment has on organism. The problem he had is that it is very hard to isolate a variable in the environment. he solved this by inventing the skinner box which is a box that you put a pigeon in. the box has a key on the wall that can be manipulated. The key is the only thing in the pigeons environment that changes and thus he could scientifically explain what effect that variable had on the pigeon.

Later people in silicon valley realised that this experiment is very similar to our experience when we interact with our phone or our computers or video games. Sins the only variable that changes is what is happing on the screen they could use the same principles that skinner used to manipulate his bird to manipulate the people using the devises.

Our phone addictions don’t make skinner bad, it just proves him right.

Last is the weird connection to climate change in the book that is also political mumbo jumbo. His argument is if we cant focus we cant solve climate change. But i really don’t see what climate change has to do with the topic. It was just thrown in there to give people with the same political believes as Johann Hari a political boner and doesn't really belong in this book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Miss
  • Miss
  • 09-03-22

Profound and important

At last a book on an all-to-important subject that doesn’t linger, harp on the same point over and over or adds “fluff” for something that could be explained in less than a couple of hours.

Johann goes dives deep into the subject of attention and lost focus in the 21st century. Unlike many self-help books out there, he admits that he’s not always walking is talk. That to me is refreshing.

He displays an abundant volume of knowledge on the topic.

He also proves to listeners that he’s done the homework by analyzing the data captured during numerous expert interviews he conducted in an effort to uncover the science behind our focus problems and the human mind.

One thing particularly stuck with me which I’ll paraphrase: “Our economy relies on sleep depriving people to be able to grow.”

I found this book profound, important and relevant to every human living in the internet era.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Dara Quinlan
  • Dara Quinlan
  • 01-03-22

Essential!!

This is an essential read for the full picture. So clear and so well written