SAVING TIME by Jenny Odell is a critical examination of the ways in which we experience and spend time, in the vein of her prior book, HOW TO DO NOTHING. Like the previous effort, SAVING TIME places personal observation in dialogue with philosophers, drawing on a rich cultural tradition of self-examination.
There is a lot to like in SAVING TIME - in today's brisk hustle culture, it's worth a critical examination of why it is that we do what we do. The beginning of the book really shines in highlighting the historical legacy of timekeeping at work and at home, and how it is embedded with the history of slavery and the rise of industrial labor. Multiple examples help demonstrate the ways in which our "objective" sense of time is historically contingent, and I thought the exploration of different cultures' definitions of seasons helped drive home the ways in which our modern structures of time are artificial inventions.
However, I thought that the rest of the book didn't cohere quite as well as HOW TO DO NOTHING did. The interplay of cultural commentary and personal observations didn't come together quite as neatly as the prior book (which was intrinsically about close observation of our world), and it felt like I was reading two separate books rather than one unifying whole, at times. The writing is beautiful throughout, but I found myself skimming more aggressively through some sections.
Overall, I'd recommend this book, particularly the first third, to those looking for a different way to understand how to spend their time in the world, one that challenges conventional notions of "productivity" to consider how we should spend our time doing what matters most to us in the world, and how to exist in harmony with the world around us. I do look forward to seeing what other work Jenny Odell will produce in the future.
While I found parts of this to be very interesting, the pacing dragged for me. I'm still very interested in reading Odell's first book and it's clear she's a talented writer.
Another important text on how to better engage with the world and be present, Not to dwell on all the other nagging mc naggers stuff that coopts space in my mind.
Thank to NetGalley and Random House for providing me access to this book for review purposes. I liked Odell's previous work but this one seems a bit cobbled together. There is a lot of good ideas in here but they do not really cohere as a book-length project
I love Jenny Odell’s first book and her second didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of information to process and sometimes it felt overwhelming to get through. It will definitely be a book that I come back to.
I found this as a different way to think about time and productivity and how time controls our lives. It was interesting to learn about how the clock and time were created and the difference between created time measurement vs how seasons and time naturally occur. It did feel a little tedius at times and seemed to drag on. I did enjoy this different take on time management.
Banger alert that I very much recommend that the recently jobless like myself dig into lol. Jenny Odell is one of the smartest and well-spoken writers that we have and I will devour anything she writes.
If you're interested in how capitalism drove society to be heavily reliant on the clock, and to at least attempt to control members of society down to the minute, then this is the book for you. Jenny Odell covers the history of clocks driving society - of doing things because the clock says it is time, and the push to get the greatest benefit for the least cost out of employees - in great detail, with a great many examples along the way. The examples, however, are so numerous and wide ranging that they often detract from the content of each rather long chapter; the time frame referred to in the history is largely ignored in the examples, which are predominately modern, and following how each example relates to the history being presented can sometimes be rather difficult.
There is a lot of good information here, but it can be hard to separate the information from the examples, to follow the timelines of the history, and it can be difficult to keep track of the main idea of each chapter, which is well-presented with quotes at the beginning of each one, further complicated by Odell's travelogues about her trip through the Bay Area. I'm sure there are people for whom this presentation method will be quite fascinating; I'm simply not one of them. If you enjoy this style of parenthetical writing - and many do - then you will find this volume fascinating.
This book is a trip, kind of intense and extraordinarily thought-provoking. First of all, it wasn't at all what I was expecting - although to be fair, I didn't pay close enough attention when I requested it. This book is essentially about the philosophy and politics of time. It took me a long time to get through it because it was my stop-reading-fiction-at-bedtime book but also because it was a lot to process. It broke my brain a few times if I'm honest.
The book takes inspiration and reference from hundreds of different sources, curating a collection of ideas related to time and using that collection to come to new, deeper and more personal conclusions.
This is not a book about time management! The author makes it clear that how one experiences time is not just about your mindset and approach but as much about privilege and the structural forces that make access to true leisure much more difficult for many people. It very effectively depicts the reality of how much time robbery comes with racism and other types of oppression and made me think more about how marginalization impacts people's control over their time.
All that to say, overall, this book worked for me, even though there were times it borders on pretentious and times I had trouble following the content because the it felt abstract to me. It worked well for me to read it in bits and pieces. I often shared passages with others and it sparked new ideas and conversations for me.
The themes and ideas that really stood out for me included: vertical vs horizontal time (and the idea of finding awe in horizontal time), wondering how we could get to a more collectivist view of time, managing feelings of nihilism with the reality of climate change, the ways that capitalism and colonialism have impacted how we experience time (and punished oppressed people for not conforming to that), the link between the drive for efficiency and productivity, and eugenics and abelism. It also reinforced my feelings about the need for prison abolition, and the need to understand and reverse the way some people are exploited to conduct more than their fair share of emotional labour.
What I'll be taking away from this book is the reminder that it's can be a revolutionary act to slow down, reflect and make choices about how I spend my time, and to use my privilege to support others to do the same.
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I absolutely loved How to Do Nothing, and was excited to read Odell's latest book. It did not disappoint. I love the way she meanders through topics and philosophical queries, while continuing to weave in the thread of the main concept about time. Her writing reminds me a lot of one of my other favorites, Rebecca Solnit. Highly recommend if you want to think deeply.
I love Jenny Odell! Her books are so unique. They’re like curio cabinets of all kinds of interesting and challenging ideas. She’s always exactly of the moment and there’s so much more to explore in her bibliographies after you finish.
This book was the peg for a longread in Zoomer magazine this spring, about timely books on how to spend one's precious time. (link attached)
A central point of Saving Time, in my view, is that we can't improve the world by improving ourselves. We need to look outward.
And Odell looks all over, turning to her experiences, to philosophers, writers, and theorists, and the arc of time as it plays out in nature. She looks at leisure, and the spaces that are outside of working time. She ponders the conception of time across ages and cultures, among trees and moss and mushrooms, and in non-western configurations. She considers the clicking clock of climate crisis, and also our own mortality. She considers what it is to exist in the here and now and how time and place converge.
As a result of all of this searching, Saving Time is deeply insightful, resonant, and full of wisdom, about the time in which we are living and the conception of time in general. In my favorite part of the book, Odell makes a compelling argument for viewing time as beans--something that can be used and given, but also planted, propagated and renewed--as something other than a commodity.
I love to think of time as a thing we can garden and I think this is what Odell is saying again and again. We don’t need optimization. We need to realize our own aliveness and acknowledge the aliveness of others. We need to work towards policy change. We don’t need a habit stacking strategy, we need to meet our neighbors, to grow to know them, and then to meal train with them and find ways to pool our resources so that our time is more equitable and balanced, so more people have a chance to truly live.
For this message, this is a book worth reading and passing along to everyone you know.
"Saving Time" is a powerful and inspiring book that challenges us to rethink our relationship with time and shows us how to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life. It is a must-read for anyone seeking to break free from the tyranny of productivity and find a deeper connection with themselves and the world around them.
This book offers an insightful and inspiring critique of our modern society's obsession with productivity and efficiency, and shows us a path towards a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Odell invites us to reclaim our intuitive and felt experience of time, and to reject the quantitative view of time that dominates our society. She shows us how to slow down and cultivate meaningful relationships with ourselves, others, and the world around us, and how this can lead to a more just and sustainable future.
Really enjoyed all the different avenues of time explained in this book! Definitely an essential read for our capitalist ruin of a country.
Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. This book looks at time - how we think and talk about time, productivity/time is money our ideas of leisure, how cultures perceive it differently, time zones/daylight savings time, life and death and the irreversibility of time - basically every way it permeates our life.. Great writing that made me more aware of how I want to use my time and resist our culture's ideas about time that take away from the pursuit of my best life.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for honest feedback.
If you have the time to read a 350+ page book about saving time, I'm happy for you. I loved Jenny Odell's last book and was excited to sit down with this one. It just felt like it could have been condensed quite a bit. Ended up skimming most of it.
Ugh - I'm not enamored with Saving Time. The book feels very disjointed, like it's lots of thoughts without concrete conclusions, and felt very negative in overall tone. While I still highlighted some things and saved some passages, it just felt like it was more of little pieces rather than one full piece of work. Overall, I much prefer How To Do Nothing, and I'll recommend that but probably not this one.
This one fascinated me conceptually, but the experience reading it felt heavy and laborious - i resonated with a lot of the comments made in Parul Sehgal’s review and would recommend checking that out if you’re also struggling with this