Reading List


Disconnection is a collection of practices designed to disconnect from some things to make space to connect to others.

Digital Minimalism (2019) - Cal Newport


Book | Practical guide on disconnecting from smartphones and social media, phrased as a philosophy to help you build lasting habits. I like it: it works for me, and is structured around practical steps. A good friend did not like it, and found Newport's earlier book - Deep Work - covered similar ground, but with considerably more power and depth; I look forward to reading it. Really, the significance of Digital Minimalism for me is - it's the anti-internet one I bought, and so it's the one that's physically on my shelf, the one I pick up and re-read whenever I am struggling with my Disconnection practice. Any book that provides that function for you will serve.

✪ Splendid Isolation (2020) - Mark O'Connell


Article | Excellent longread about the practice of a "solo" - sitting alone in a natural place for 48 hours. The purest essence of what it is to Disconnect, and the sorts of altered states we hope to reach by doing so. Read here

How to Do Nothing (2019) - Jenny Odell


Book | This book transcends conversations about the internet - touching on attention, time, the natural world, productivity. There's good parts about Walking as well as Disconnection; being solitary vs being connected; the politics of living in communes; she has a social conscience, always returning to the idea of how these practices can be balanced against our responsibility to others and the world. She has an interesting critique of merely quitting Facebook. It's quite diffuse too, lots of interesting bits but never quite synthesising into a single argument - in many ways, an inattentive book, but you sense that Odell knows how all these parts fit together for her, and it's that which makes it thought-provoking rather than didactic; but I found it ultimately quite frustrating too, like it needed more time to sharpen into a clear argument.

Walden (1854) - Henry David Thoreau

Book | I'm most of the way through this, and disliking it a lot. Even though it's a big cultural touchstone for disconnecting from the world and living more simply, its not really interested in nature so much as stoicism - and has a very offputting tone. Somehow, he makes the process of living in the woods feel Solar - something comfortable and certain, a kind of imperialist bombast; "I went to the woods and nothing changed". In short, I don't recommend this text.