Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The visionary author of How to Do Nothing returns to challenge the notion that ‘time is money.’ . . . Expect to feel changed by this radical way of seeing.”—Esquire
“One of the most important books I’ve read in my life.”—Ed Yong, author of An Immense World
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Chicago Public Library, Electric Lit
In her first book, How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell wrote about the importance of disconnecting from the “attention economy” to spend time in quiet contemplation. But what if you don’t have time to spend?
In order to answer this seemingly simple question, Odell took a deep dive into the fundamental structure of our society and found that the clock we live by was built for profit, not people. This is why our lives, even in leisure, have come to seem like a series of moments to be bought, sold, and processed ever more efficiently. Odell shows us how our painful relationship to time is inextricably connected not only to persisting social inequities but to the climate crisis, existential dread, and a lethal fatalism.
This dazzling, subversive, and deeply hopeful book offers us different ways to experience time—inspired by pre-industrial cultures, ecological cues, and geological timescales—that can bring within reach a more humane, responsive way of living. As planet-bound animals, we live inside shortening and lengthening days alongside gardens growing, birds migrating, and cliffs eroding; the stretchy quality of waiting and desire; the way the present may suddenly feel marbled with childhood memory; the slow but sure procession of a pregnancy; the time it takes to heal from injuries. Odell urges us to become stewards of these different rhythms of life in which time is not reducible to standardized units and instead forms the very medium of possibility.
Saving Time tugs at the seams of reality as we know it—the way we experience time itself—and rearranges it, imagining a world not centered on work, the office clock, or the profit motive. If we can “save” time by imagining a life, identity, and source of meaning outside these things, time might also save us.
Praise for Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock
“This grand, eclectic, wide-ranging work is about the various problems that swirl out from dominant conceptions of ‘time,’ which sometimes means history, sometimes means an individual lifetime and sometimes means the future”—The New York Times (Editors’ Choice)
“Saving Time seeks a more expansive, nonlinear view of time itself, an important endeavor. . . . A kind of compendium on time itself, one that attempts to take a less depressing and deterministic view of the climate future.”—Vanity Fair
“Odell’s follow-up to 2019’s How to Do Nothing establishes her as a leading philosopher of our age.”—Hazlitt
“A sweeping yet personal challenge to assumptions Western society makes about the relationships between individuals and the finite hours in a given day.”—Time
“You might just put this book down with a whole new outlook on how you measure your days.”—Harper’s Bazaar
“Odell’s work is purposeful, hopeful, and humane.”—Chicago Public Library
“An ambitious project that takes on time-management, self-help, climate nihilism, our fear of dying and the grind of corporate life, ultimately asking us to see time itself through different lenses.”—The Washington Post
“Unpack[s] the clock as a tool of domination [and] goes in search of a conception of time that isn’t painful—but rather, liberatory.”—Ms.
“Odell elevates non-Western, non-linear ways of understanding time—as circular, or tied to our changing environments, or stretching into the past and future simultaneously. Money can’t buy the time it takes the ocean to wear down rock.”—Literary Hub
“A carefully constructed vision of hope with meaningful advice that will linger.”—BookPage (starred review)
“Bounds from the meaning of church bells to present-day methods for optimizing every moment of our lives—always with an eye to the holdouts against temporal order.”—Vulture
“At this pivotal historical moment, when so many of us are struggling with burnout, anxiety about the future, and a gnawing dissatisfaction that things don’t have to be like this, in strides Jenny Odell with the exact book that we needed . . . It is rigorous, compassionate, profound, and hopeful. It is one of the most important books I’ve read in my life.”—Ed Yong, author of An Immense World and I Contain Multitudes
“I experience Jenny Odell’s work as the rarest kind of intervention: it alters you immediately, and then it lasts. In Saving Time, she is alive, as always, to the bleakest aspects of contemporary existence—the brute-force instrumentalization of our time, our planet, our humanity—and yet [Jenny Odell] finds a way to transubstantiate grief into vision, to beat back inevitability and instead show us possibility, beauty, resolve, sublime desire . . . Saving Time is an inimitable gift.”—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror