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By Michael Harris

The End of Absence is one of those rare books that changes how you think about your own existence. It’s wise, humane and full of original insights about life in the crazy/beautiful connected world we’ve built for ourselves. I read it with pen in hand, underlining the whole way.”
-William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry

Harris_End of Absence

Only one generation in history (ours) will experience life both with and without the Internet. For everyone who follows us, online life will simply be the air they breathe. Today, we revel in ubiquitous information and constant connection, rarely stopping to consider the implications for our logged-on lives. Michael Harris chronicles this massive shift, exploring what we’ve gained—and lost—in the bargain.

In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Harris argues that our greatest loss has been that of absence itself—of silence, wonder, and solitude. It’s a surprisingly precious commodity, and one we have less of every year.

Drawing on a vast trove of research and scores of interviews with global experts, Harris explores this “loss of lack” in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. The book’s message is urgent: once we’ve lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value.

“This is a lovely, direct and beautifully written book that will make you feel good about living in the times we do. Michael Harris is honest in a way I find increasingly rare: clear, truthful and free of vexation. A true must-read.”
-Douglas Coupland, author of Worst. Person. Ever. and Generation X

“The End of Absence is a beautifully written and surprisingly rousing book. Michael Harris scans the flotsam of our everyday, tech-addled lives and pulls it all together to create a convincing new way to talk about our relationship with the Internet. He has taken the vague technological anxiety we all live with and shaped in into a bold call for action.”
-Steve Galloway, author of The Confabulist and The Cellist of Sarajevo

“In this thoughtful, well-written book, Michael Harris combines personal narrative with the views of experts to show us that the digital revolution that envelops us contains traps that can lead us to understand less even as we seem to know more.”
-Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice and Practical Wisdom

“Michael Harris has written an important book for our information-overloaded times of ironic hashtag conversations and idealized online avatars. The End of Absence is a forceful, insightful and ultimately human reminder to us all that information is not wisdom, that speed is not depth, that in the pauses of solitude come authenticity and surprise, and that the empty spaces we so desperately and busily have sought to fill in, as he writes, never were so barren after all.”
-Brigid Schulte, author of the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed, Washington Post staff writer, New America Foundation fellow

“The End of Absence is an extraordinary chronicle for an extraordinary time, a moment when humanity went from dropping out to turning on 24/7. Michael Harris is here to remind future generations of what it’s like to miss nothing – literally nothing – and in so doing, he examines what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained (and what hasn’t changed). This is the rare kind of book that will change the way you see the world.”
-Arjun Basu, author of Waiting for the Man

“The End of Absence offers a deeply compelling perspective that forces us to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: ours is the last generation that will have known a pre-digital world. Michael Harris’s provocative book tells us why that matters and encourages us to be more thoughtful as we prepare for the future.”
-Amy Webb, author of Data, A Love Story

“We are at a singular moment, where information, once scarce, is suddenly ubiquitous. Michael Harris asks what this moment means, and answers with insight, humour, and great humanity. A must read for anyone curious about how the digital revolution is changing our culture and ourselves.”
-Nora Young, Host of CBC’s Spark and author of The Virtual Self

“I was so engrossed in the book that I read until I realised night had fallen around me. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d allowed myself to do that…”
The Guardian

“His far-ranging research provides a wealth of thought-provoking statistics and details, and The End of Absence has a kinetic energy well-matched to our jumpy attention spans.”
The Washington Post

“Chances are, you’ll recognize yourself in Harris’ writing and note that you, too, enjoyed a life without so much static. Toward the end of his concise work, he takes a monthlong sabbatical leave from the Internet and his cellphone and all their related trappings. He gains no epiphany, though, and offers no sweeping advice for readers. It is, he acknowledges, more meditation than prescription, but it is an illuminating, worthy reckoning of our disjointed, digital life.”
ABC News

“Mr. Harris is no absolutist or ageing Luddite. Instead he makes a more cautious argument, following in the footsteps of writers like Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows had a powerful impact on our understanding of the way the internet is rewiring brains. He speaks to internet millionaires, computer scientists, academics and virtual robots to understand his anxieties better. His conclusion is a measured one.”
The Economist

“Harris is a smooth writer and a smart critic about what we’ve lost in today’s technology.”

“Harris’ Analog August and my quantifying of a recent summer Saturday serve the same purpose. They call attention to what is otherwise automatic and remind us not to get lost in the digital noise.”

“Rather than just scold and lecture on the depersonalization of society, Harris adeptly shows that the mission should be to balance our dependency on technology with the innate need for silence and solitude. The End Of Absence is note-worthy for its original and imaginative approach to correcting the inevitable negative ramifications that shadow a computerized culture.”
Electric Wire

“The End of Absence works because it does not preach. It combines the wealth of the author’s research and traces our rapid path from analog days to today. It is also an enlightening and humorous study of ‘author as subject’. [It] provides an engaging personal story and a serious look at both the past and the future.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Mr. Harris marshals impressive evidence to make the case that absence is crucial to the way our brains learn, develop and progress.”
The Book Reader on NY1

 “…thoughtful, researched musings on our connected lives… Harris walks us through his particular muddle with wit, wry honesty, and compassion.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Harris does an excellent job of describing the impact technology has had on every sector — business, personal relationships, parenting — and makes a valiant attempt to show what we are suddenly missing.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“The End of Absence is a must read for anyone that texts, tweets, and emails… informative, enlightening, and humorous.”

 “Harris’ book was both pleasant and torturous to read. His research was so in-depth and his arguments so convincing that I felt terribly alarmed and depressed at the state of our societal technology addiction and the unquestioning ease with which we’ve handed over so much our personal lives to “The Machine.” As soon as I finished reading, however, I was motivated immediately to turn off my phone, restrict my email inbox and Facebook checks to three times a day, and have face-to-face conversations with people instead of texting… This book is a powerful reminder of the historical moment we inhabit right now, straddling the two worlds of Before and After. It is a necessary read for all Internet users, especially those digital natives who have so much to lose without even knowing it.”

Miami Herald Review

“What It Feels Like To Be The Last Generation…” Quartz

“What They’re Reading: Michael Harris” BookPage

“Hot Books” Discover Magazine (September, 2014)

“You Are No Longer Connected To The Internet” Hemispheres magazine

“La Importancia de ne hacer nada” Semana

Excerpt: “War & Peace Tortured Me” Salon

“The End of Solitude” The Financial Express

“The Internet: Too Much of a Good Thing” The Economist

“Digital Detox” BBC Newsnight

“Are We Connected Or Are We Chained?” National Post

“Log Off, Shut Down, and Plug Out for Analogue August” Irish Times

Q&A: Michael Harris Edmonton Journal

“What We’ve Lost in A World Where We’re All Connected” Toronto Star


HarperCollins Canada, Fall 2014

Current/Penguin US, Fall 2014


Winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction

Longlisted for the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize

Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year 2014

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, recommended The End of Absence in the Wall Street Journal

A Maisonneuve Magazine Best Book of 2014