Goodbye Phone, Hello World by Paul Greenberg, Chronicle Books, 2020, 160 pages, $17.95.

Paul Greenberg writes about the outdoors. Most often he can be found at sea chronicling the life of fish in his books Four Fish, American Catch and the Omega Principle. Which makes his most recent book a bit of a surprise. He’s trying to disconnect from his cell phone. In Goodbye Phone, Hello World, Mr. Greenberg admits that even he, a man who spends his life connected to nature, cannot stop scrolling through the news, checking his texts and emails. But, as he points out, none of us are immune to this because on the other side is not just an inert phone lying in wait on our kitchen counter. Instead, he suggests that when looking at a cell phone one should see the 10,000 or so programmers and marketers diligently working away to keep us connected at all times — not sleeping or exercising or daydreaming or hanging out with the kids.

Mr. Greenberg’s son is the catalyst for the book. He turned 12 and asked for his first cell phone, forcing Mr. Greenberg to come to terms with his own habits as well as the future habits of his son.

“I wanted to keep his time for himself,” he writes in the book.

His son was not so easily dissuaded. “If the phone is so bad,” he asked, “why are you always on it.”

Mr. Greenberg had a host of excuses at the ready, like the 10,000 programmers he was up against, but he also realized his son was right.

“I travel a lot for work,” Mr. Greenberg said in a phone interview from his home in New York. “And so I am away from my son a lot, but I also started to add up the time I spent away from him just looking at my phone.”

And so he acted. He quit his smart phone cold turkey, purchasing instead an ancient flip phone. When he asked the saleswoman if anyone else had come in to turn back the hands of time, she said no. She also wondered aloud how he would get places without his smart-phone GPS.

This was back in May 2019 and Mr. Greenberg is still off his smart phone.

“It’s a conversation starter,” he said about his flip phone, adding that sometimes he sees another person with an outdated phone. “It’s like meeting a fellow traveler.”

Goodbye Phone, Hello World is organized into 60 short lessons on how and why to disconnect from one’s phone. There are quotes from scholars and mystics and basic advice like Look Up. This is beneficial physically, texting neck is a real thing, and emotionally.

“It’s not good for us as social creatures to look down all the time,” Mr. Greenberg said.

Another chapter suggests: Communicate With Another Species, which is sound advice. One’s dog or cat never interrupts a conversation to check their newsfeed.

Mr. Greenberg began his experiment and finished the book before the coronavirus pandemic altered the world. One friend suggested the title of the book should have changed to Goodbye World, Hello Phone, Mr. Greenberg joked.

But he also feels it is a unique time for this type of book to appear, on the cusp of a vaccine and a potential return to normalcy.

“We are going to get a vaccination from the disease, but there is a longer social inoculation we need after we emerge from this dark winter,” he said. “We are going to have to learn how to hug and shake hands again without fear but we are going to carry this reticence for a long time. We have to gravitate toward humaneness if we are going to emerge with our souls intact.”

And to do this we are going to have to learn how to look up again, to visit with each other rather than text and scroll.

Mr. Greenberg stresses this poignantly at the close of his book.

“All I have are my basic human qualities: my ability to love, empathize, experience, and explore. These are things I choose to do with my own two eyes, looking up at the night sky. I lie here with my son, eighth grade is just around the corner. He’s just read what you’ve just read. I ask him, after reading all this, if he really wants to give his thoughts over to people and corporations that don’t care a bit about his welfare. I try to use what little bit of influence I still have over him. But ultimately the choice is his. It is, after all, his time.”

But while Mr. Greenberg has fully invested himself in turning away from his smart phone that doesn’t mean it is going unused. His son, who is now a year older than when the book was written, has it.

“He told me he could not go to high school without it,” Mr. Greenberg said, agreeing with his son’s assessment. “It’s like I say in the end of the book, it’s his time now.”