On Looking: A Walker's Guide to the Art of Observationby Alexandra Horowitz
From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog, this “elegant and entertaining” (The Boston Globe) explanation of how humans perceive their environments “does more than open our eyes...opens our hearts and minds, too, gently awakening us to a world—in fact, many worlds—we’ve been/i>/i>/i>… See more details below
From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog, this “elegant and entertaining” (The Boston Globe) explanation of how humans perceive their environments “does more than open our eyes...opens our hearts and minds, too, gently awakening us to a world—in fact, many worlds—we’ve been missing” (USA TODAY).
Alexandra Horowitz shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.” Structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, On Looking features experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. Horowitz also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.
Page by page, Horowitz shows how much more there is to see—if only we would really look. Trained as a cognitive scientist, she discovers a feast of fascinating detail, all explained with her generous humor and self-deprecating tone. So turn off the phone and other electronic devices and be in the real world—where strangers communicate by geometry as they walk toward one another, where sounds reveal shadows, where posture can display humility, and the underside of a leaf unveils a Lilliputian universe—where, indeed, there are worlds within worlds within worlds.
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I was disappointed in this book. First, I expected the same walk through many different eyes. This is not the case. These are different walks around the city with various partners. It doesn't quite work as well. Also, the author is far too romantic for my taste. Finally, the quality from chapter to chapter varies greatly. I found the second chapter, in which the author walks with her toddler son, to be quite pointless. This chapter does nothing but make the case for how extremely inattentive the author is and how incredibly oblivious she is to the world around her. I doubt there are many who have lived in a neighborhood as long as she has and is surprised by as much as she is. Perhaps I'm overly attentive to my neighborhood, but I know how many streetlights there are on my block; the circles the leaves make when they drop from the trees each autumn; the slight ups and downs of the sidewalk and how they changed when the city took out a couple of old trees and reconstructed the pavement.