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On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyesby Alexandra Horowitz
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the giant #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog comes an equally smart, delightful, and startling exploration of how we perceive and discover our world.
Alexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.” On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with 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. She 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.
As the million-plus readers of Inside of a Dog have discovered, Alexandra Horowitz is charmingly adept at explaining the mysteries of human perception. Trained as a cognitive scientist, she discovers a feast of fascinating detail, all explained with her generous humor and self-deprecating tone. On Looking presents the same engaging combination, this time in service to understanding how human beings encounter their daily worlds and each other.
Page by page, Horowitz shows how much more there is to see—if only we would really look. On Looking is nutrition for the considered life, serving as a provocative response to our relentlessly virtual consciousness. 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.
Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking confirms her place as one of today’s most illuminating observers of our infinitely complex world.
From the author of the #1 New York Times mega-bestseller Inside of a Dog comes an equally smart, delightful, and startling exploration of how we perceive our surroundings.
You are missing at least eighty percent of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you.
In reading these words, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses. The hum of the fluorescent lights; the ambient noise in the room; the feeling of the chair against your legs or back; your tongue touching the roof of your mouth; the tension you are holding in your shoulders or jaw; the constant hum of traffic or a distant lawnmower; the blurred view of your own shoulders and torso in your peripheral vision; a chirp of a bug or whine of a kitchen appliance.
Hidden in Plain Sight begins with inattention. It is not meant to help you focus on your reading of Tolstoy; it is not about how to multitask. It is not about how to avoid falling asleep at a lecture or during your grandfather’s tales of boyhood misadventures. Rather, it is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived “ordinary.” Horowitz encourages us to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities—taking a walk around the block—we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives. So turn off the phone and portable electronics and get into the real world, where you’ll find there are worlds within worlds within worlds.
About the Author
Alexandra Horowitz teaches psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University. Before her scientific career, Horowitz worked as a lexicographer at Merrian-Webster and served on the staff of The New Yorker. She and her husband live in New York City with Finnegan, a dog of indeterminate parentage and determinate character.
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