StoryGraph Saturday: On Looking

StoryGraph Saturday is a weekly thing where I randomly choose a book from my To Read pile on StoryGraph and show it off to both remind myself that it’s there and to show it to you, Dear Reader, in case you might find it interesting, too.


On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes
Alexandra Horowitz
Nonfiction
308 pages
Published in 2013

From The StoryGraph:

You are missing most of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening 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.

On Looking begins with inattention. It is not meant to help you focus on your reading of Tolstoy; it is not about how to multitask. 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.


Given that I, as a photographer, am always looking at weird things when I go out walking (seriously. I have stopped to stare at leaves, rocks, cracks in the sidewalk, shadows, random squiggles of spraypaint, etc., etc.), I’m curious about what other people see when they’re walking around. Of course, what they see depends on what they do, so the fact that Horowitz brought eleven different experts in eleven different fields on this series of walks makes me incredibly interested in this book. My library has it available as an audiobook, so I’ll download it soon. Probably when the weather cools down enough that I can more comfortably go for long, long walks.

3 thoughts on “StoryGraph Saturday: On Looking

  1. I’ve often wondered about the folks I run into on the trails who have their phones streaming some political show while they hike. Not my idea of a calming and worthwhile walk, but to each their own. It does bring to mind the description of this book, though. In listening to music or some program while walking they are missing so much that’s all around them. I suppose the reverse is also true, though, in that my attempting to be aware of my surroundings means I will naturally miss out on their music or program. Compromises. This also brings to mind the times I attempt to practice different forms of mindfulness, where I’ll just close my eyes and listen, try to hear all the different sounds around me. There was a car horn in the distance, a bit of thunder, my AC just kicked on, the fan of my computer whirring, the sound of my own breath. It’s fascinating how much we do overlook. There’s just too much to take in all of it, so we need to focus on what we feel has the most meaning for us. Sounds like it could be a interesting book and I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

  2. I tend to listen to music when I’m out photographic just so I can disconnect from other people who might be out and about. It actually helps me focus more the world about me, somehow. Of course, that depends on the music (I’m partial to the album Silkidrangar by Samaris). I know there’s so much that I miss out there, but you can’t take everything in. I’m definitely looking forward to this one. I will report back!

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