Cover Image: The Art of Noticing

The Art of Noticing

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Member Reviews

This was a delightful as well as educating read focusing on the concepts of attention and concentration. The writer, Rob Walker, offers 131 concentration/observation examples, or as Walker puts it "131 opportunities for joyous exploration in all its dimensions, that one can practice in his everyday life". In another page he states: "Paying attention is the only thing that guarantees insight, it is the only weapon we have against power". Apart from that, there is an interesting introduction in which Walker analyzes the notion of paying attention and its vital importance for human beings. There is a number of references on other, academics or not, writers whose work on the subject help the readers to understand what is the point of "the art of noticing".

One can see "The Art of Noticing" as a useful guide for all who wish to take another step in the direction of mindfulness and enhancing conscientiousness. Some of the concentration exercises, or "thought experiments" as Walker defines them, are really challenging and intriguing. Personally, I can't wait to follow some of the most stimulating ones and I firmly believe that they will prove to be truly helpful. The number one enemy for a keen observer is distraction which can take many forms, especially today in an age where the subject is exposed to an overwhelming amount of information through the web and mass media.

If you are zealous supporter of self-improvement and you are interested on new ways of strengthening your mind, this is definitely the most pertinent book which, furthermore, offers many references for those who are fascinated by and want to delve deeper into the subject.
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The curse put on reviewers is that we get to read through a book which is really better dipped into, or read gradually and thoughts allowed to be provoked. And so it was with The Art of Noticing. It's a simple premise: the pace of modern life and rapidity of technological advances means that we are constantly overwhelmed and distracted. Rob Walker wants us to be able to steal our attention back. He gives us his thoughts on various areas of our lives and then provides 131 exercises to help us recover our attention.

Be patient with the book. He suggests that we walk with the intention of looking for something in particular: the ideas given include standpipes and pay phones. I'm into my eighth decade and I can't recollect that I've ever seen a standpipe: it's an American thing. I saw a pay phone when I was on holiday and was tempted to take a photo: there certainly isn't one in the village where I live. But this is to miss the point of the book. We don't need to look for the items he suggests: we should develop our own ideas. In spring I regularly take a walk around the village where I live with the sole purpose of looking for magnolia trees. It's delightful.

The tasks which he suggests are divided by difficulty. One eye is so easy that anyone can do this right now. Two eyes suggest that the task is doable but might take some planning or forethought. Three eyes mean that the task is enjoyably challenging. Four eyes and you're going to have an adventure. I've taken up a one-eye task – to notice something new about something I do regularly. It's surprising what you see. I also like the buy, burn or steal game which you can play in museums. In fact I found the tasks situated in museums exciting – and I don't like museums. Go figure.

A two-eye task – counting with the numbers you see – is a variation of a game we used to play as children. We used to find car numbers in sequence and there was quite a competition to see who was looking for the highest number. I had to stop when I became obsessive!

There's a three-eye task which involves looking at something really, really slowly. In this case it's suggested that you could look at a work of art for three hours. I'm not certain that I would be willing to invest three hours but I have been surprised by what I've never seen before in pictures which have hung in our living room for over a decade.

I was surprised to find a four-eye task quite easy and very rewarding. It's called imbue your world with god spirits. I thought it was going to be about religion and nearly passed it by, but it isn't. It's about imbuing everyday objects with their own little god. Focus on one thing and search for the sacred within it. Try it.

Essentially, the book's about mindfulness and you could say that other books do it better. I doubt that you'd have as much fun though!

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy of the book available to the Bookbag.
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I dipped in and out of this book whenever I had time to spare. I'm not a great fan of self help books on the whole though there are some interesting ideas in this book.
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So the question is, are those 131 exercises really surprising and innovative? Can I envisage myself taking part in any of them, or a close alternative that would be a better fit for my own lifestyle and personality?

The answer to the first question is – yes. All the exercises are slightly off the wall and unusual, requiring a shift from everyday thinking – to the extent that some of them are used to help art students hone an alternative, original view of the world. Some of my favourites include the one inspired by writer Paul Lukas, who likes to discover the backstory of everyday objects in an activity he calls ‘inconspicuous consumption’, by asking ‘how did it get that way?’. I also like the exercise Brian Rea uses of making lists of immaterial things – such as the things he is worried about, memorable moments during a dinner party, the bars he visited when living in Stockholm. None of the above remotely appeal, but I’m attracted to the idea of making a list of the flowers blooming in my garden, along with the date when they first appeared, for instance. Another exercise I particularly like is making a glossary of unfamiliar vocabulary that exist within a specific expertise, by asking people for terms within their work life that don’t regularly come up in everyday usage.

There were a number of exercises that left me cold – one was to record a couple of minutes of activity on your smartphone and write a poem, or description of it, after viewing it repeatedly to ensure you absorb all the minutest details. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it, it just didn’t appeal.

What I appreciate is that Walker has taken pains to spread these exercises across the widest spectrum of interests and sensory input. There are exercises that appeal to our visual senses – like the above, for instance. There are exercises involving sound-mapping the surrounding environment, with some ingenious variations; exercises involving drawing or painting; and using modern technology to make short films of the day objects you touch every day. In short, whoever you are and whatever your particular strengths and inclination, I think you’ll find something in this book that you could use or adapt. And that was something else I really like – there is no sense in which Walker is at all dogmatic about any of the suggested exercises. He frequently suggests variations and at the end of the book actively encourages his readers to find different ways to put this approach in place.

These exercises are all designed to help us reset ourselves within our environment, so that we focus on the immediacy of existing in the way we’ve done for millennia – the way we’re designed to do. I will be campaigning for the hard copy edition of this book for my upcoming birthday, as the ebook isn’t a particularly friendly medium for browsing and flipping back and forth. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to reconnect with their surroundings in any way.
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This might be a useful book for teachers to use with students who need to hone their observational, or mindfulness, skills.  Art students, perhaps.  For the rest of us, there are some good ideas but I didn’t find anything particularly original.  Take time to smell the flowers, listen to birdsong, absorb your surroundings.  All good advice, if not groundbreaking.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House / Ebury Press for a review copy.
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Not the type of book which I can see a lot of people reading in one sitting but over time there are some great suggestions included.  I have started to notice more things I hadn't spotted before on the daily walk to and from the office.  some great ideas for example on what to look at in museums rather than the exhibits or even just in the sky.  The ideas are a great way to help you relax and take your mind of those stressful daily issues we all have.
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We often seek out new experiences and will travel great distances, striving to make great efforts to find that spark for our creativity. Yet the exercises in The Art of Noticing will make it possible for you to discover that the most mundane environment can be your creative muse.

Because of this, as well as the lively and interesting way in which it’s written, The Art of Noticing is a book that should be on the compulsory list for any creative course be it writing, art, film making and so on. The book not only hones your powers of observation, but also stimulates your imagination to make something of your world through its ingenious observational exercises. The ordinary is made extraordinary (even considering locations which might generate stress in a commuter, turning them instead into connoisseurs of the rat race).

It’s about taking in the details we cruise through in everyday life, but are normally too busy to take in (or even something we’ve trained ourselves to switch off from in the name of mental self-preservation), and see them anew, until the world becomes an unmissable adventure. Rob Walker has considered all the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. Even noting changes in temperature is fair game.

The Art of Noticing is certainly a “go-to” book for any writer. Consider a writer you admire and think about how they have gripped you as a reader. It is very likely they have engaged all your senses and as a result the story erupts into life, even if the landscape of that particular scene might have appeared to have nothing remarkable to use in the way of material. This is because that author has mastered the art of noticing.

This book is like looking at a mind map with initially only one concept which continually expands until the paper is so big it takes up a courtyard, because that one piece of detail has triggered a whole train of creative thought.

I am not a gifted artist, but along with my portable keyboard comes my sketchbook, or I feel as if I am going out undressed. Compared to a photograph of where I have been, if I do a sketch and look at it later that place always comes back to me with much more vibrancy than the quick flatness of a photograph. What I will do now after reading this book is pay just that much more attention to the place by tuning in all my senses while I’m drawing, so that the experience becomes much more vivid. After using this book I have been surprised just how much more I can squeeze out of my surroundings.

The exercises are graded from easy (represented by one eye icon) to hard, requiring much more application (represented by many eyes).

I received a review copy as an e-book, but I’ve bought the hardcopy, because this is the kind of reference book to keep close and never tire of. Given the number of exercises, I’m going to be kept busy for a long time working my way through them all and mastering them. Already The Art of Noticing has not only sharpened my skills of observation but also provided me with a whole new palate of tools to work with.

So go down to your nearest bookshop and get this book, then embark on a lifetime of adventure in somewhere you thought you knew.
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An insightful book full of great advice and exercises to get you up, out and taking stock of how you live your life and relate to others. The Art of Noticing takes research findings from several different sources and pops them all into a well written book that you can dip into and out of as you need/want.  I found it amazing and worrying at the number of things that get overlooked in our everyday lives and this book helps us to get more in touch with our surroundings and notice more.
Thoroughly recommend it to those who want to slow down or reconnect.
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The Art of Noticing is essentially another mindfulness reference guide but it approaches how we become mindful in relatively innovative new ways and these are compiled in the book as 131 different exercises. Each exercise aims to make the reader more consciously aware and to help them notice more about life that may usually pass them by. They are graded by level of difficulty from easy right through to advanced. Mr Walker emphasises the need to pay attention to the world around us and to firmly plant ourselves in the present. This is an interesting book and you can tell a lot of work and research went into producing it. Recommended to those who are seeking new and diverse ways to achieve mindfulness. Many thanks to Ebury Press for an ARC.
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A really insightful and interesting book, lots of useful exercises on seeing more of the world around us. Great for everyone from artists to architects to designers. Nicely structured and easy to dip in and out of.
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Best dipped into rather than read from cover to cover. Otherwise the only thing anyone would start to notice is the number of people Rob Walker mentions, quotes and refers to. (Around 20 in the first 10% of the book). But, the research is admirable and when he gets to grips with ideas and promotes his own thoughts the exercises for the art of noticing begin to click into place. 
Maybe a shorter book with more discussion of ideas would have been a different route to take - 131 exercises is rather a lot to absorb even over a period of time  - but sheer admiration for the number of people the author met, talked to and found interesting enough to put into "The Art of Noticing" - which does get you  thinking.
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So much has been written recently about mindfulness, using techniques such as conscious breathing or doing a body scan with the purpose of bringing yourself back into the present moment. The Art of Noticing takes a different route by suggesting that if we are alert and notice things as we live our lives, then we not only stay in the present but live more fulfilled lives by being constantly surprised and delighted.

The book is divided into five sections each focusing on a different aspect of noticing: looking, sensing, going places, connecting with others and being alone. Each section is full of suggested 'exercises' (there are 131 in total) which are really challenges to yourself to do something different. They are graded from easy, being something you could do right now, to advanced, being something more adventurous. 

I read the book from cover to cover, but I suggest it is one to have lying about and dip into each day. The most appropriate thing may be to open it at random and be surprised. I was left slightly reeling from all the suggestions. Some, of course, appealed much more than others but having read the whole book I wonder if the best opportunity to really discover something different would be to try some of the things which don't appeal and so challenge myself to approach things in a different way.

But really the aim is for it to be fun and to love being wherever you are, even if it is stuck in commuter traffic, or in a waiting room, because there are so many things you can do to be active and engaged. And it doesn't necessarily mean detaching from your mobile phone as there are even exercises in which you can use your camera.

I was initially put off by the first section, as it all seemed to be about noticing things in a big city and where I live I would be lucky to spot a single payphone and I am not sure if I have ever seen a standpipe - however I missed the point. The exercises can be adapted to any environment and that is just the point, to use your imagination and come up with your own ways of noticing.

In this book, Rob Walker references so many fascinating people, and draws on ideas from artists, film makers, authors, journalists, his students and so many more. The bibliography is very extensive and in itself is a goldmine of opportunities to discover something new.

Would I recommend this book? Yes.  It was overwhelming reading it from cover to cover. But equally I think it would be impossible to read it and not become more aware in some way. Why go around in a daze all day, being bored by routine lives when we could be spotting things which make us smile. As the author says, if we stay eager, we are alive.

My thanks to the author, publisher and to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
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This is quite an interesting read though I'm not sure if I will do the exercises as I'm quite lazy that way. There are 131 exercises designed to get us to notice more of what's going on round about us and get our noses out if the modern technology we have at our fingertips today.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing and the author Rob Walker for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The premise of this book is that we are all too distracted by modern life (especially technology - mobile phones, etc) that we become de-sensitised what matters.  We are conditioned to plough through meaningless lists of tasks and activities set by others, and not seeing or doing what is important to ourselves. "Do you want to look back on a life of items crossed off lists drawn up in response to the demands of others?" is a sentiment that will hit home for most of us.

The book goes on to describe and suggest 131 activities that will help regain the lost art of noticing. Some are frivolous, some are amusing and a few are a bit daft - for example if I stared at an item in a department store for 5 minutes I think security would be hovering nearby!  Others are quite clever and 'do-able': Find the numbers 1-100, in order, when out and about.   Deconstruct things, even adverts, and think about how they came into being (both socially and physically).  Look upwards - it's often surprising what's above eye-level. Think - how would a child see / describe this?  View everyday objects from different angles. Take an unfamiliar route.  Stand still and make a list of all the things you hear.

There were many interesting things I learnt about or highlighted - the artist Oakoak for example - I spent ages looking at online pictures of his (often hilarious) street art. 

The downside to this book is it's rather American / city based and uses museums as source material for quite a few of the activities, although I suppose any public space would do.  

The book was a fun yet thought-provoking read and I will definitely engage in some of the less demanding activities.
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I loved the premise of this book and read it in the hope that it would help me be a better writer creatively.  It was easy to read it and I finished the book within a relatively short time, but I wouldnt say that I would follow any of the tips within the book.  An interesting 3 star read
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A surprisingly interesting book.  Based on the idea that there are too many distractions in our lives, we should practise paying attention and being more curious.  With over-stimulation, there is a danger we become indifferent to the people and places around us.  This book encourages us to "rediscover our sense of creativity and wonder" and to cultivate an original perspective on life.
Following an interesting introduction, there are 131 exercises for the reader to work through.  These are split into five themed sections and are rated 1 to 4 depending on how demanding they are.
The exercises are surprisingly varied and certainly thought-provoking.  The idea is to dip in and out of the book as and when the fancy takes you.  Some of the ideas seem a bit obvious but then others are quite surreal.
It is all about noticing in a joyful manner.  A fun book that we should take notice of!  It would make an excellent gift.
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Liked this book a lot. It was really enjoyable  and interesting.   thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing the  arc.
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There are 131 exercises in The Art of Noticing designed to get us to notice more, think more, listen more or just get us outside out comfort zone a little and explore new places and things.. They are ranked 1-4 in terms of difficulties in doing that exercise as some may require forward planning. This is really another 'mindfulness type book. I was left frequently asking myself 'why would I want to waste my life doing this' after reading some of the exercises. Do I have better things to do with my life than note every manhole cover I can spot or to do a complete inventory of my possessions down to the sheets of printer paper and food items in my kitchen cupboards? "Yes I do" was my overwhelming response and was further left feeling aggrieved that I'd spent too much of my life reading this book, let alone doing any of the practical exercises.

While I would welcome ways to encourage people to spend less time looking at phones, Internet or simply not paying attention to things and people because of distractions I think there are lot better way to achieve that than spending your time doing some of these exercises.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was an interesting book and I liked the exercises you can do and it explains the level of effort required for each one.  It has certainly made me look out of the window more when on the train as opposed to reading or looking at my phone.

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a honest review.
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In our busy world, this book caught my much do people notice now?  Most of the time people are on their phones, headphones on, looking down.  Why do we no longer look around and notice what we have?

This book challenges modern society to put down their phones, stop looking at their feet and look up, look around, notice new things.

I really enjoyed browsing through this book- I admit I didn't read every challenge but I did read the headings and chose ones I thought I could do- the handy difficulty levels at the beginning help to guide you.  I figured I would start with one eye challenges and move up through 2 and 3 eye challenges.  I could then graduate to the 4 eye challenges.  

These are thought provoking challenges asking you to notice things, pay attention or look for new things.  It starts simply with a scavenger hunt and progresses to writing letters to strangers and sitting silently on your own.  

The layout of the book is easy to use and you can flip between chapters and challenges quite easily.
I will be trying some more throughout the year and will hopefully become better at the art of noticing!

I wouldn't buy this for my library as it is a primary school but I do think I would add it to a gift list for a couple of friends who could really benefit from slowing down and taking time for the world around them.
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