On Looking: A Walker's Guide to the Art of Observation (Paperback)
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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.
About the Author
Alexandra Horowitz is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know; Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell; and Our Dogs, Ourselves. She teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab. She lives with her family and two large, highly sniffy dogs, one cat, and one puppy in New York City.
"Elegant and entertaining."
— Boston Globe
"Alexandra Horowitz does more than open our eyes in On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. She opens our hearts and minds, too, gently awakening us to a world — in fact, many worlds — we've been missing...The pages hum and shine as a result, warmly reflecting the author's genuine enthusiasm for her work and its revelations."
— USA Today
"A refreshing celebration of the rewards of trying to see the world through the eyes of others.”
— Chicago Tribune
— Publishers Weekly
“Engaging, amusing, and relatable…”
“Horowitz writes like a poet, thinks like a scientist, and ventures like an explorer. Her book will have you looking in a new way at the world around you, and make you glad you did.”
— Susan Orlean
"These eleven exquisite, clever and and tenderly recounted small adventures remind me of something I learned back when I lived in India: the need to perceive "the scent behind the smell." Alexandra Horowitz has attempted much the same thing with her eyes - much aided by the seeing of others - and has in consequence become increasingly successful in perceiving what one might call "the sight behind the scene." Her resulting epiphanies are available to us all, if we take care to learn from her, in this lovely book, just how it is done."
— Simon Winchester
"Alexandra Horowitz's new book is as wonderful as her first. Inside of a Dog helped us to imagine the worlds of our beagles, collies, greyhounds and mutts. On Looking teaches us that the world is just as rich, strange and charmed when seen through the eyes of our local artists, doctors, architects and toddlers. On Looking also teaches us that Alexandra Horowitz is a writer to watch."
— Jonathan Weiner
“Undoubtedly one of the most stimulating books of the year, if not the decade, and the most enchanting thing I’ve read in ages.”
— Maria Popova, Brain Pickings