Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing is not like most books. You don’t read it through from front to back. It’s not a collection of things, like short stories or poems that you read and savor.
This book is different. It’s like books of science experiments I used to buy when I was a boy. You don’t so much read it as do it. Here’s how Walker describes The Art of Noticing.
“It is comprised of exercises and provocations meant to help you counter distraction by inspiring you to make the small, yet enjoyable effort to rediscover your sense of creativity and wonder. These ideas are meant to shake up the way you see, hear, notice, and otherwise experience the world.”
I’ll call the 131 things here “exercises.” Walker sorts the exercises into five chapters. They are Looking, Sensing, Going Places, Connecting with Others, and Being Alone.
Walker ranks every exercise by “degree of difficulty.” The easiest ones are “so easy,” exercises that anybody can do right away. Some exercises are, “doable.” They need some planning or forethought, but most people can handle it. Level three is “enjoyably challenging,” and level four is “advanced.”
I tried a few exercises to see if I wanted to keep the book around and actually use it. I’m pretty good at noticing things, but I know I can get better. The exercises forced me to look at some things for the first time and consider others in a new way. That’s worth the price of the book.
Over the next year or so, I’ll dip into The Art of Noticing from time to time and pick out an exercise to do. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun. I think I’ll get better at “noticing.”
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