And So It Begins

I made it through last week. . .barely. Hints of the familiar fatigue began to creep in and on Monday no less! My brain decided to stage a small revolt and took its sweet time digesting the week’s readings. I never knew I could take so long to read a book. It was Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, however, so I think that had something to do with it. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself, because this week my brain needs to pick up the pace and return to typical semester reading speed.

Luckily, by Wednesday the tinge of tiredness (normally reserved for mid-semester) had fallen away. Whew! Though the assigned readings didn’t go as quickly as planned, I did manage to finish reading On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. I had wanted to read this book ever since it originally appeared on BrainPickings.org, and it finally made it to my official To Read list over Winter Break. Unfortunately, the book didn’t make it to the campus library until the beginning of the semester causing me to do the previously unthinkable: read it in addition to coursework. Gasp!

The book is quite fantastic. It’s one of those non-academic academic books, meaning it refers to quite a bit of actual research but presents it in a manner accessible to the general public. It should come as no surprise that the author is an academic. Horowitz, a cognitive psychologist, is a professor at Columbia. Her writing is poetic, and her style and approach are similar to what I’d like one of my books to be.

I really should buy the book, though, so I can go through all the sources later. Horowitz lists all the sources by chapter and some of the journal articles and books sound fascinating! For example, “Psychoacoustics of Chalkboard Squeaking,” “How the Olfactory System Makes Sense of Scents,” Behavior in Public Places (by Goffman, no less!), and “Why Do Pirates Love Parrots?” So technically a non-academic read but still lots of academic research.

As the title suggests, the premise of the book is to ‘see’ the ordinary from another point of view. In this case, Horowitz takes a walk with eleven different ‘experts,’ among them a doctor, a child, a dog, a geologist, and an animal behavior researcher, in an attempt to see things from their perspective. The main take away point is that we can all benefit from being more attentive and to a broader range of elements. Unfortunately, it seems as though our culture breeds inattentiveness or at least encourages shorter attention spans. In addition, psychological processes that help us hone in on specific targets can cause us to overlook the other varied and countless items vying for our attention.

I’m happy that I finally got a chance to read On Looking. The next non-academic academic book on my list is Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean. But first I’m going to read Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky, the first book club pick for Andrea Fenise’s digital book club.

Of course, the real goal is to make it through the upcoming week with spirits unencumbered and graduate school reading abilities in full effect. Two weeks down, twelve to go.

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