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On Looking:

Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

From the author of the #1 New York Times mega-bestseller Inside of a Dog comes an equally smart, delightful, and startling exploration of how we perceive our surroundings.

You are missing at least eighty percent of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in your body, 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. It is not about how to avoid falling asleep at a lecture or during your grandfather’s tales of boyhood misadventures. 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.

Editorial Reviews

“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 Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author

“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, New York Times bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin

“These eleven exquisite, clever, 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, New York Times bestselling author of The Map That Changed the World

“Insightful. The quirks in how each individual processes the same picture provide readers with their own eyes refreshed, ready to take a good look around them.”

Publishers Weekly

From the Author

From the Author

Author Biography

Alexandra Horowitz is the author of the bestselling Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. She teaches psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University. In New York City, she walks with her husband, the writer Ammon Shea, her son, and two large, non-heeling dogs.

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Reader Biography

Alexandra Horowitz is the author of the bestselling Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. She teaches psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University. In New York City, she walks with her husband, the writer Ammon Shea, her son, and two large, non-heeling dogs.

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