The best books for taking time to stop & listen...

Christian McEwen Author Of World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down
By Christian McEwen

Who am I?

I am a writer and educator, originally from the British Isles. Perhaps because of this, I am more than usually aware of the distraction and speed of contemporary American life. As a long-time meditator, and the author of World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down, I am encouraged and inspired by any book that draws attention to our “hurry sickness” and offers practices or suggestions to help us to slow down.

I wrote...

World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down

By Christian McEwen,

Book cover of World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down

What is my book about?

A reviewer wrote, "this is a lovely book in which McEwen gathers together 'poetry and art and literary history, Buddhism and contemplative practice, along with a smattering of sociology and statistics' as well as insights from a variety of practicing artists.… Individual sections and anecdotes are headed in a way that makes them easy to find and intriguing—I wanted to know why 'Silence is Goldish-blue,' and what is 'The trouble with poetry.'" 

"One of the key elements of what librarians call 'readers' advisory' is that you do not push books on people… I find this difficult. Some books just compel me to get everyone I possibly can to read them. This is one of those books."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time

Why did I love this book?

Jay Griffiths is a gorgeous writer, sparky and original. When I was working on my book, a friend gave me this book, and I gobbled it down. It was definitely the perfect companion along the way: funny, tender, quirky, passionately informed. The back cover features praise by both Fritjof Capra and Gary Snyder. “Amusing and erudite, fascinating and spirited,” says the Times Literary Supplement. “Bravo!”

By Jay Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Pip Pip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant and poetic exploration of the way that we experience time in our everyday lives.

Why does time seem so short? How does women's time differ from men's? Why does time seem to move slowly in the countryside and quickly in cities? How do different cultures around the world see time? In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths takes readers on an extraordinary tour of time as we have never seen it before.

With this dazzling and defiant work, Griffiths introduces us to dimensions of time that are largely forgotten in our modern lives. She presents an infectious…

Book cover of A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry

Why did I love this book?

When I was a student at UC Berkeley, Czeslaw Milosz was still teaching there. I attended his classes on the Russian novel, read several of his books, read and admired his poetry. Later, I came upon this beautiful anthology: a collection of short poems, some in English, many in translation, ranging from eighth-century China to the contemporary U.S. For someone who has come to feel that poetry is not for them, or who simply craves a more contemplative slant to their life, this would be a marvelous place to start. 

By Czesław Miłosz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Book of Luminous Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected by Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, an inspiring collection of 300 poems from writers around the world.

Czeslaw Milosz's A Book of Luminous Things—his personal selection of poems from the past and present—is a testament to the stunning varieties of human experience, offered up so that we may see the myriad ways that experience can be shared in words and images. Milosz provides a preface to each of these poems, divided into thematic (and often beguiling) sections, such as “Travel,” “History,” and “The Secret of a Thing,” that make the reading as instructional as it is inspirational and remind us…

Book cover of Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution's Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction

Why did I love this book?

Like me, David George Haskell was born in Britain, and currently lives in the United States. He is a trained scientist, who is also an astonishingly gifted writer. His focus on “sensory extinction” is close to my heart. He understands the joy of listening to the wild music of the world, and also that such music is under siege. In a world of increasing racket and distraction, he recognizes the importance of slowing down. Like Jay Griffiths, he combines deep research with an emphasis on wonder, reverence, and delight.

By David George Haskell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sounds Wild and Broken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"[A] glorious guide to the miracle of life's sound." -The New York Times Book Review

A lyrical exploration of the diverse sounds of our planet, the creative processes that produced these marvels, and the perils that sonic diversity now faces

We live on a planet alive with song, music, and speech. David Haskell explores how these wonders came to be. In rain forests shimmering with insect sound and swamps pulsing with frog calls we learn about evolution's creative powers. From birds in the Rocky Mountains and on the streets of Paris, we discover how animals learn their songs and adapt…

Book cover of The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination

Why did I love this book?

Ursula K.Le Guin is perhaps best known as a novelist and science fiction writer. But her non-fiction is very much worth reading too. I love her values, her courage, her clarity, her persistence. Right to the end of her very long life (she died in 2018 at the age of 88), she was thinking about the art and craft of writing. I find myself deeply inspired and encouraged by Le Guin, and in particular, this book.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wave in the Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Join Ursula K. Le Guin as she explores a broad array of subjects, ranging from Tolstoy, Twain, and Tolkien to women's shoes, beauty, and family life. With her customary wit, intelligence, and literary craftsmanship, she offers a diverse and highly engaging set of readings. The Wave in the Mind includes some of Le Guin's finest literary criticism, rare autobiographical writings, performance art pieces, and, most centrally, her reflections on the arts of writing and reading.

Book cover of Earth's Wild Music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Natural World

Why did I love this book?

Earth's Wild Music was published just last year. Kathleen Dean Moore is a naturalist and philosopher, with a keen ear and searching eye. I love the form of this book (a gathering of short essays, or what the poet Ross Gay called “essayettes”) ranging widely across geography and time. It reaches back to my book on slowing down, and forward into my current project, which has to do with the art of listening. The writer Elizabeth Kolbert calls it “a love song to a vanishing world.”

By Kathleen Dean Moore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Earth's Wild Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At once joyous and somber, this thoughtful gathering of new and selected essays spans Kathleen Dean Moore's distinguished career as a tireless advocate for environmental activism in the face of climate change.

In this meditation on the music of the natural world, Moore celebrates the call of loons, howl of wolves, bellow of whales, laughter of children, and shriek of frogs, even as she warns of the threats against them. Each group of essays moves, as Moore herself has been moved, from celebration to lamentation to bewilderment and finally to the determination to act in defense of wild songs and…

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