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."

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time

By Jay Griffiths,

Book cover of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time

Why 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!”


A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry

By Czeslaw Milosz,

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

Why 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. 


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

By David George Haskell,

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

Why 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.


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

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

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

Why 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.


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

By Kathleen Dean Moore,

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

Why 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.”


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sound, extinction, and poetry?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sound, extinction, and poetry.

Sound Explore 15 books about sound
Extinction Explore 19 books about extinction
Poetry Explore 174 books about poetry

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy, and The Art of Chinese Poetry if you like this list.