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Book review of the Art of Noticing, by Rob Walker

by Tom Johnson on May 19, 2023
categories: technical-writing book-reviewscreativity

Rob Walker's The Art of Noticing can help you see the familiar environment around you in a new light.

I recently read The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday, by Rob Walker. The book provides tips for seeing the familiar in new ways, which is an idea I’m intrigued by. I became intrigued by the art of noticing even before I discovered the book. To avoid boredom, I often play a game of trying to notice 3 things around me that I’ve never noticed before. Indeed, when I look more carefully, I start seeing things that I didn’t notice previously, which suddenly intrigue me. I start asking questions about them, which leads to new lines of inquiry.

As a creative person, I’m good at shifting perspectives and observing my environment in a new light. However, it’s harder to perform the same trick on text. When looking at an article (rather than a physical environment), can you spot three things you’ve never noticed before? This shift in perspective is what literary theories often provide—a set of lenses for looking at familiar content in new ways. This is why literary theory was my favorite course in college. I love the way it allows me to see the familiar in a new way. In fact, this is why I like writing as well.

Walker’s book provides 131 different techniques for adjusting your perspective on the familiar. The lack of a larger narrative through the content makes the reading a bit tiring—there is no sequential order to the 131 short chapters. However, I noticed that with each chapter, he often begins by jumping off from a book or article he read. Reading what others have to say about a topic is often the easiest way to shift the familiar into the unfamiliar. If you’re looking for a book that’s easy and lightweight but also perspective altering, I recommend Walker’s book.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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