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The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (TED Books) Hardcover – November 4, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 176 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This book isn't a meditation guide or a New-Age tract but rather a celebration of the age-old practice of sitting with no goal in mind and no destination in sight.... Rather than reading it quickly and filing it, readers will likely slow down to meet its pace and might continue carrying it around as a reminder." (Kirkus (starred))

“[A] cool drink of water, in book form” (People)

“[A] wonderful read in its entirety.” (Brain Pickings)

"A bustling paean to the stationary life . . . Iyer’s argument is an engaging amalgam of memoir, reportage, and literary essay . . . Iyer uses a fluid blend of argument and anecdote to make a persuasive and eloquent case that contemplating internal landscapes can be just as rich an experience as traveling through external ones. The fact that he has traveled to some of the world’s most obscure corners only strengthens his credibility as a defender of stillness.” (Boston Globe)

“A heartfelt manifesto to the benefits of ditching the cellphone and snipping up the frequent flier card, The Art of Stillness is anything but a self-help book or how-to guide for achieving inner peace.” (Associated Press)

“In lesser hands this tiny volume might be a throwaway of glib, “new age” comfort-speak, but like Henry David Thoreau’s equally brief classic on another seemingly mundane exercise — walking — Iyer’s thoughtful nature leads him to peel back layer upon layer, nodding toward the infinite…. Plunging effortlessly beneath platitudes, this wafer-thin volume reminds us of what might just be the greatest paradox of travel — after all our road running, after all our flights of fancy to the farthest corners of the globe, after all our touring, our seeking and questing, perhaps, just perhaps, fellow travelers, there really is no place like home.” (New York Times Book Review)

“[A] beautiful little book. . . fills an important niche. . . Iyer wants to make the conscious practice of stillness palatable to everyone.” (Los Angeles Review of Books)

About the Author

Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist long based in both California and Japan. He is the author of numerous books about crossing cultures, among them Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and The Global Soul. An essayist for Time since 1986, he also publishes regularly in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and many other publications across the globe.

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Product Details

  • Series: TED Books
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/ TED (November 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476784728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476784724
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I recount my trip to Corsica to others, I don't usually tell them about the one day that my husband and I literally didn't go anywhere and ate nothing more than a loaf of bread because we had used the day's budget to pay for an expensive cab fare the night before. This day was a significant turning point for me because it was when I realized that just being in my life at that moment was more important to seeing all the beauty that was around me. It was a private moment until now because reading Iyer's book "The Art of Stillness" did a beautiful job at celebrating the art of doing nothing. From an enviable globetrotter and travel writing, this made a big impression.

While my husband has tried to teach me how to appreciate silence and slow down for years, it has been hard to rewire my busy over-achieving self to see value and not laziness or time wasted. Not to discredit my husband's efforts, but there is a real magic to Iyer's style of writing that got to me deeply. He is such a gifted writer that his book slows down your reading pace. I feel much more prepared to savor things like the zen poetry of Rengetsu: Life and Poetry of Lotus Moon or the art of calligraphy. While Iyer declines to consider himself a master of stillness, he brings in the stories of those that have inspired him most, like a French scientist who becomes a monk and Leonard Cohen who quieted his musical career to pursue silent meditation as a Zen monk for several years.

If you are interested in slowing down... meditation... and told you just need to sit still and do nothing, this is a perfect book for you. It elevates the practice without exploiting or preaching it. By the end you will realize that this is a topic that this world Needs to hear!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very short book, so as to engage people who are caught up in frenetic activity and travel -- lots of travel. The target audience, in other words, seems to be a very small, very affluent, well-traveled and over scheduled bunch, who have lost touch with quiet and solitude. But the quiet and solitude the book discusses are almost laughably over-the-top and expensive to find: monasteries and retreats in some of the world's most remote places, which means ironically that these frenetic travelers and movers are doing more traveling and moving to get to those places of peace and quiet.

I thought that perhaps some of the discussion of how to adjust to and take advantage of such solitude would be applicable to me, a more ordinary person who does not travel a lot but who still feels frequently caught up in frantic activity and movement (although not travel). However, I had to laugh aloud when I read about eating breakfast outdoors and listening to bird song in some far-away remote spot: without paying to go somewhere to a retreat or hotel, I can't be outdoors in the morning without being overpowered by gas fumes from rush hours traffic and the sounds of other people's music.

Rather than addressing people who are already fortunate and in the position to make choices, it would be nice if Pico Iyer, an author I usually admire and enjoy reading, had offered some suggestions from those of us who live in major cities (i.e. the majority of the population) and don't have money to pursue "stillness" in the particularly expensive form he recommends here (i.e. the majority of the population).
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Format: Hardcover
When I began to read Pico Iyer's "The Art of Stillness" I read it like any other book; sitting in a chair in front of my computer. However, the book didn't seem to do anything for me as it felt like I just read a string of words, sentences and paragraphs which have been put together.

But this couldn't be the case as the book had promised to take me somewhere or increase my knowledge. From what I've read about the author, I'd anticipated getting much more. If the book isn't the problem, then the problem rested with me. Sitting totally still, the realization came to me I must change; I didn't have to change anything about myself, I had to change the way I'd approached in reading this.

Laying on my bed in total silence, not a sound being able to distract my thoughts, and my mind a blank I began reading the book anew. This time the author's thoughts and ideas became clear, and I began to understand his message.

"The Art of Stillness" is a wonderful way to escape reality and to take someone to places they've never been to physically. And if your mind is allowed to take a trip to nowhere you'll actually wind up in a place where your mind is allowed to wander aimlessly; and once it comes back, you'll find yourself refreshed and feeling like someone new.

Mr. Pico writing I feel talks to you in a very subtle manner, a manner in which you'll learn a lot about things and yourself. I can't see giving this book anything but 5 STARS.

I received a hardcover copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.com and this review has been my honest opinion.

Robin Leigh Morgan is the author of "I Kissed a Ghost," a MG/YA Paranormal romance novel.
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