Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure” as Want to Read:
The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure

2.81 of 5 stars 2.81  ·  rating details  ·  427 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Read Catherine Blyth's posts on the Penguin Blog.

Reclaim the pleasures and possibilities of great conversation with this sparkling guide from the witty pen of an Englishwoman wise to its art

Every day we use cell phones and computers to communicate, but it's easy to forget that we possess a communication technology that has been in research and development for thousands
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 29th 2009 by Gotham (first published January 1st 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Art of Conversation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Art of Conversation

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,127)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Bookworm Amir
Surprisingly, a book about conversation - it itself fails to talk well.

Blame on the editor, or the general structuring of the topics - the ideas are everywhere.

I could have just read the first page, where she summarizes what makes a conversation work, and the last few pages where it wraps out, in a matter of short, pitiful sentences, the 'art of conversation'.

I don't think I have learnt anything new by reading from this - at all.

Most darnedest of all is the language of the author - who does s
It just didn't read well. It came off as the author telling me 'Look, I'm so clever' She had too many quotes from famous people and cute stories, and she didn't make her points clearly.
Finally, the pointless flings at children with special needs would not be considered polite in any conversation-here is just one: "Attention deficit disorder- formerly known as annoying brat syndrome, is a clumsy term for a pervasive social blight: bad listening."
I skimmed the last 2/3 of the book, in hope there w
Globalization and our culture is forcing us to communicate in ways that involve less face-to-face conversations than ever. Consequently, the art of conversation is quickly disappearing. While many teens and young adults become proficient in texting, e-mail, and facebooking, we seem to be losing an art that was once vastly enjoyed. In this book, by Catherine Blyth, the author tries to give us tips to make us better conversationalists. While I did enjoy some points and chapters at the beginning of ...more
A book that has me pulled in two directions: on the one hand, I think it has some really good content, but on the other hand, it is an uphill read.

Regarding the content, the book is first rate, as Blyth presents good guidance on navigating conversation. The "rules" in each chapter are made explicit and given a good foundational context immediately following each rule. Plenty of anecdotes and wordplay abound, making what would seem like boring bit of etiquette fun to explore. Also, the bibliograp
Anna White
Proceeds with a laudable goal, but, like a poor conversationalist or poetry critic, this book is perhaps a bit too clever for its own good, an impression created through excessive quotation and unduly ornate language. Redeemed somewhat by being a fast read, presenting a decent defense of small talk, and being somewhat forgiven on the grounds of being British (perhaps I'm merely a brash American who uncharitably sees insincerity where tact is intended...).
I think in the end this book served its purpose because I am more conscious about how I listen and speak with others in my everyday life. It motivated me to want and make connections with others no matter how small or brief (the check-out person in the grocery store, other customers waiting in line, my neighbors etc...). It also inspired me to contemplate over the great joy I do have in a good conversation and reflect on specific conversations I have been a part of.

I am glad I read this book bu
I read this book with three points of view in mind: the first being an intent to make social media better (as that is what I'm paid to do), the second being that I am a naturally introverted person who can always use a few pointers, and the third, as a writer looking for ways to improve my characters' dialogues.

Ms. Blythe gives us a book chock full of information. I found it all very interesting and it gave me a lot to think about in terms of how people communicate today. I'm not as down on tec
I spent a good deal of my life being quiet, and preferring not to speak unless I had something to say, so it caught my eye when I saw someone dedicate a book on conversation. Although, the author artfully depicts certain situations and characters that come up which set the tone for each conversation, I found it hard to maintain attention. I found all the roundabout British humor distracting, and as an American I like things direct. However, I do think it a worthwhile read for those who have main ...more
"Walk into any bar or internet cafe and you'd think conversation is going out of style"
Regrettably, I judged the whole book by that only slightly funny one line, and bought the damn thing, and have regretted it ever since. It is an insipid, idiotic book built entirely on the premise that our wills have been bent to the evils of technology and that we have all but ripped off the arteries of the English language with all the "brb's" we send on text. It reads as something written by an egotistical
For someone who wants us to talk to each other more, Blyth certainly doesn't seem to have a high opinion of her interlocutors. In rafting and kayaking there's something called "positive point": you don't point to the big rock, but the direction you want your co-rafters to go. The same would be useful here. Blyth's commonplace book of conversational anecdotes, both ancient and modern, keeps confusing rules, exceptions and bad examples. While it's fun to have a list of cruel snappy comebacks or ca ...more
BreAnna Long
Ok, so I didn't actually finish reading this one, but I just couldn't. It was so dull and terribly written in my opinion. There was only a small thread that attempted to tie together all the chapters, but really it was just a ramble by the author about various thoughts and quotes pertaining to conversing. "A Guided Tour" it was not. At first I thought the meandering was intentional, to simulate what happens in actual conversation as thoughts come and topics wander. But in actual conversation, yo ...more
Sally George
I found the book really heavy going but was determined to finish it. Here is an example "This stupefyingly infantile compound item pairs an aspect of the aggressors physiognomy or personality with an unthreatening adjective to form an absurd epithet (alliterative or rhyming for extra impact)". The parts I could understand were interesting. I particularly liked a quote when discussing the fact that the social knit of office life is riven with power imbalances.... "In my department, there are six ...more
This book should have had everything going for it. A cross-section of humanity's "verbal types" and how to read what they say, how to respond-- all written by an English woman.

It was utterly boring.
Very ... "Reader's Digest"-like. Basic psychology behind peoples' methods of communication/conversation. Absolutely nothing I haven't already read, or honestly, already figured out simply from observing people and their behavior.
Joel Siege
Other than the author's staggering bombast in her choice of vocabulary and sometimes obscure imagery, this is a rather fascinating read. The insights offered are rich and delivered in a manner that makes you smack yourself in the head for not having known about them sooner.
Kathryn Bashaar
Terrible. Couldn't get past page 30. Completely disorganized writing style, clunky sentences, one random non-sequiter after another. And why the hell is the word "reconfigured" on quotation marks on page 14?
The first book I ever returned to the store... after 30 pages! Reads too much like a US Weekly article.
Anne Walbridge
For a book on witty banter, it was unbelievably long-winded and ponderous.
She knows what she's talking about. Problem is people don't listen anymore :)
brian tanabe
I'm still not sure whether to take this book seriously or not.
Conversation advice for 14-year-olds.
While it had many different examples of conversations it fell short of being a well written conversation with the reader. I, not surprised to see that other people felt the same way. Her writing sounds strewn together, and left me feeling utterly lost as to what knowledge I should have gleaned. I ,a aged to read it front to back but it wasn't really enjoyable and really felt like I just finished a conversation from someone who rambled too long. She might have had good points, but they were lost ...more
British journalist Catherine Blyth’s book is premised on the idea that our interest in technology has caused us to neglect personal communication and, in doing so, we have forgotten how to converse properly with one another. This is a fascinating topic and would merit a book-length discussion on its own. However, The Art of Conversation is, as the subtitle hints, a self-help book which focuses on how to refurbish those neglected conversational skills. Readers expecting a sociological treatise wi ...more
A more boring tour than I thought (from the summary and other reviews). I guess I was hoping more "how-to" inspiration / guidance.
Here's the short version (page 275):
Conversation Survival Kit
1. Attention: It's not about you: Prepare to listen. Watch others' faces, the clock by which to measure turns on the floor.
2. Imagination: Every utterance contains the seeds for further discussion (except, possibly, "Fine").
3. Enthusiasm: The fount of inspiration.
4. Focus pull: Direct conversation to the oth
Main reaction: how does fluffy BS like this get published? (Answer: because dufuses like me buy it...) I forced myself to read until I could read no longer; I got halfway. Life's too short.

Read page 26 for the only substantive, useful bits. Attention * Interest = Convo. Three principles: generosity, openness, clarity. Oh, and I did like the stairway to intimacy in small talk: courtesies; trade information; trade opinion; trade feeling. The end.
Overall, I liked this book and it helped me in regards to etiquette, conversation starters and such. The snappy dialogue entertained, the organization streamlined learning and the funny (or awful) anecdotes educated well. However, there were times I got lost "in translation". I felt like I missed a joke or point most likely because of the book's "Britishness". Although, I felt like Ms. Blyth genuinely tried to make the book understandable to everyone, there were times I felt a little lost. One o ...more
Several times, this book reminds the reader that the Latin conversare means, literally, "to turn around together." It is about connection and communication more than conversation per se (for example, it has chapters devoted to verbal jousting as well as romance and how to signal that your time is up), but it does stick faithfully to examining the ways talking to each other both gives and receives signals, and requires mutual recognition. Some of the analyses are fun, or recall perspectives I som ...more
Kate Diffley
A friend gave me this book a few months ago. It was written in 2012. The message I got like my friend is today with Facebook, Twitter, Voice Mail, Selfie, Tex Messages, E-mail, etc... We are not talking to our friends, family. People do not say hello etc.... I AM GUILTY
Like the author said we are losing touch face-to-face talk
I really wanted to like this book. I like the tone of the book--dry British humor. But where the book really fell flat for me was that the whole thing felt half done. Maybe bad writing, maybe bad editing, maybe both. Blyth tried to make points, but would almost never clearly explain what she meant. She would tell anecdotes to make her point, but the descriptions of what happened were so sparse, half the time I didn't understand the joke.

I suppose I'm just incredible dense and 'don't get it' but
Jen Johnson
May 18, 2010 Jen Johnson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in human interactions and behavior
Snagged this on a whim at the library and was really impressed with the writing and material. The author is a British journalist and made what could be a very dry topic quite interesting and amusing to read. The text was peppered with lots of quotes from centuries past up until today and I felt that they fit in very well with the subject matter, giving an extra depth of history to the elements of human interaction. The chapters were organized well, and really did cover most any situation you cou ...more
This book has been sitting in my "to read" pile for years. I got it on a bargain table at Barnes and Noble, and it sounds like a fascinating topic. As it turns out, however, the author may be a sparkling conversationalist, but she was not a very effective writer. This book would have benefited from an editor (and some verbs). There were entire sections where you had to guess what the author intended. I recommend skipping this one (even if you are looking for a new conversation starter to use wit ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 37 38 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a Positive Impression!
  • Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince, and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction
  • The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace
  • It's Not All about Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone
  • The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks
  • When Love Meets Fear
  • Digital Photography Masterclass: Advanced Photographic and Image Manipulation Techniques for Creating Perfect Pictures
  • Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design
  • Jonathan Adler 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life
  • Even Happier: A Gratitude Journal for Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment
  • Digital Wedding Photography: Capturing Beautiful Memories
  • Your Killer Emotions: The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses That Sabotage You
  • It's the Way You Say It: Becoming Articulate, Well-Spoken, and Clear
  • The A-Z of Creative Photography
  • The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life
  • How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Presenting Your Ideas, Persuading Your Audience, and Perfecting Your Image
  • Emily Post's Etiquette
  • Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct

Share This Book