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The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise
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The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  96 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Noise is usually defined as unwanted sound: loud music from a neighbor, the honk of a taxicab, the roar of a supersonic jet. But as Garret Keizer illustrates in this probing examination, noise is as much about what we want as about what we seek to avoid. It has been a byproduct of human striving since ancient times even as it has become a significant cause of disease in ou ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by PublicAffairs
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This is an excellent, thoughtful meditation on something virtually everyone can agree upon: painful and intrusive noise sucks. The politically aggressive bullying that typifies noise dominance is finally given a good lashing on these pages; which alone is gratifying enough to recommend the book. Stylistically, Garret Keizer sticks with his forte: the clever milieu of highbrow periodical wit. Perhaps the most resonant quality of the book is its ability to make the reader feel less alone in the wo ...more
Brian Willis
The world is inundated with noise. By noise, Keizer means that the sounds and bustle of unwanted audible and visual activity. While the book peters off towards the end, parts of it were fascinating and essential towards an understanding of modern life. When was the last time you were able to enjoy complete silence and focus? As I write this, I hear humming from my refrigerator, a thumping outside from a distant source, running cars, occasional voices from outside, and now the cry of the neighbor ...more
Douglas Lord
Keizer (Help; The Enigma of Anger) notes that while no one thinks much about noise, we sure do prize our quiet. Noise could be defined as "unwanted sound," but when one really considers how much of it there is around, that subjective definition is silly. Is it the incessant ice cream truck bell? Noisy to us, but not to the kids who want ice cream. Noise is ever-present; as I wrote this, I was trying to tune out a nearby lawn mower, the murmurs coming out of a meeting in the back room, traffic no ...more
This book was right up my alley; unwanted noise (according to the author an oxymoron) is an almost constant source of stress and irritation for me. If I were introduced to the person who invented the leaf-blower, for example, somebody might have to hold me back from throttling them. A balanced and cheerful look at a serious problem that is having a deleterious effect on our quality of life locally and globally. Very easy to read too.
Aug 01, 2012 notgettingenough marked it as to-read
My attention was drawn to this by this review

I understand that living inner city, as I do, means noise. But some of it is so offensive and unwarranted that it beggars belief. Sitting in the most beautiful garden restaurant at 8am for b/f. Yes, we are surrounded by roads and that means cars and THAT means offensive mechanical noise. But we can call that 'unavoidable' within our normal expectations of how to live. But when, at 8.01 in this ambient setting, a chap starts his job and it is blowing l
Jim Carson
I think this book should be mandatory reading for all the world's noisemakers (capable of reading it). It gets you to think about noise in bigger ways. I liked the general thesis of noise representing what ails society and tracking false forms of progress.

There is some redundant philosophy throughout the book but I didn't find the anti-noise case overstated; just repeated for emphasis. One of my favorite sections contrasted the Sturgis motorcycle rally to sacred wilderness spots nearby. I was gl
Jan 05, 2014 Kathy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kathy by: NYT Sunday Book Review
This book read like a first draft and is really more like 2.5 stars, but that is not an option so I'm being generous. Aside from obvious mistakes (like using the noun "populace" when he clearly meant the adjective "populous" or confusing "council" and "counsel"), it just seemed like it had been rushed to the publisher without the benefit of an editor, much less a proofreader. The topic was good and I liked the connection he made that those most affected by noise are often those least empowered t ...more
Margaret Sankey
Keizer grapples with the problem that while most people hate noise, we like our own noise (my loud music is cool, yours is obnoxious) and we like the machines and processes that make the noise we also probably don't like. In thoughtful vignettes, he describes the legal battles over muezzin calls and church bells, neighborhood homicides over leaf blowers, Sturgis motorcycles vs. Native American sacred sites, the 1946 Causby v. US case of suicidal chickens and airspace, densely urban Dutch campaig ...more
While comparatively better crafted than the previous book I read (Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence by George Foy) this was nonetheless a challenge to complete as I lost momentum progressing through the details of each chapter.

I can't fault the author for doing his homework and presenting a nuanced exposition of what is and is not noise -- and why it matters historically, socially, politically and psychologically. Maybe I just lost interest due to the unexpected degree of interconnec
What is noise? What's noise for one person may not be noise for another (unless it gets over a certain decibel threshold). I love music, but when I don't like what's playing, it's noise to me.

This book is about the psychological, cultural and physiologic effects of noise, primarily noise generated by technological items human beings own.

I found it fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Very informative historical chronicling of noise with the addition of "hearing" noise from multiple perspectives, from macro to micro.
Martin Cerjan
Excellent book. I keep thinking about it as I move around in my daily routines. I liked the political lens the author employed to view sound in the world. I was surprised about wind turbines even though I had heard a bit about them making noise. This book stacks up well against the other books I have read about sound and silence.
May 24, 2010 Vicky marked it as to-read
I recently heard the author interviewed on RadioWest and found so much of what he said to be true, especially the relationship between noise and civility and the notion of one's "own space". I would definitely recommend the interview on 5/3/10 on Very thought provoking.
Wonderful food for thought. Well written. I like how the author does enjoy both loud things and quietness. Discussion about who gets to make what kinds of sounds where and who doesn't get to choose what goes in his or her ears. Where I end and you begin.
I often feel as if I am the only person bothered by so much noise, so this book was great find. I thought. It's a rather dry read about the history of noise. I skimmed it for the most part.
Kind of drifts from one noisy point to another in convincing the reader that noise sound can be bad just no one can agree on what is causes or which kind is bad.
I just haven't had time to finish this book, but enjoyed what I read--fascinating way of considering consumerism and waste.
More episodic and less compelling than The Enigma of Anger or Help, but well written and a cogent social critique.
Oct 10, 2010 Joe marked it as never-finished
Even though Naomi Klein has a blurb on the back cover, I found this book to be dull. I also could just be too busy.
I thought this was going to be something completely different. Looking for science and it was sociology. Meh
This book triggered some extremely interesting discussions. I liked the tangents.
Jul 21, 2010 Tracey marked it as to-read
Shelves: recommended-tcpl
363.74 22 - placed on hold 21 Jul
Interview with author on Diane Rhem show 30 Jun
Didn't finish completely. Interesting topic however.
Camden Drash
Sound... yeah... ok ... Next
Kevin marked it as to-read
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Patrick Marley
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Oct 21, 2015
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Garret Keizer is the author of eight books, the most recent of which are Getting Schooled and Privacy. A contributing editor of Harper's Magazine and a Guggenheim Fellow, he has written for Lapham's Quarterly, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among other publications.

You can learn more about Keizer's work and
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