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Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  77 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Have our noise-soaked lives driven us mad? And is absolute silence an impossible goal—or the one thing that can save us? A lively tale of one man’s quest to find the grail of total quiet.---

“ I don’t know at what point noise became intolerable for me,” George Michelsen Foy writes as he recalls standing on a subway platform in Manhattan, hands clamped firmly over his ears,
ebook, 208 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Scribner
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Jan 09, 2011 Driftless rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Here in the heart of peaceful Midwestern suburbia, I call them the loathsome threesome. While I must admit that I'm probably more easily annoyed by their obnoxious, strident clamor than most people, the leaf blower, the snow blower and the power lawn mower are all able to transform me into a complete grump, whenever my otherwise lovely neighbors haul them out for their paces. Fortunately, it's rare to hear them all on the same day, but each of them is particularly effective at destroying an othe ...more
Certainly worthy for some of the observations presented. Not a fan of the author's style, which can sometimes veer off point and even become self-indulgent: too much personal, tangential information that has no real bearing on the topic (I could not care less about his so-called fugginVolvo and the too frequent, almost diarrheal ruminations).

That said, the topic is compelling and the research thought-provoking -- the main reason I stuck with it to the end.

The next book that I just started readin
Oct 31, 2010 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrific book that I ordered from the library after hearing an interview with him on a NPR show (or maybe on CSPAN BookTV). The book is one of those most satisfying of non-fiction pieces: enough personal information to let us see some of what makes the author tick, good writing (some terrific prose, in fact, which may be why he teaches creative writing at NYU) and interesting reportage on what could be a dry topic.

If you’ve curiosity about the affects of noise in our world on humans (w
Sep 18, 2011 Aimee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this when I had a few hours home alone... Which would have been very quiet except that I ran the blasted dishwasher :-). Agree with other posters... The side trips into money problems, former girlfriends, and the "misery" of relatively gentrified Manhattan (kids in a fancy pants school, but the apartment is too small... Wife chooses to be SAHM, but loathes it.... Whines about the espresso "fees" of working using the free WiFi at a local coffeehouse - go to the library, dude! ... Then practi ...more
Odd mixture of non-fiction and voyage of self-discovery. Didn't work too well for me, in part because I didn't warm to the authorial main character, in part because it seemed a bit of a random walk (through the various dimensions of sound and also vaguely related topics that tickled the author's interest) and I like a bit more structure. Lots of interesting facts and some interesting thoughts, though, but strangely enough the best bit of the book for me was when he engaged in some analysis of si ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Marco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was an amazing journey for someone like me, music lover and science aficionado. I've found myself covering my ears standing on the Broadway line subway platform (just the way the book starts) so I could picture everything George Foy was going through. It's intriguing and enlightening at the same time!

Absolutely loved it, makes you appreciate your ears a bit more, as well as each and every noise (or music, or noisy music) you happen to have around you.
I pulled this book off the shelf at the library the instant I saw it. More and more hypersensitive to noise myself, this author had to be a kindred spirit of sorts. I really enjoyed the first third of the book. My interest waned in the middle, and it picked back up again towards the end. Overall, great subject matter and some interesting research went into this book even if I was bored at times by the author's tendency to over philosophize.
Andy Gagnon
English professor in creative writing writes a non-fiction book about his quest for some quiet in his life. A light mixture of science, philosophy, and history with an accurate description of the onslaught of sound that modern life gives us. Fun to read, a bit flowery at times. At 180 pages, it could have been a long magazine article. This book interested me because I've had tinnitus since 1999.
I'm not sure how much my feeling about this book is tempered by the mawkish New-York-woe-is-me writing style. I liked the topic a lot - I'm very interested in anything that talks about how I can shut down my godforsaken brain - and I do think he did a good job of pulling in topics from all over the place. But the style just didn't get it for me. A good library check out.
Jul 08, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was unexpectedly good. If you are interested in exploring what "silence" means (or for that matter, how we define "sound") and its impact on our lives, you will be drawn into this book. Foy looks at sound/silence from a variety of aspects, pulling not only from personal experiences and scientific research but also from cultural practices and historical beliefs.
Jan 22, 2011 Gdill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am personally drawn to more and more silence as I age, so the author's drive to examine it is such depth was fascinating to me. It was simply and beautifully written without too many dry scientific facts and was made even more compelling by the inclusion of his personal story. Much of the content I feel will be with me as permenent knowledge.
Gypsy Novela
Mar 25, 2012 Gypsy Novela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
such an awesome story (non-fic) of a guy who is so on the ball and going everywhere for the sake of decibels and silence. must read for sound freaks and mixolcologists entertainingly good read on a general science of sound.
Sep 15, 2010 Glynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book. Took me a while to get through it because of all the noisy distractions around me. I learned though, that it is possible to find a quiet place.
Jun 28, 2010 Thom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this science book, or was it a memoir? Interesting thoughts on just what silence is, from a medical, historical, and personal basis.
Jul 28, 2010 Sally marked it as to-read-library-has  ·  review of another edition
*sigh* I find myself in search of silence lately. The other day, the sound my my cheweing and swallowing was too much, so I took a break from eating. But I was hungry. :-p
Geoffrey Underwood
Geoffrey Underwood rated it it was amazing
Oct 13, 2012
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Brian S. Wise rated it it was ok
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GEORGE MICHELSEN FOY is the author of ZERO DECIBELS: The Quest for Absolute Silence, and twelve critically acclaimed novels. He is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship in fiction. His articles, reviews, and stories have been published by Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, Harper's, The New York Times, and Men's Journal, among others, and he has been an investigative reporter, ...more
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