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How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency
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How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  64 reviews
It is time to reevaluate the merits of the inconspicuous life, to search out some antidote to continuous exposure, and to reconsider the value of going unseen, undetected, or overlooked in this new world. Might invisibility be regarded not simply as refuge, but as a condition with its own meaning and power? The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Penguin Press
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3.29  · 
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 ·  326 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
Thoughts soon.
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
A series of essays disguised as a book with various feelings on the nature of self identity through our interactions with ourselves and others mixed in with some cutting edge science on invisibility cloaking while starting the book with children creating invisible friends for some obscure Freudian intentionality interpretation and ending with the Icelandic imaginary little people and how healthy that seems for them before having waxed poetically on the discovery of herself while scuba diving.

Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am insignificant, and at the same time part of something extraordinary.

Busch's eleven essays are meditations on invisibility, erasure, and humans place in the wider world. While the book is not expressly nature writing - there is a lot of philosophy here too - many references are to the natural world, both flora and fauna. She dives the coral reefs and notes the role of invisibility as power, then she studies the role of the unseen in our literature, film, and music. These are just a few of th
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
SUCH an intelligent book, a beautifully written series of essays examining our relationship with the world, seen and unseen. Busch is a brainiac - her intellectual arsenal is so formidable that every other page sent me scurrying to look up a poet, a scientist, a volcanic rock, a particular coral, a picture book.
"Our most affecting experiences often have to do with a sense of psychic diminishment. The acceptance that each of us is a bead of mist in the weather of the world is what connects us mos
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Really not at all what I thought this was going to be. It was like a collection of essays, the kind of essays I wrote at the last minute in university, where it was a few facts and quotations from studies and smart people, with some "deep thought" sentences to connect them. It just really didn't capture me at all and wasn't what I wanted to get out of this book. Disappointing.
Cam Mannino
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The review in the NY Times that sent me looking for this book recommended that the reader would need to slow down to appreciate it. That was true for me - and very beneficial. I'm a former bookseller and learned years ago to read very quickly because of that. I had to cover a lot of territory to help my customers. So I had difficulty slowing down with this book initially and could only maintain that more leisurely pace with some effort - but I was rewarded whenever I could do so.

Akiko Busch jus
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Art by: NYT Book Review, Feb 18, 2019
A dozen essays. Of these, the introduction came closest to what I expected. Nonetheless, Akiko Busch touches on some interesting ideas throughout.

Visibility became the currency of our time, with success ratified by publicity, writes Busch in her introduction. Other people measure our lives by how they see us, not by what we do.

“Curating identity,” a novel phrase, refers to the self-promotion, personal branding and ability to create several profiles, viewed as commodities. And this cuts to the
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I feel like I was misled by this title, as well as by the first few chapters. I assumed I was reading about the need to disconnect from social media, technology, etc. What I read was more about the need to disappear but more-so the science behind things actually disappearing.
There was a lot about how nature finds ways to disappear, and some on technology and the AR world. There was not so much a stress on the importance of disappearing, but a detailed account of how things have done just that i
Juli Anna
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Invisibility is a concept I've always been fascinated by, and I was excited to come across this new book by Busch. The author touches on invisibility in many facets, including technology, social media, natural history, etc. The chapters read as loosely connected essays rather than a unified argument. I definitely enjoyed the multidisciplinary approach of this book, and Busch's own fascination with the subject reflects my own. However, I never find Busch's writing to be quite as lyrical as I hope ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Hard to rate this exploration of invisibility. I loved several of the chapters, especially the one about Mrs. Dalloway while others didn't catch my interest at all.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting read - was not quite as deep an investigation into being invisible - wanting to hide - as I was expecting. I guess, I was hoping for a sense of what we hide, what we show, how we show up, our desires to be hidden, etc. It was interesting collection on identity, and how it becomes harder (and so maybe more 'radical' in the current social media world of being seen. But didn't really find any depth on our desires for secrets, being hidden, being unseen. Very eclectic references to art a ...more
Clark Hays

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency by Akiko Busch, is an odd, meandering book about an interesting topic — what it means to go unnoticed in today’s digital world of selfies and status updates. It’s a very personal meditation on what it means to the author to go unnoticed in a series of essays examining the topic from a variety of unexpected angles. It’s a great concept, but for me, it failed to deliver on the promise of the title or have much of a lastin
William Schram
This book is boring. It drags along and meanders to different subjects that seem interesting at first, but it doesn’t seem to have a cohesive theme or idea. It misdirects you at the very first chapter. From the title, I assumed it would be about how people are rebelling against the surveillance state that is so common in many countries today. However, the author decides to open by talking about how we actually see.

So as I said, the author goes and meanders from subject to subject. She tips her h
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read this while I was teaching my daughter to write a paper for English. I explained to my daughter that writing should ideally unpack ideas for you, crack them open a bit, and maybe combine multiple ideas in fresh ways. That is also what I wanted from this book. This collection of essays gave example after example of what other people have said about invisibility but without unpacking or joining these disparate sources in any interesting way. Every time I thought she was going to get to somet ...more
Sebastian Bravo
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting and though-provoking collection of essays. The book is poetic and beautifully written and is great material for discussion. I definitely enjoyed the opening chapters more than the closing ones. I think they dealt with the subject matter in a deeper and more surprising way. The final chapters were repetitive and failed to make an impact. I expected a wow conclusion was pretty disappointed.

It’s still worth a read because it’s subject matter is extremely relevant in today’s age of s
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was one worth spending extra time with -- it's not a book that I could rush through. Busch looks at the benefits of being unseen and of what is unsaid -- and what that means in a world where we focus increasingly on what is seen or shown to others. The nature writing in here is incredible -- and the chapter on words and what is both said and what is left unsaid really made me think. The imagery is thought provoking and Busch made me consider and reflect on ideas and relationships that I had ...more
Jonathan Tennis
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Exploring the idea of invisibility in nature, art, and science, in search of a more joyful and peaceful way of living in today's increasingly surveilled and publicity-obsessed world, this book was refreshing and eye opening. We’re constantly online and there is an effect this has on us. Really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.

“The overview effect is the term used in space exploration to define that cognitive shift that astronauts experience when they see the earth from outer s
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not quite what I was expecting. I think I will have to revisit this one in a while... let it stew for a bit first.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Invisible friends, huldufólk
Recommended to Kate by: 304.2 BU
Shelves: essays
Every liar needs a believer.

“We move in the landscape as one of its details.” —WB

The vanished word can resonate just as deeply as those on the page.

The act of waiting is an erasure of time.

The gaps in the story become the story itself.

The blank page is not necessarily empty of words.

“The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” —EH

The unspoken has an accuracy of its own.

“First learn to love yourself. Then forget about it and learn to love the world.”
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Some very valid points made, at times serving as a springboard for entries in my personal journal. However, the chapters/essays are often circuitous, and mining for such nuggets can be a tedious exercise.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.75 stars

This book of essays wasn't quite what I expected it to be, but was still a very enriching read.

From the synopsis, I thought there would be a lot more focus on things like social media and other more obvious examples of transparency, but besides the introduction that wasn't much of a focus. Instead, Busch is interested in the ways that we become invisible, exploring this topic through science, nature, art, and literature. Other writers have written at length about opting out of social
Justin Pitt
Mar 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Great idea, and a topic that needs addressing. Unfortunately, these essays - rambling, shifting, and often hard to follow - aren't it. I had to force myself to finish this.
Apr 20, 2019 added it
When a tenant was trying to describe a smell that emanated from her radiator when she turned it on, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could record a smell the way we take a picture or record sounds.” I immediately recognised that a system of recorded smells would be so prone to misuse. Invisibility has the same characteristics, at least, in one meaning of the word, as a power or force used to an end. Would it be somehow used for beneficial endeavors and not just sneaking into concerts, movi ...more
Juliet Wilson
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Subtitled Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency this is an investigation of all types of invisibility from animal camoflage to invisibility cloaks, artistic anonymity and childhood invisible friends.Busch outlines not only techniques of camoflage and becoming invisible but the philosophy of our wanting to vanish in a world where everything is so interconnected and it seems everyone wants to overshare every detail of their lives on Instagram.

A whole chapter is devoted to camoflage and d
Jill Blevins
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This is one where I should really write a review, but I will because I want to remember something I figured out while reading this: disappearing sounds good if you want to escape from family, from the life you've created but hate, from people you can't stand, or from a mind-crushing job. Disappearing is awful when it's your mother in the throes of dementia. She is there but she is gone. That kind of disappearing renders the first definition of disappearing less compelling.

In the first version o
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most of what we think are the gems of human existence, things like love, gratitude, sacrifice, are unseen. This study and obsession with invisibility became fascinating to me towards the end of the book. I recommend this to anyone trying to find their place in the world, but then I'm someone who never uses their real name online. This book will not be for everyone, but it was for me and came at the right time. Topics ranging from internet presence to the Huldufólk in Iceland are explored, in dep ...more
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Bausch addresses the widespread ways in which inhabitants of the natural world disguise and adapt themselves to their surroundings for protection. Her descriptions of “losing herself” while diving in the ocean, ignored by the surrounding aquatic life, evokes both a sense of wonder and feelings of comfort and calm. In one essay, Bausch upends the disdain that many of us feel about the invisibility that we seem to accrue as we age, noting the benefit of being able to observe without being “seen.”

Jeremy D.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019_july
How to Disappear reads a lot like a book study, one in which 5-6 thoughtful friends read chapters at a time, over several weeks, then sit and ruminate over the ways in which they might learn to be or find themselves comfortably at peace with their place in the world, knowingly insignificant as it must be in the grand scheme of a shared human experience. At times, I found it interesting, like a fascinating textbook about global perspectives of invisibility and transparency, but the problem with r ...more
Jeremy Hatch
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title is a marketing gimmick. There is no how-to here, nor is it especially cohesive. It amounts to 200 pages of (relatively) superficial riffing on the themes of invisibility, disappearance, camouflage, retirement. It’s a style of cultural criticism that can get a little tiresome: here’s a thing, here’s another vaguely similar thing, here’s a half-false equivalence between them based on this superficial similarity, now surely this means something deep about The World. (See also: Douglas Rus ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for an actual “how to” book on the topic, this is not the book for you (although the author does mention a book called The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick that may be more what the doctor ordered). But if you want some thoughtful commentary on what digital visibility looks like as we continue our march through the 21st century, then Akiko Busch’s How to Disappear, Notes on Visibility in a Time of Transparency is worth consideration. We live in a world where there is a fri ...more
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Akiko Busch has written about design and culture since 1979. She is the author of Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live and The Uncommon Life of Common Objects: Essays on Design an the Everyday. Her most recent book of essays, Nine Ways to Cross a River, a collection of essays about swimming across American Rivers, was published in 2007 by Bloomsbury/USA. She was a contributing editor at Me ...more
“The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or senseless conformity, but about maintaining identity, propriety, autonomy, and voice. It is not about retreating from the digital world but about finding some genuine alternative to a life of perpetual display.” 1 likes
“She suggests, too, that our capacity for intimate relationships can depend on having this deep core of private awareness; and that acknowledging our unknown and unseen selves, and offering these up only when and if we choose, is essential to our ability to engage in close relationships. Valuing interior experience is vital to developing a sense of self, and how we reveal ourselves to the outside world has everything to do with how we stay out of view when we need to.” 1 likes
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