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One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World (with CD)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In the visionary tradition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, One Square Inch of Silence alerts us to beauty that we take for granted and sounds an urgent environmental alarm. Natural silence is our nation’s fastest-disappearing resource, warns Emmy-winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who has made it his mission to record and preserve it in all its variety—befo ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Free Press (first published 2009)
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Showing 1-30
3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  253 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Hans Gerwitz
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, culture
I really want to love this book. I strongly support Gordon's mission. But this is an interesting idea and a few good stories buried within page after page of reiteration and senseless descriptive narrative.

I highly recommend reading the first chapter or two, and learning more about the One Square Inch project; we even took the hike to visit it. But I cannot recommend reading this entire book.
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ecology
I consider myself a fairly aware and in-tune with nature person and I like to think that I use all of my senses - sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing when interacting with the world around me. However, reading this book I realized how immune I've become to sounds around me. On a daily basis, I experience such a barage of human-made sounds, many of which are loud and unpleasant to my ears, that I've taught myself (unconsciously) to tune them out. In this book, Hempton goes in search of silence wh ...more
Israel Montoya Baquero
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Realmente interesante esta suerte de viaje "sonoro" en busca del silencio en EEUU. Un libro ameno, inspirador, y que me ha hecho pensar, y mucho, en los paisajes sonoros que nos rodean en nuestro día a día y, ante todo, en si alguna vez volveremos a ser capaces de escuchar el sonido del silencio en este mundo cada vez más avasallado por la mano del hombre.
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book makes me want to go hiking in the Olympic rain forest. I remember camping here as a kid and waking up in the morning and everything was wet: outside of tent, inside of tent, any clothes inside of tent. The best strategy was stuffing clothes inside of sleeping bag so that they would be a bit dry and warm in the morning. Also remember the moss. Everything was covered in moss. Moss on the ground, moss covering all of the logs on the ground, moss hanging from the trees.

And I want to back t
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society
Five stars for the message, four for the messenger.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Gordon Hempton's message on silence is one that needs to be heard. I gave it three stars though, because the writing and storytelling skill doesn't match the passion for natural quiet. The pace is slow, which is appropriate, but the storytelling lags and meanders. Travels that have the opportunity to pull us in with the adventure of pursuing silence, read like a journal, documenting Hempton's morning ablutions, coffee breaks, and travel discomforts. Far too much of the book documents various sou ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was kind of conflicted reading this... I totally agree that there is too much noise everywhere, and steps should be taken to reduce noise pollution. However, the author's only real suggestion is rerouting all air traffic away from all National Parks, which even he knows is impossible. So really the entire book was him whipping out his decibel meter at every sound telling you how loud it is, then complaining that there is human made noise everywhere. He complains about highways, trains, the mus ...more
Pam Allyn
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The author writes some of the most amazing descriptions of sound I have ever read. He is clearly a talented listener. I agree with some other reviewers that the frequent decibel level readings became tedious.
His focus is on jet flight over national parks. However, he seems a little naive about how to go about changing anything. Who are the people that could? For me as a user of national forests and parks my biggest concerns are snowmobiles and helicopter tours. Jets are also an intrusion, but n
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read - a book that has made such a huge impact upon me, having me in a state of high-alert as far as auditory observations since I picked it up and started reading.
Fascinating - and saddening, while at the same time encouraging!
Jerry Hui
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I love the cause. The overall narrative of a cross-country search for quiet is promising, yet often the individual episodes are flat. The constant chronicle of noise level becomes repetitive. There are however lots of great research in science, history and literature that went into the book, and I’m very interested to read more by John Muir now!
Dorothy Drobney
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book for those who are seeking a small bit of peace and quiet in their day. Though a bit discouraging with all the efforts being made to undo what author is fighting for...
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: humans, environment
I enjoyed reading this, but it's kind of sad. There are almost no quiet places left in the US.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love stories of obsession, however this one just left me wanting to stop at times. It bogged down in a couple of places.
A number of years ago I read an article in Sun Magazine either by or about Gordon Hempton, and the whole concept of appreciating and preserving quiet struck a loud chord in me, so to speak. I am blessed by the privilege of living in the mountains - the Swiss Alps -and we all cringe and cover our ears (or at least I usually do) when the Swiss Air Force erupts through the sound barrier. For years my profession as a conference interpreter meant that my ears were my most important working tool. The ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and thought-provoking journal of Gordon Hempton's effort to protect one square inch of quiet within a designated spot of the Olympic National Park.

In memoir fashion, Hempton describes a little of his pilgrimage experience to the quietest place within the park, as well as his journey across country (from West Coast to Washington, DC) hoping to advocate for less human-generated noise ~ at least in designated parks and wildernesses.

I learned alot about the generation of human noise, h
Bill Pritchard
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our world is dominated by items to draw our visual sense. Wayside rests point to beautiful overlooks. National Parks are for the most part created to save a place of visual beauty. Gordon Hempton has made a life of recording sound scapes around the United States and around the world. You have undoubtedly heard his work - in the soundtracks to your favorite movies, to those CD's you can purchase of the "sounds of rain", etc. Years ago, Mr. Hempton began to recognize that there were less and less ...more
This is a remarkable book, and one I will cherish. I've included 'diversity--understanding' among my tags, because I've never thought so much about silence, quiet, the quality of sound and our human relationship to sound and quiet before. This perspective is such a gift! Ken Burns says of this book, "After awhile we begin to sense that silence is our greatest teacher." Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton takes us on a journey from One Square Inch of Silence (OSI) in the Hoh Valley, Olympic Nationa ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I wasn't sure for the first 20 pages whether I'd love or hate this book. It's quirky in its detail--lots of "2:13 am, 60 dBA plane overhead" comments--and I thought that might really bother me. (It didn't; I grew to have enough familiarity with the numbers that I had some sense of proportion.) I ended up loving it, both for the descriptions of natural "silence" (which often isn't silent at all) and for the optimism that we can preserve it.

I need a lot of silence in my life, and reading this gave
Tim Joynt
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing. I wanted to start reading it before I head to raft the grand canyon in a week. I thought it would give me some good insight and give me something to think about while traveling one of the 7 wonders of the world. The concept that Hempton has revolving around one square inch of space is inspiring. It makes me think about what really is important in life and what we take for granted on a daily basis. I have 5 days before i leave, and I really want to finish the book before i g ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a pretty good book. Not the best but definitely not the worst. The only thing that it has against it is that it is the same thing over and over. The author goes to one place while his car rattles apart, tries to find a quiet place and talks to those who remember the good ole days. Don't get me wrong I wish I could experience the good ole days when technology and noise didn't pervade every single facet of our lives. It was just repetitive in this book.

I started reading this on a road tri
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gordon Hempton specializes in sounds. He makes his living mostly from making and selling recordings of birds, beaches, and train whistles. But his favorite sound is no sound at all. He prefers quiet, quiet enough to hear your own footsteps or the chorus of birds that greets the new day. But quiet is hard to find. Even places billed as quiet are filled with the noise of cars, planes, trains, and people. He’s on a mission to set aside one square inch of silence in Washington’s Olympic National Par ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind-openers
"what it a place where I can return to myself. It's enough of a scramble to get to...that the energy expended is significant, and it translates into a change in my body chemistry and my psychological chemistry and my heart chemistry..." Jay Salter about a place in Canyonlands

"those tunes are like landscapes to me... a lot of their compostions celebrated aspects of the land...the quarry is a hill and often there's a hollow place on top of the hill...with an incredibly natural resonance...
Jacqueline Ogburn
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I had heard Gordon Hempton on NPR, talking about his work recording natural sound, especially his trip around the world, recording the songs of birds at daybreak.

This book is about his quest to preserve "One Square Inch of Silence" of a place where the only sounds are natural ones. He has a place in a National Park in Washington state. Even that place is intruded upon by the noise of planes flying over, at least one an hour.

It is full of wonderful descriptions of places, and made me think abou
Sarah Sliva
This book didn't completely captivate me, but it got me to see the world differently. Or should I say, hear the world differently? There were times when I thought to myself that the author must be a bit of a kook, or that he was a bit hypocritical (how many flights did he take in his quest to write this book? how loud exactly was his beat-up V-dub bus?) - but I do think his cause is honorable. I know that I've been one of those characters in his book who has visited backcountry in the National P ...more
Aunt J
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Non-fiction. A personal journey by a likeable sound recording expert, and a compelling case for adding natural silence to the ecological agenda, especially in national parks. It looks at how our noises intrude everywhere so that we've gotten away from listening to nature in favor of just looking at it. Besides our noisy interference with such things as bird mating and nesting (a quarter of U.S. birds are in decline), this was interesting: in the absence of human-made noise, people can hear a tsu ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, northwest
I was inspired to read this book after listening to a wonderful interview of the author, by the fabulous radio host Krista Tippett on On Being. Great content and message. Some of the road trip details included were bafflingly mundane (I don't care what you ate for breakfast before your meeting in DC), so it wasn't a page turner. Yet, there is much original thought and information about a natural resource I hadn't considered. I'm a lot more aware of how noisy an environment is, particularly on pr ...more
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Gordon Hempton is eccentric, but if you can get past that, the broader message of the book is certainly one worth thinking more deeply about. More specifically, I loved the idea that protecting one square inch of silence will protect the silence of thousands of surrounding acres. This was an idea that resonated with me, but that I had not considered much previously in the context of preserving natural areas more broadly. There were points when his dismissal of others counterpoints felt overly my ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I heartily agree with the idea that our world is too filled with non-natural noise and that we as a society must take steps to preserve natural silence as a connection to our world, reinvigorating our now dulled sense of hearing.

The author takes a journey from the Pacific Northwest to Washington, D.C., seeking the last bastions of silence along the way. His journey, the measuring of noise levels, and the number of times a man made noise interrupts the quiet caused me to pause and consider when I
Abbie Graham
Mar 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I love silence. this is not the only book I have about it. I'm a quaker, so it's appropriate, and being a quaker has grown my appreciation for silence and my love of it.

it's rather dismaying how little silence - even when you simply define silence as the absence of mechanical/electronic noise - is available in the US. hempton exhaustively traveled and paid attention to flight patterns, etc. he found the quietest place in the US and he's trying to preserve it, which is cool. some resources are h
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book discussed at Obit-Mag 2 16 Aug 06, 2011 03:36PM  
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