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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  280 ratings  ·  69 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
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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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
Ben Goldfarb
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A profound book that will transform your auditory experience of the world, despite the occasional aimlessness of the travelogue.
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
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.
Marielle Schneider
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The subject of the book is actually very relevant. Noise pollution is a serious matter, and there are few activists who fight against it. I learnt a lot reading this book, both about the technical aspects of noise and the issue of noise pollution having taken so much space in our daily life.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of nature and wild life. This book definitely changed something in me a little bit, as I now pay more attention to the different kind of sounds and their impact on the world
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
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Silence is undoubtedly a precious commodity that I know I personally don't get enough of. This is why I admired the tenacity and singular focus of Gordon Hempton and his quest to preserve silence in even just one area of the U.S. The journey in this book is one across the country and deep into the heart of humanity and our relationship to the natural world. We need quiet, and we need nature, just like nature needs its own space in order to flourish. Changes in the way that modern life is lived c ...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
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read! One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World is so different from any others I've read. I'd never even heard of an acoustic ecologist until this book. The journey Gordon Hempton undergoes to find quiet in a loud world is so unique and was a joy to read.

Another good book to read about being quiet is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. These books are all great to read.
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!
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!
Miguel Panão
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book will change your perception of quite, silence and how it is related with our personal relationship with nature. I felt inspired to change my life and value quiet more. It impelled me to search for silence, both inward as outward. I only gave 4* because of the exaggerated amount of details in his journey.
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.
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. ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book about the modern world and its major problems from the perspective of sound. This is book and the author's work is an important inspiration for my work as a chaplain. ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have my own obsession with noise, sound, and silence, meaning I likely had much greater patience with this book than other readers seem to have had or are likely to. It's one of the few places I've ever felt validation about my perception of the shrinking potential for escape from noise and human-made sound. And while others have noted Hempton's somewhat redundant use of his sound meter, I felt inspired. It got me curious: just how much noise am I subject to on a daily basis, anyhow? And how w ...more
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
Tim Poth
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Rating this is hard. The idea, the goal, bring more quiet in to the world is 5 stars and i want to rate it that way but the writing and story telling just didnt do it for me. I think that is what the rating has to reflect. Im glad i read it and look forward to my next trip to Hoh river valley to see the site (didnt know about it last time) but just not a page turner as noted by my 9 months to finish it...
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
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...
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
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
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book discussed at Obit-Mag 2 16 Aug 06, 2011 03:36PM  

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