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The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work, and Play in the City

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  944 ratings  ·  148 reviews
Should neighborhoods change? Is wearing a suit a good way to quit smoking? Why do people think that if you do one thing, you're against something else? Is monogamy a trick? Why isn't making the city more fun for you and your friends a super-noble political goal? Why does a computer last only three years? How often should you see your parents? How should we behave at partie ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  944 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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Mike Lindgren
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Annoyingly twee mini-essays from Canadian hipster and soi-disant social theorist Glouberman, as transcribed by n+1 writer Sheila Heti. It takes a while with this odd little book to penetrate its wide-eyed, slapdash nonstyle and to understand just how vacuous and self-absorbed its riffs on contemporary urban culture really are. Kind of like what you'd get if you cross-bred a stoner Malcolm Gladwell with Zooey Deschanel or Miranda July and raised them in Williamsburg. The horror. ...more
Jim Frederick
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book has about three good pieces. They are about Harvard, the author's battle with a noisy bar in his neighborhood, and quitting smoking. The piece on Harvard was appropriately published in the Paris Review. The smoking piece made me laugh for minutes. The other pieces (~160 pgs) in the book are not much better than blog posts.

I enjoyed aspects of the book. It is funny, gentle, minorly psychologically insightful, and has a good mix of thought and story-telling.

On the other hand, it is unorg
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
I found this book at work in the philosophy section and I thought, what good advice chairs are where the people go!

it's not really a philosophy book at all, strand shelves it as self help, but it's not at all a self help book either, really it's a book book, it's like a book of essays but done as an oral history. It's a guy (I assume misha is a guy...) who just does a lot of things talking about the way he sees the world. I like that, I like it a lot.

the book is mostly about people. how we inte
I love this book!
It is just this collection of things Misha knows about the world.
And it is so beautiful!
I read it over a long period of time, it is a great book to have with you on your phone.
He talks a lot about teaching classes in improv and sound making and charades. He is involved in shaping his neighbourhood.
You can simply read about various things that Misha has learned through living his life. About relationships and communicating and initiating things and all kinds of stuff. It is such
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was a great chance to get into the head of somebody who has a drastically different life than I have. I like Toronto. There is some repeat or filler here, but I don't see people recommending titles that do the same thing this does any better. Definitely still a Sheila fan, and think Misha was/is worth my time. ...more
Veronica Ciastko
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
i liked this book. yeah, it was a little twee and went on too much about the game of charades, but i thought there were some genuinely poignant philosophical questions posed. i loved the essay about college and college campuses because it reminded me so much of my own experiences in the disorienting bubble of school.
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got this from a good friend...he's intelligent, well-read and extremely insightful, so I was excited about this book. I'll be honest--took me a few essays to get into it. That said, once I was, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I continued to read, I became fully engaged in each essay, intrigued by not only what Misha had to say, but how he decided to say it.

Misha talks in and around and through things in a way most people don't. I love how his brain works, and find his musings on random experiences
Ben Bush
Jul 24, 2011 added it
Shelves: read-in-nyc
I like conversations so much that I sometimes wish they could continue even when there isn't really anything to talk about or any information to exchange. Some of the games Misha talks about in here, like the one about conducting or the one about rock placement, seem to solve that. It seems like it would be fun to play some of these. ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Misha Glouberman teaches charades. To grown-ups. Because, it turns out, charades is hard: it requires you to be empathetic, creative, and an effective communicator. Which, curiously enough, is also what's required to get along in the world. So this book, essentially, is a handy, pocket-sized guide to being a person who doesn't suck. Not bad for a Canadian charades instructor, eh? ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing's just this dude from Toronto who teaches Improv chatting about stuff? Yeah, but it's really good! Thoughtful and comforting in a "your not the only one who worries about this stuff" way. ...more
Russ Ramstrom
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
The beginning caught my attention, but by the middle of the book I felt like he was just bragging about the classes that he teaches. He lost me on the the 8th chapter about another one of his class exercises!
Nathan Albright
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book was not quite what I expected it to be.  Once upon a time I wrote a play called "A Play About Chairs" that made fun of the way that contemporary playwrights (and other creative people in general) were so concerned about symbolism and allegory and the desire to speak about the concerns of oppressed subaltern groups that they forgot often to write something that would be enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing.  I thought that this book would have something to do with chairs, but it doesn't ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
We need more Misha Gloubermans and Sheila Hetis. I appreciated the refreshing playfulness of this book, the way it approaches seemingly non-serious subjects with seriousness and vice versa.

"The process of creating anything involves quite a lot of fear and difficulty, and it also includes covering up quite a lot of that fear and difficulty. So, for example, you get an email from me announcing that I'm teaching a class in how to play charades, and you think, what a crazy idea, and what a delightf
Jul 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I can imagine Glouberman being an infectious personality in person. I can imagine him thinking deeply with you about EVERY POSSIBLE THING. The balance between weird ‘what hell is he thinking’ and ‘what an interesting insight’ sometimes swings all over the place, but underlying this book are some fairly straightforward ways of solving challenges which anyone can use if they just want to approach them a little differently
Melanie Page
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Chairs are Where the People Go is a hard book to classify—my favorite kind—but once I was 30-odd pages in, I realized I wasn’t sure how I was approaching the work. I was sort of just going along and expecting to gain a clue. Albeit an easy read, The Chairs doesn’t instruct in the common sense of the word. It’s a self-help book that doesn’t advertise itself as one. It’s funny without the comedic lead-up. It’s like a biography, but doesn’t claim to be that, either. The Chairs is broken into 72 ...more
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Meh. I picked up this book (and I use the term book loosely as I'll explain later) because I heard it was about teaching improvisation. As improv has become the highlight of my week I was curious to read what Misha Glouberman had to say. Glouberman is a Canadian who, as far as I can tell, has a variety of odd side occupations. Apparently, his friend, Sheila Heti, deemed his views worthy of sharing with the literary world. The "book" is a transcription of Misha expounding on a variety of topics f ...more
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012

Note: Having seen more than a handful of Misha-hosted events in the last ten years, I was familiar with his stage style, his endearingly awkward improv while addressing crowds of people. It was that kind of quiet surprise I kept reading into his voice as I went through this collection of tiny, conversational essays on seemingly random ideas.
This is why the book didn't bother me as much as most of the other reviewers - I had an idea of what might be waiting. Misha is interested in social behav
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A lot of fun -- a breezy read that's well-suited for the beach or short subway rides. The book is a series of brief monologues from Misha Glouberman -- an improv and charades teacher, among other things -- as told to Sheila Heti. They're all mixed up, not organized by theme, giving the book the feel of a meandering conversation. It's like listening to somebody intriguing at a cocktail party.

The best monologues are about a compromise between a noisy local bar and its neighbors (including Glouber
Sep 09, 2012 added it
An odd must-read for anyone. Especially anyone who plays charades, plans to live in the city, or likes thinking about things.
Lucas Miller
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I didn't read this book in a single sitting. It has sat on my shelf about half read for over a year. I picked it up again yesterday, and thought I'd read a few pages. After reading about 50 pages, I figured I should go ahead and get down to the end.

I spent about 15 minutes before reading the last 25 pages reading 2 star Goodreads' reviews of this book. I share some of the main frustrations with the book that the majority of these reviews express, but I think they tend to be overstated. The whol
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
Written by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti. Heti basically wrote things Glouberman said. And Glouberman sounds like a shy person’s worst nightmare but could also be the best thing to happen to that person. He’s like the camp counselor that makes everyone participate, and if you don’t volunteer, you’ll get called on.

As someone who is not a big fan of socializing with strangers, Glouberman lost my interest, and I stopped reading. I felt like he was saying the same thing but in different situation
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fun little book containing words of wisdom, snippets and viewpoints from a very smart guy. He sounds really funny and I would have loved to take one of his improv classes.

The way he recommends doing conferences is genius. It's so true that conferences are often full of people who all share the same passion, but who unfortunately only get to listen to one person speak instead of use that time to make connections. I love the idea of conferences as opportunities to be social and let everyone talk
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
In general I enjoyed this book. It has the feel of a rambling with someone interesting, thoughtful, and kind. Sometimes it feels like the answers are simple when they could be complex, perhaps privileging perceived common sense over actual ambiguity. It certainly inspired me to play more games, for which I am grateful. I like the essay slash interview hybrid format and I think it deserves further exploration. If I were to elaborate on this book, I think I would want to draw out the possibility o ...more
Billie Low
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
The last book I read in 2019 turned out better than I had expected. What started as a reading competition had turned into an achievement on my part. Though I rarely ever read philosophical/self-help books, and even if I did I rarely enjoyed them, The Chairs are Where the People Go was pretty good and very likeable. Even though I had only really enjoyed one story where I took away a lesson well learnt, the other stories were a breeze to go through because the author wrote in a way that resembled ...more
Yong Feng
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book comprises 72 short pieces on whatever Misha Glouberman finds interesting. About half of these are observations from the improvisation and charades classes that he teaches, while others range from his temporary role as a community organiser trying to get a bar in his neighbourhood to lower its volume, to his attempts to quit smoking and, as the title suggests, how to place chairs optimally for different types of social events. Altogether a light and enjoyable read with several interesti ...more
Johnny Leon
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun little collection of semi-philosophical musings of an academic, city-dwelling charades instructor as recorded by his friend. Misha Glouberman speaks on a variety of subjects and, on the surface, doesn't appear to say too much (the book is short and each essay is only about 1-3 pages long), but there are a lot of deep thought-provoking nuggets of insight hidden in what may be a description of a random charades exercise or past experience with municipal bureaucracy. Short, light, and refresh ...more
Hillary Waldstein
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The best word for this book is random (but in a fantastic way). A unique, special book of chapters about life musings, advice, and anecdotes. Pick up this book from time to time and you'll find you get something new from it depending on what you're going through. The chapter "Failure and Games" is one of my favorites that I use to help myself and others get through challenges. This is a coffee table book in novel form. It's great, I just love it! ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
It was ok, I think I'm just a bit tired of the premise: eloquent young urban adults writing essays that seems little more than transcriptions from their everyday. That Sheila would be jotting down pretty much verbatim Misha's waxing on life little issues seemed a bit much for me, at the time. I bailed 1/4 of the way in. ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was probably Leanne Shapton’s being credited for illustrations on the frontispiece that brought me to the book. Too bad there’s not more of her! I liked the book, though sometimes it gets annoying. It’s probably not of interest to everyone, but it’s short and not difficult to read. Parts of it inspired me, reminding me just how far beyond the mainstream one can stretch creativity.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-have
Imagine a thousand intriguing coffee conversations hand selected and carefully written into a small compendium. Imagine that these conversations are from an artistic self-doubting energetic modern Torontonian who spends his days leading creative group workshops and shopping in a farmer's market. If the thought interests you, you will enjoy this book. ...more
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MISHA GLOUBERMAN is a performer, facilitator, and artist who lives in Toronto.

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