Big Conversation book club - Silence in the age of noise

June 29, 2020, 10:23 a.m.

Reading a book about silence may seem at odds with our ethos of talking and sharing about difficult topics, but at times, we all need to pause and take stock.

Erling Kagge is a Norweigian Explorer and as such, has spent what can seem like an endless amount of time, immersed in a silent landscape with the only sounds that of a wild and often unforgiving nature.

He shares what this means to him and what he has discovered in this meditation on silence. In our modern world, we are bombarded by noise – our phones ping, the tv rumbles along in the background. Radio, music, car horns, traffic. It is relentless and it can be hard to find peace, let alone tranquillity.

Interestingly, I first started to read this book, pre-lockdown. I bought it because I’m intrigued by people who choose to live on the edge. Kagge is an explorer of landscapes, but and without sounding too cheesy, an explorer of the mind and, at the time of buying the book, silence was pretty radical!

Then lockdown happened and the world started to slow down a little bit, nature started to recover a little and I could gain a little more silence, a little more peace. Time to myself and time to think. To cope with my anxiety around coronavirus, I walked and then I walked some more. Now, I live in a pretty little Cornish village, it isn’t the arctic tundra and it isn’t completely silent. But the noise was a little different. Less cars, less people to meet on my walks. More birdsong, less pollution meant the wildflowers and the air was rather wonderful. I actually stopped to watch the birds and the bees, and they were glorious. It calmed me.

There is time to be when you allow yourself some silence. That isn’t always a happy place, but I found that I could catch my thoughts and sometimes even laugh about them. Either way, I became more aware. And this quiet awareness weirdly led me towards action. I thought about what I really wanted in this world, what I was really grateful for. Kagge was my guide and lockdown the situation. He tells us how once he spent 50 days without speaking to another person. I don’t think I’d like that, but it is very interesting about what he discovered.

“There are so many noises that we barely hear them all.” This especially rang true to me. It is so easy to become over-stimulated. I hope when lockdown eases, I’ll keep Kagge in mind and keep to some of the good behaviours that happened during this strange time.

I hope for some peace and silence for us all. It’s a scary world out there at the moment but we can and should always appreciate the little things. They are the real riches of the world.

What else! The book is beautiful, it fits nicely in the hand, the photography inside is inspiring. If you struggle with silence or feel overwhelmed, I would really recommend this book for gaining a different perspective.


Reading Group Questions


Do you feel the same way at the beginning of the book as you do at the end? What’s changed?


What has been the emotional impact of this book and why?


Was there anything in the book you found challenging?


Was there anything you didn’t like about the book?


What was your favourite part of the book?


If you had the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?


Have you had a big conversation with someone after reading this?




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