A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous (Hardcover)
A wide-ranging exploration of the sounds that shape our world in invisible yet significant ways.
The crackling of a campfire. The scratch, hiss, and pop of a vinyl record. The first glug of wine as it is poured from a bottle. These are just a few of writer Caspar Henderson’s favorite sounds. In A Book of Noises, Henderson invites readers to use their ears a little better—to tune in to the world in all its surprising noisiness.
Describing sounds from around the natural and human world, the forty-eight essays that make up A Book of Noises are a celebration of all things “auraculous.” Henderson calls on his characteristic curiosity to explore sounds related to humans (anthropophony), other life (biophony), the planet (geophony), and space (cosmophony). Henderson finds the beauty in everyday sounds, like the ringing of a bell, the buzz of a bee, or the “earworm” songs that get stuck in our heads. A Book of Noises also explores the marvelous, miraculous sounds we may never get the chance to hear, like the deep boom of a volcano or the quiet, rustling sound of the Northern Lights.
A Book of Noises will teach readers to really listen to the sounds of the world around them, to broaden and deepen their appreciation of the humans, animals, rocks, and trees simultaneously broadcasting across the whole spectrum of sentience.
About the Author
Caspar Henderson is a writer and journalist living in Oxford, England. He is the author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings and A New Map of Wonders, both published by the University of Chicago Press. As a journalist, he covers topics such as energy, science, environment, and human rights.
“In A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous, the journalist Caspar Henderson takes a more eclectic and encyclopedic approach, presenting 48 short entries on noise broken into four categories. . . . His aim is to stir in readers a ‘sense of aliveness’ and a desire to pay attention to the ‘revelations in sound’ that might astonish and nourish our souls. . . . Henderson has great faith in the power of sound to transform.”
— The Washington Post
“Mr. Henderson nicely brings out the pull of shared rhythm, whether the lilt of a nursery rhyme or the elastic syncopation of jazz, which a drummer describes to him as feeling like ‘plasticine.’ This experience of self melting into sound elicits some of Mr. Henderson’s best passages.”
— Wall Street Journal
“A splendid survey of the symphony (and spectra) of sound. . . . Fittingly, Henderson says writing the book was his attempt to listen closely, deeply, to the world around him. Readers will be grateful to accompany him on his ‘earwitness’ explorations. This is a writer who thinks, really thinks, though always gives full credit to those who preceded him in sonic studies, quoting them liberally. In sound terminology, Henderson consistently strikes dulcet tones.”
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Mind-bending revelations about the nature of sound, in a book gloriously packed with hundreds of them, are delivered with such wonder, detail, and scientific heft by British science writer Henderson that they will delight audiences ranging from widely read—even jaded—adults to elementary-age kids. . . A total blast!”
— Booklist, starred review
“Henderson spotlights the wonderful concatenation of noises that enrich one’s ears. In 48 essays, the book moves from cosmological exploration to technical dissections of musical works, extolling both rare and common sounds that are glorious in their expressivity and beauty. . . the author’s joy and breadth of study come through clearly.”
— Library Journal
"Henderson’s book stands out for its breadth, its humor, and especially the author’s passion for the material."
— Undark Magazine
"[Henderson] listens deeply, amplifying centuries of research into our understanding and production of sound. He offers engrossing cultural (art, literature, film), historical, philosophical, medical and political background to render a book of genuine insight and value."
— The Post and Courier
"In A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous, journalist Caspar Henderson documents how our home on this planet has actually never been quiet, and why that's (mostly) awe inspiring. After the big bang, the universe was so dense that only sound, not light, could travel through it. These soundwaves formed a sort of cosmic scaffold on which galaxies such as our own formed. We'd be nothing without sound."
— Sierra Magazine
“A piece of concentrated listening, with science and environmentalism at its heart. . . . You could read the book for the sheer cascade of facts it offers, but it has a tender, lyrical quality, which at points makes the writing sing.”
— Sunday Times
“A Book of Noises is another wunderkammer, this time of aural wonders and curiosities. . . . An irresistible blend of colloquially insinuating and accessible writing, and rigorously researched scientific detail.”
— Times Literary Supplement
“A pursuit of auditory wonders—a paean to the act of listening and a salute to silence. . . . Ransacking A Book of Noises affords hours of listening pleasure. . . . Readers can and should take their time. It will be time well spent.”
— The Spectator
“In this delightfully titled series of notes on the miraculous ‘auraculous,’ Henderson documents noises emanating from humans, the planet, and space. He revels the everyday—the buzz of a bee—as much as he marvels at the incredible—the deep book of a volcano. . . . A truly magnificent adventure.”
— The Big Issue
“Henderson’s appetite for marvellous phenomena, and commitment to searching them out, makes him a most congenial literary companion. . . . Readers will come away struck by different items in the glittering array here. Henderson offers them up with just enough commentary to leave you wanting more.”
— The Arts Desk
“A whistlestop tour past thunderstorms, volcanoes, bees, blackbirds, bells, haiku, earworms, noise pollution, climate change, even silence. . . . The way Henderson plucks and assembles his sources from literally centuries of collected knowledge is an impressive feat.”
— The Wire
“You will gasp with surprise and sigh with delight over the pages of A Book of Noises. It is the most elegant and erudite history of the world as sound ever written.”
— David Rothenberg, author of "Whale Music" and "Secret Sounds of Ponds"
“A feast for the ears, mind, and spirit. Henderson not only celebrates the marvels of sound but also offers wonderfully original reflections on the relationships among music, science, and the living world. A delightful and generative invitation to deeper listening.”
— David George Haskell, author of "Sounds Wild and Broken"
“By turns haunting and captivating, A Book of Noises is a marvel of curiosity and elegant storytelling. Caspar Henderson confirms that, for all its turbulence, this is still ‘a world alive with good noises.’ Open your ears.”
— David Farrier, author of “Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils”
“A book of exquisite richness and erudition, dedicated equally to the beautiful strange and the precious ordinary.”
— Jay Griffiths, author of "Wild: An Elemental Journey"
“Caspar Henderson’s books are a special kind of treasure; I struggle to think of another writer who achieves this combination of scope, intellectual rigour, and deep reflection with such grace and style. Don’t be deceived by the title—far from being a noisy book, this is a quiet and determined call to listen better.”
— Helen Jukes, author of "A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings"
“Spell-binding, brilliantly executed, extraordinary.”
— Previous praise for Henderson
“Magnificent, bravura, beautiful and astoundingly interesting.”
— Previous praise for Henderson