Book 22 in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.
Categorising this book is difficult. It’s not fiction, since there is nothing made up in it, and it’s not strictly what I would class as non-fiction, since it’s full of few facts.
Instead, How to be an Explorer of the World is a little of both. It does exactly what its name suggests – teaches you how to explore the world around you. And by doing so it invites you to explore your imagination, making up stories in some cases and just looking at the world in more detail in others.
Smith’s book is full of suggestions about everything from people watching to writing down 10 things about the place you are sitting to making collages with found objects. The book’s primary aim is to stop everyone wandering through life ignoring everything around us, and start really appreciating life by noticing the tiny things that make up our surroundings.
Alongside the suggestions are quotes from everyone from Carl Jung (“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”) to Brenda Veland (“The imagination need moodling – long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering”) to Walt Whitman (“Now I will do nothing but listen. I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused, or following, sounds of the city, and sounds out of the city – sounds of the day and night…”). These quotes make you stop and think, and for me were the most interesting words in the book.
How to be an Explorer of the World is a very visual book, full of drawings, photographs and diagrams, all alongside block capital handwriting. And at the back of the book there are a series of pages you can rip out or stick things on or fill out as you explore the world.
I’m not sure whether I‘ll be taking on some of Smith’s suggestions, including wearing a costume or disguise, but How to be an Explorer of the World does succeed in its mission to make me want to pay more attention to the world around me.