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Barnes & Noble     Indiebound         Amazon  

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction  (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,  April 1, 2015)

"[A] brilliant and searching new work of social criticism... Crawford proposes a different model of individuality and choice, at once traditional and radically new." – George Scialabba, Boston Review

"The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I've read in a long time. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one's way through life." – Damon Linker, The Week

"Deep in its insight and considered in its analysis... Crawford's argument... is nevertheless approachable, economical and entertaining. It is a remarkable combination... The World Beyond Your Head could easily lure any cultural pessimist into considerations that pass beyond the symptoms, deep into the causes of our present ills." – Charles Clavey, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Crawford counters [our] distraction with striking descriptions of close attention in the daily lives of craftspeople, athletes, and even short-order cooks. Profound, yet accessible…” 
– Barnes and Noble Editor’s Recommendation

“In the gambling addict, dead broke at the slot machine, Crawford finds the surprising terminus of a way of thinking traceable to Descartes, Kant, and Locke. These iconic thinkers enshrined at the very center of Western philosophy a ceaseless concern for the autonomy of the individual, untrammeled by authority or tradition. The boundless emancipatory project legitimated by this perspective, Crawford argues, has actually undermined authentic autonomy by fostering an anxious fixation on the self. This fixation, readers learn, subverts truly liberating mastery of real-world skills and sabotages genuine human individuation within a healthy community. Extending themes of his acclaimed Shop Class as Soulcraft, Crawford shows how the short-order cook, the welder, the carpenter, the pipe-organ builder all achieve a free individuality by submitting to the authority of mentors who discipline their minds for full engagement with the complexities of the external environment. Those who never mature into this valid individuality, Crawford warns, disappear into a distracted crowd of mindless consumers unable to recognize the distinctions that sustain a vibrant democracy. Worse, such stunted psyches are easy prey for the corporate strategists who hide their predations behind the faux freedoms of the shopping center—and the casino. A cultural inquiry of rare substance and insight.”
–Booklist (starred review)

“Crawford is deeply interested in how one masters one’s own mind, especially in a time of information overload and constant distraction provided by technology. In a manner similar to Malcolm Gladwell, this brilliant work looks at individuals from varied walks of life, including hockey players and short-order cooks, to focus on the theme of how important (and difficult) it is to truly pay attention in our noisy, busy world. Crawford’s sources, ranging from the philosophy of Kant to testimony from gambling addicts, might seem too disparate to ever cohere, yet he synthesizes them with skill. The result will force readers to dig deeply into their own “metacognition” (thinking about thinking). Beyond individual experiences, the book traces Western thought from the Enlightenment to contemporary times, persuasively arguing that much of our thinking about individuality and cognition is, simply put, wrong. Crawford’s arguments can be dense at times, but they are not meant to be digested in pull quotes. Readers will feel rewarded for spending the time with a text this rich in excellent research, argument, and prose.”
 – Publishers’ Weekly (starred review)

“Crawford uses examples of skilled labor and craftsmanship to explain how people can gain back some of their lost autonomy (a word he works over quite thoroughly) through concentration. He explains his theories well, with strong writing and citations, and the resulting argument is fresh and extremely enlightening. What is most satisfying is that technology is not blamed for the modern deluge of distractions—it is discussed as the cumulative effect of a number of influences found within Western culture. VERDICT This illuminating work will appeal to students of philosophy and sociology, as well as fans of good cultural analysis.” 
– Library Journal (starred review)