About my books

art-of-conversation4

art-of-conversation4

I wrote my book, and read my audio book for a simple reason. Conversation is the most fun you can have for free, without catching a disease.

My love affair with it probably began with the words ‘no’ and ‘why’, intensifying when I learned two magic phrases: ‘I want it, it’s mine’ and (for emergencies) ‘Didn’t mean to, doesn’t matter’. At six I began to suspect conversation possessed more life-changing powers. Mum explained that a social worker was coming to ask how my little sister and I would feel about having another sibling.

We were nervous, but excited, as we described how we would teach her French, decorate her bedroom, pick out her wardrobe, watch her win gymkhanas on her Palomino – all the vital accomplishments for a living Barbie doll. We’re still waiting for the pony, but we must have said something right, because within months we had Heidi.

It took me longer to appreciate a more fundamental truth: there is no greater mood enhancer than conversation with another person. It’s a holiday from yourself, richer and more dynamic than hearing a good song, reading a funny story, or blasting monsters to pixel smithereens on your computer.

With an old friend, you can pick up a thread you’ve been weaving since you first met, with a stranger, you have an adventure. The person that you are with that other person is always slightly different, and more surprising, than the person you are alone, because you adapt and attune to each other’s rhythm. It is a dance.

That isn’t a metaphor. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point:

‘When two people talk, their volume and pitch fall into balance… Two people may arrive at a conversation with very different conversational patterns. But almost instantly they reach a common ground. We all do it, all the time. Babies as young as one or two days old synchronize their head, elbow, shoulder, hip, and foot movements with the speech patterns of adults. Synchrony has even been found in the interactions of humans and apes. It’s part of the way we are hardwired.’

Conversation doesn’t just transmit thoughts and feelings through words: our personalities and emotions are contagious. This is what makes face-to-face talk so powerful. Not only is a life crammed with conversation more interesting, opening up the wonderlands in our own and others’ minds, but it also charges us up . This is why increasingly popular ideas – like e mail is better than conversation, or that watching TV is more compelling than watching another person’s face – are so frightening. They’re also wrong.

Without conversation, we are less than ourselves. But its skills only come through practice. As studies have found, the single most important factor in a child’s life – and the only one that can predict its future educational attainment – is not the girth of his parents’ wage packet or the size of their house but the amount of words to which a child is exposed. And throughout life, conversation fires our minds and hearts, flexing the muscles we most need in these fast-moving days.

Like any other art, conversation can be done better or worse. I wrote this book because I wanted to know how. And it was a great excuse to salute some of history’s great and terrible talkers.

To me, conversation is the ultimate luxury: fun, good for your health, and the shortest route to pretty much anything you might wish for. Best of all, it’s free.

Have a read.

OUT NOW IN PAPERBACK

Available at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Borders, IndieBound.com, and Penguin.com.

Praise for The Art of Conversation:

‘Get off that bloody computer and read this bloody great book. Reclaim the orgasmic pleasures of a bloody good conversation. Don’t let modern technology turn you into an uncommunicative ninny: ingest this book and start conversing…and then start living.’ – Simon Doonan, author of Eccentric Glamour

‘Some of the best ideas are the simplest, and there could hardly be a simpler or better one than this… This is a witty, charming and appropriately garrulous book, drawing on authorities as diverse as Aristotle, Cicero, Voltaire, Tommy Cooper and talk show host Tyra Banks… This smart little book should be placed in every house, like Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms, to turn us once again into a nation of good talkers.’ – Peter Bradshaw, Mail on Sunday

‘A bit of fun by a young genius. The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth is a witty meditation upon all aspects of talk. If you give it to a friend it will itself provoke hours of amusing chat as you read out her jokes and her wisdom.’ – A.N. Wilson, Reader’s Digest

It is a treasure trove of literary and historical delights, with each page containing a little gem in the form of a quotation or a factoid… I can imagine The Art of Conversation becoming a film in the same way that Stephen Potter’s One-Upmanship books became School For Scoundrels. In the meantime, people will buy it for the same reason they buy all books: to give themselves something to talk about.’ ― Toby Young, Independent on Sunday

‘Modern man – and woman – have forgotten how to engage larynx and ears. Catherine Blyth teaches the lost art with wit and charm.’ – Harry Mount, author of Amo, Amas, Amat

‘Take the wittiest, most spellbinding dinner companion and put her between book covers; that’s The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth. … By turns arch, humane, historical, and hysterically funny, she’s the person you hope you’ll find at the next cocktail party―or the person you’d like to be.’ – Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of Civilized Conversation

‘A witty and thoroughly entertaining guide to the noble art of conversation.’ – Katie Hickman, author of The Aviary Gate

‘Wittily mixing up philosophy with literature, blending science with psychology, Blyth persuasively argues the case for banter and badinage – it’s free, its fun and it gets your brain cells firing like the prettiest of firework displays.’ – Eithne Farry, Marie Claire

‘Blyth is a passionate talker, and here she takes us on an entertaining tour of the art of proper conversation…you’ll never be at a loss for words at those awkward socials again!’ ― Glamour

‘It’s fun, it’s fresh and it’s flirty – all the things it teaches that we can be, if only we master the art of conversation’ ― The Resident

‘Brings a professional sensibility to the topic’ ― Scotland on Sunday

‘As Woodrow Wilson once opined of the US President Warren Harding, I am simply in possession of ‘a bungalow mind’. I hope that reading The Art of Conversation has furnished me with a staircase or two’ ― Observer

AND NOW I’VE DONE IT AGAIN…


THE ART OF MARRIAGE is an entertaining survivor’s guide to the mysterious world of marriage.  Why on earth do we voluntarily embark on a three-legged race through life?  And how can we navigate the obstacles, and keep it fun, until death do us part?
With stories from history, insights from psychology, and tales from those who have made marriage work for better — or worse.
PRAISE FOR THE ART OF MARRIAGE:
‘**** In this witty book, Catherine Blyth – no sentimentalist – freewheels across history, sociology and literature, and makes a fresh case for matrimony as the best vessel in which to navigate the stormy seas of life.’ — Sunday Telegraph
‘It’s fun to read something which leaps about in lively fashion from Darwin’s list of pros and cons of marrying to the ‘things I hate about you’ lists that Anthony Armstrong-Jones left about the house for Princess Margaret. What struck me above all is how good a writer Blyth is with her wry, wise and lyrical style. This led me to wonder when that novel so obviously trying to get out of her will see the light of day.’ — Wendy Holden, Daily Mail
‘This is an upmarket guide to marriage. It’s very good. It tells you some obvious things, and lots of things that are less obvious. For instance: don’t pick your nose in front of your spouse. That’s obvious. But why? Because it suggests that you no longer want them to fancy you. That’s less obvious. And it tells you something else: that relationships are nuanced affairs. “Sex trouble is almost inevitable,” she says. Then there are children. Parenthood “does not always draw couples close”. She’s interesting on adultery. When marriage was about “maintaining patrimony”, adultery was sometimes tolerated. Now it’s about love, it isn’t.’ — William Leith, Evening Standard

‘Written with a mixture of humour and historical perspective’ — Daily Telegraph  

‘Lots of pithy and profound advice’ — Time Out

 

 

2 responses to “About my books

  1. fawngilmorekraut

    Wow. I guess I have just struck gold here. As a relationship coach and English teacher, it appears I MUST read both these books. So glad I found you!

  2. alex

    Hello Catherine,

    I have never grinned, smiled or laughed so much reading any other book as the Art of Conversation. You can imagine someone reading and laughing while travelling to work on a crowded metro subway train.
    Got a great beginning to my day reading your work.

    A big thank you

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