The Art of Belonging

‘It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’ is the premise of Hugh Mackay’s new semi-fictional, sociology book. A group of essays on different aspects of living in a society, interspersed with engaging fictional characters, The Art of Belonging is a great new book for anyone who has an interest in how modern communities work.

The Art of Belonging is half a sociology thesis and half a fictional novel, which is a really good way to break down research and convey sociological theories, attitudes, causes and effects, in a fresh and interesting new way. Of course no one wants their behaviour to be seen as typical, but the characters in the fictional town of Southwood express the common views one can have about living in this modern world – from being thankful that your neighbours are not psychos, to feeling isolated or threatened in a closed off society; building an online community or going out of your way to put down roots in a new town. The characters represent those who are struggling to live their lives as they wish and on their terms, but is it in harmony with or at the expense of, being a community-minded person?

Hugh Mackay, who also wrote The Good Life and What Makes us Tick, is a social researcher with more than 50 years of experience. He has written 14 books on ethics and sociology and 5 novels, and is a highly-respected academic and journalist. While you might think you’ve read enough sociology in your uni course, The Art of Belonging is actually a fascinating and well written book – not too heavy on the academia, not too dry with the fictional characters and a book I definitely recommend reading this year!

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In today’s technology charged, individualist society, you may feel a bit:

(Warner Bros./Via

But as Mackay explores, to be human is to be social. And it is the exploration of the human condition that is the driving force behind this book – we need communities, but communities also need us. We are not able to be lone wolves, as my favourite quote from the books states, “It takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village to keep an adult sane.” It’s about being more mindful of our place in society – we may not feel like we are noticeable or making a difference, but societies would collapse without the people within it.

As a departure from my usual fare of books, I loved the simplistic but witty writing, and the fresh approach to research findings. I do love reading novels about dystopias, and The Art of Belonging was actually a great accompaniment for these. It’s definitely important to understand how a good society works to better see how it can fall apart and I will go back over a book like Divergent with more educated eyes (that is one deeply flawed society. Roth should have read this book first!!).

If you’re looking to recharge your own enthusiasm for HSC Society and Culture, find an additional reading for your uni course or just take a departure into non-fiction, this is a lovely, thought provoking and conversation starting new book.

The Art of Belonging is available in-store and online.

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