Silence A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives

* Winner of the 2020 Maine Literary Award for Nonfiction

* Named an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times Book Review

“Brox writes beautifully…  Silence for her is a force of nature, awe provoking, like lightning, capable of electrocuting us and of illuminating the night… [She] hunkers down in two institutions dominated by the absence of noise – prison and monastery – and leaves us with an… ambiguous sense of silence: oppressive under certain conditions, liberating under others.”
– front page review, The New York Times Book Review

“Jane Brox’s Silence…couldn’t come at a better timeA wonderfully evocative writer…Ms. Brox explores the history and cultural meaning of silence… [This] engaging book offers readers an opportunity to explore a few crucial moments of that history and, in the process, to ponder what silence—or its absence—tells us about the world we are making every day.”
Wall Street Journal

“The ideal way to read Jane Brox’s books, which consider human interaction with the environment over long stretches of time, is during some kind of retreat – away from your ordinary life and awake to [her] patient, exquisitely textured accumulation of scene setting, historical detail, and gentle argument…   I found myself transported by Brox’s storytelling.”

“Throughout her lyrical scholarly work, Brox explores how the meaning of silence is shaped by circumstances… Under Brox’s keen work, one of the least understood elements of our lives proves to be an ambiguous subject. As she reminds us, ‘It [silence] presents the opportunity for a true reckoning with the self, with external obligation, and with power.’”

“[A] deeply researched and thought-provoking investigation into the structure of silence and its transformative power… This breadth is impressive… Readers will come away from the book convinced by its central idea: that silence, so often an invisible part of our lives, is worth paying attention to.”
Harvard Review

“[Brox] makes a well-defined case for paying attention to the elements around us that shape our days.”

“It is the great wit of this thoughtful book to juxtapose the silence of punishment with the silence of spiritual life and, in so doing, to deepen our understanding of each.”
Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift and Common as Air

“In her stunning new book, Silence, Jane Brox has once again taken a seemingly familiar subject and made it the focus of her laser-like attention and lyrical prose, bringing readers along on a journey of investigation they will never forget.   Working from two extremes—silence as solace to the contemplative spirit, silence as punishment for the rebellious or merely unlawful—Brox uncovers a history that both shocks and soothes.  Silence is an uncommon book on an increasingly uncommon phenomenon, a gift to be treasured in the din of daily life.”
Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

“Brox approaches the social history of silence from an obvious (in retrospect) and significant place: solitary confinement in America’s prison system. Her disturbing history of Eastern State Penitentiary, near Philadelphia, a facility designed and built with the complete silence of its inmates as a central tenet, will stun readers with its Founding Father origins and far-reaching consequences. Gracefully shifting from that dark and desperate locale, Brox moves to the sustaining silence embraced by American Trappist monk, activist, and writer Thomas Merton, then turns to the historical use of enforced silence as punishment against women. With each skillful shift in her narrative, Brox reveals how easily silence has been woven into society, where it is used alternately as weapon and balm. Her ability to juxtapose prisons and monasteries, fear and peace is remarkable, and her graceful prose, which appears effortless, draws upon a wealth of research. This is history at its most effective: elegant, essential, and provocative. Those with an interest in prison reform should be particularly drawn to these thought-provoking pages.”

“A perceptive and subtle meditation about a ‘true reckoning with the self.’ ”
Kirkus Reviews

“elegant, thoughtful…”
Publishers Weekly

“intelligent and inquisitive… a fascinating read.”
– Spirituality and Health


> Amazon
> Barnes & Noble
> Indiebound

Or locally in Maine from:
Gulf of Maine Books
134 Maine Street
Brunswick, Maine

Interviews & Podcasts

The New York Times Book Review podcast
> Gal Beckerman discusses Silence with Book Review editor Pamela Paul.
February 22, 2019

Philadelphia Free Library
> Podcast of reading at Philadelphia Free Library
January 31, 2019

Encountering Silence
> Podcast
March 6, 2019

Maine Public, Maine Calling
> “Silence”: A Maine Author Writes About the Powerful Role that Silence Plays in Our Society
January 25, 2019

> Interview with Alison Stewart for “All Of It”
February 12, 2019

BYU Radio, Provo, Utah
> Constant Wonder Program, Interview with Marcus Smith
February 22, 2019

Portland Press Herald
> Writer Jane Brox discusses the nature of “Silence”
June 16, 2019