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  • Louise Lilja

Book review: The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters is a thought-provoking journey into the essence of human gatherings, writes Louise Lilja in a review of the book. From celebrations to decision-making, Priya Parker unravels the complexities underlying our collective meetings, offering insights that transcend the ordinary dos and don'ts. Join us for a discussion of this book on Thursday, December 21!

A small group of people have a dinner party in the woods, lit by a string of fairy lights.

“Why do we gather? We gather to solve problems that we can't solve on our own, we gather to celebrate, to mourn, and to mark transitions. We gather to make decisions, we gather because we need one another. We gather to show strength. We gather to honor and acknowledge. We gather to build companies, and schools, and neighborhoods. We gather to welcome and we gather to say goodbye. ... But here's the great paradox of gathering. There are so many good reasons for coming together that often we don't know precisely why we're doing so.”

So begins Priya Parker's new release, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Pondering the significance of gatherings isn't new to me. I have worked in the event industry for many years and thinking, dreaming and living gatherings have become life. However, I was drawn to this book by a curiosity to uncover any overlooked aspects that might enrich both my professional endeavours and personal life.

A group of friends or coworkers sit at a narrow table talking.

I quickly found that Parker exhibits an intimate understanding of the nuances within gatherings. She doesn't just outline dos and don'ts; she dissects why certain strategies excel while others fall short. It's a compelling exploration of the importance of investing effort and contemplation into any gathering, coupled with the necessity of asking challenging questions and demanding substantive answers for its success.

Parker's passion for the topic radiates from the pages, igniting an even deeper curiosity within the reader. I found myself excited by her excitement. The book is a collection of narratives intertwined to impart wisdom on a subject often taken for granted. I was as interested in the storytelling as I was in the practical tips. Parker quickly delves deep into the intricacies of gatherings, exploring everything from guest lists and their rationale, the significance of attendee count, the nuanced importance of venue selection beyond mere logistics, the pivotal role of the host as the ultimate authority, and how rules actually strengthen, rather than diminish, the essence of a gathering. As a skilled facilitator and strategic advisor, Parker effortlessly navigates human dynamics and communication. Her book exudes a friendly tone, making it feel like a conversation with a knowledgeable friend—one you'd eagerly engage with to absorb valuable insights. Initially, I couldn't determine if the book was more of a casual evening read before bedtime or a resource to enhance my professional endeavours. Having completed it, I'm still undecided. Surprisingly, I am not bothered by that at all.

A group of people stand side by side with arms raised, perhaps singing or praying.

Ultimately, I'm uncertain if Parker's book introduced entirely new concepts to me. However, what the book undeniably accomplished was rekindling the significance of gatherings and reigniting the thrill of crafting a memorable one. I secretly also found myself excited by the fact that it shines a light on how difficult it is to actually create a truly powerful and transformative gathering, something I've been trying to convince people of for years!


If you've enjoyed this book review, join us on 21 December at 12pm EST for a discussion of The Art of Gathering. Reading the book is not required! We'll discuss key themes from this work. All are welcome. Register here.

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Photo credit: Unsplash


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