The Art of Belonging is similar in content to This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick which I read earlier last year (click on title). However, Hugh Mackay takes a fictional approach by creating a town called Southwood to explain the different types of social connections that groups of people experience and the value of these, whereas Melody uses a biographical methodology. My personal preference is the non-fiction approach and having read other books of Mackay’s it was what I was expecting. Although a fictional approach did give Mackay more freedom to explore a wider range of issues, he was idealistic at times.

Nevertheless, The Art of Belonging is a helpful read about the importance of social connectedness and the reasons why we both gravitate towards it and shy away from it. We love having friends and connecting with them but we also love our freedom to please ourselves. In the introduction, Mackay explains this tension well. It’s the best part of the book. The various chapters expound the ideas he presents in the introduction.

Hugh Mackay writes well and the book is easy to read. His experience as a social researcher adds credibility to his conclusions.

Overall a useful read.