Sometimes belabored debut examines why making mistakes and learning from them is better than always trying to be perfect.
Covering what seems like familiar ground despite the book's counterintuitive title, New York Times consumer columnist Tugend argues that the childhood admonition to learn from our mistakes is culturally undercut by another, more powerful message: Errors are dreadful, can bring punishment and must be avoided, concealed or never discussed. This tension, the author writes, often leads to the risk-adverse tendency to stick with the known, and causes trouble in schools, cockpits and operating rooms, among other places. Remedies range from parents taking care not to unknowingly instill an error-avoidance mindset in their children to simple pre-flight and pre-op checklists that keep flight crews and surgeons from making the same oversights that may have caused past accidents. Well-selected excerpts from studies and interviews with experts provide the book with depth, but only in the conclusion does the full force of Tugend’s prose emerge in a strong finish, in which she vividly evokes the profound importance of apologizing. Elsewhere, as in a lengthy consideration of gender bias in how mistakes are perceived, the author verges on being silly. We must strive, she writes, to "create a world in which it is safe for both men and women to make mistakes."
Thoroughly researched but low-wattage illumination.