A fresh, brisk look at creativity, learning, and the meaning of achievement.



Why diverse experience and experimentation are important components of professional accomplishment.

Arguing against the idea that narrow specialization leads to success, journalist Epstein (The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, 2013) mounts convincing evidence that generalists bring more skill, creativity, and innovation to work in all fields. The author begins by contrasting the career trajectories of Tiger Woods, who began training as a golfer before he was 1, and Roger Federer, who dabbled in a range of sports before, as a teenager, he “began to gravitate more toward tennis.” Although he started later than players who had worked with coaches, sports psychologists, and nutritionists from early childhood, a late start did not impede his development. His story, Epstein discovered, is common. When psychologists have studied successful individuals’ “paths to excellence,” they have found “most common was a sampling period” followed only later by focus and increased structure. “Hyperspecialization,” writes the author, is not a requisite for achievement, and he offers abundant lively anecdotes from music, the arts, business, science, technology, and sports. Drawing on studies by cognitive psychologists and educators, Epstein examines how knowledge develops and, equally important, how it is assessed. He distinguishes between teaching strategies that emphasize repeated practice, leading to “excellent immediate performance” on tests, and “interleaving,” an approach that develops inductive reasoning, in which students “learn to create abstract generalizations that allow them to apply what they learned to material they have never encountered before.” Interleaving, he asserts, applies to both physical and mental skills: to a pianist and mathematician as well as to Shaquille O’Neal. The author critiques higher education for rushing students to specialization even though “narrow vocational training” will not prepare them for jobs “in a complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world.” Although he admits “that passion and perseverance” are important precursors of excellence, “a change of interest, or a recalibration of focus” can also be critical to success.

A fresh, brisk look at creativity, learning, and the meaning of achievement.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1448-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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