'Beginners belongs on the list of books that have changed the way I understand my own limitations.'
For many of us, the last time we learned a new skill was during childhood. We live in an age which reveres expertise but looks down on the beginner. Upon entering adulthood and middle age, we begin to shy away from trying new things, instead preferring to stay nestled firmly in our comfort zones.
Beginners asks the question: why are children the only ones allowed to experience the inherent fun of facing daily challenges? And could we benefit from embracing new skills, even if we're initially hopeless? Bestselling author Tom Vanderbilt sets out to find the answer, tasking himself with acquiring several new skills under the tutelage of professionals, including drawing, juggling, surfing and much more. Witty and often surprisingly profound, Beginners is an uplifting exploration of the science of brain plasticity and how we can learn how to learn anew.
Journalist Vanderbilt (Traffic) chronicles his attempts to gain new skills in this charming celebration of lifelong learning. While encouraging his daughter to explore new interests, Vanderbilt writes, he was inspired to pursue his own journey of skill acquisition not for professionalization or utility, but merely for the joy of it. He entertainingly recounts his struggles and triumphs in various pursuits chess, singing, surfing, drawing, juggling, and making jewelry in which he achieved no grand successes, but merely the satisfaction of "modest competency." Noting that dilettante originally meant "one who exhibits delight," Vanderbilt encourages readers to put aside the fear of making mistakes and looking like an amateur. While readers may wonder about the author's unusually abundant amount of spare time, he makes a persuasive case for the benefits cognitive, physical, emotional, and social of being a beginner. This enjoyable reminder to embrace the "small acts of reinvention, at any age, that can make life seem magical" will appeal to those who enjoyed Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. \n