"Beginners is ultimately about more than learning. It's about the possibilities that reside in all of us."
--Daniel H. Pink, New York Times best-selling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human
The best-selling author of Traffic and You May Also Like gives us an inspirational journey into the transformative joys that come with starting something new, no matter your age
Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to fail? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of being a beginner? Or is it simply a fact that you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Inspired by his young daughter's insatiable need to know how to do almost everything, and stymied by his own rut of mid-career competence, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five main skills (and picks up a few more along the way), choosing them for their difficulty to master and their distinct lack of career marketability--chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling.
What he doesn't expect is finding himself having rapturous experiences singing Spice Girls songs in an amateur choir, losing games of chess to eight-year-olds, and dodging scorpions at a surf camp in Costa Rica. Along the way, he interviews dozens of experts to explore the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner. Weaving comprehensive research and surprising insight gained from his year of learning dangerously, Vanderbilt shows how anyone can begin again--and, more important, why they should take those first awkward steps. Ultimately, he shares how a refreshed sense of curiosity opened him up to a profound happiness and a deeper connection to the people around him--and how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.
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