An insightful, joyful tour of the transformative powers of starting something new, no matter your age—from the bestselling author of Traffic and You May Also Like
“Vanderbilt elegantly and persuasively tackles one of the most pernicious of the lies we tells ourselves—that the pleasures of learning are reserved for the young.” —Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of Outliers
Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to be bad at something? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of beginning from the ground up? Inspired by his young daughter’s insatiable curiosity, Tom Vanderbilt embarks on a yearlong quest of learning—purely for the sake of learning. Rapturously 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, Vanderbilt tackles five main skills but learns so much more. Along the way, he interviews dozens of experts about the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner and shows how anyone can get better at beginning again—and, more important, why they should take those first awkward steps. Funny, uplifting, and delightfully informative, Beginners is about how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Tech journalist Tom Vanderbilt argues, convincingly, that there’s such a thing as being too good at your job or a hobby, because it leads to rigid thinking and boredom. So Vanderbilt spent a year picking up activities he’d never tried before—including surfing, playing chess, juggling, singing, drawing, and archery—and talking to scientists about why learning new skills is vital to your health and happiness. (Basically, making mistakes rewires your brain into learning and retaining new information.) Vanderbilt has a blast on his adventures, but the side effects of his educational experiences are even more fascinating. By keeping his mind in a fluid, adaptable state, Vanderbilt discovers improvements in other parts of his life—from his relationship with his young daughter (turns out kids love jugglers!) to developing a fresh appreciation for the Spice Girls. Beginners will make any old dog excited to learn some new tricks.
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.