Book Review: Writing to Learn: How to Write–and Think–Clearly About Any Subject at All

Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at AllWriting to Learn: How to Write–And Think–Clearly about Any Subject at All by William Zinsser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good stuff from Zinsser, as expected. He explores the role of writing across various academic disciplines and concludes that writing can help lead to clear thinking and clear thinking leads to clear writing.

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Book Review: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted WorldDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was insightful and practical. Shallow work has the more immediate appeal in today’s economy and even the appearance of productivity. Deep work is undervalued and underpracticed. Of course, we have constant distraction today, which is the enemy of deep work. Anyone who wants to best their time to do meaningful work needs to wrestle with ever-present distraction.

Newport gives many practical steps to think through and adapt to your own needs. He seemed to strive for a balanced approach between connectivity and deep work, which requires less connectivity and more isolation. The implications for deep work are ubiquitous across all industries and disciplines, so everyone could benefit from it. I appreciated the brief section he had thinking about the relationship we have with our tools. It something that needs more thought.

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Book Review: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of ExpertisePeak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a deep dive into expertise. Malcolm Gladwell didn’t invent the 10,000 hour rule, but when he wrote about it in Outliers, a lot of people noticed. Much noise has been made about the accuracy of his conclusions. I don’t think he was inaccurate as much as he was incomplete. He was definitely onto something. Those who achieve expert levels in various fields have put in a lot of practice to get there. But what kind of practice? That’s where Ericsson and Pool come in. Achieving expert level is more about a lot of the right kind of practice, what they call deliberate practice. Years of research and studies have gone into this book. It is a little heavy at times with neuroscience and the limits of neuroscience, but I found that fascinating. Like Gladwell’s, this book will challenge some basic assumptions of conventional wisdom. It was a great read.

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Book Review: How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at OddsHow to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting read. Jacobs addresses many biases that keep us from really thinking. His discussion of ingroups and outgroups was insightful. He helps us see what we often think of as independent thought isn’t that at all. I liked it.

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Review: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being CreativeSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short, kick-in-the-pants book. A lot of quotes and suggestions that are so simple, you think anybody could have thought of that. That’s the beauty of a book like this. There’s nothing here hard to understand or conceive of. The danger of a book like this with its simplicity is knocking the excuse props out from under you. As long as we can think of the creative process as some mysterious abstract thing experienced by only a few initiates, we can insulate ourselves from doing work. Kleon divulges the secrets that exposes our own thoughts as laziness insulation.

I recommend it and I will leave you with a helpful little tip. If you’re bogged down in your reading or work, a short and simple book like this is a great way to get your mind out of the rut and inspire your ideas and energize your work. Sometimes we have just been working at the same thing too long. Do something different and then come back to it refreshed.

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