Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning
By Tom Vanderbilt
(229, nonfiction, 2021)
When’s the last time you tried to learn something new?
Tom Vanderbilt is taking his young daughter to chess class and chess tournaments. He starts to wonder why he doesn’t try new things? When did he stop being a beginner? Adults often don’t like to do things that they aren’t good at. As a child, there is no stigma to being a beginner, to not knowing how to do things, or being bad at them. But Tom finds that a lot of adults are less likely to try new things. But there is joy in being a beginner! The mind likes to learn new things.
“It likes learning for learning’s sake.” Tom decides to learn chess. He starts playing in tournaments, and gets clobbered by 8-year-olds. But he does learn and improve. He decides to try to learn five main skills: chess, singing, surfing, juggling and drawing.
This is a fascinating book, filled with funny anecdotes, and it also includes a lot of information on how we learn. Tom takes lots of lessons. He also contacts experts on learning to find out how babies and toddlers learn. There are surprises in learning. He finds that, when learning, making mistakes or watching someone else make mistakes is often better than doing a task perfectly. He encourages people to try new things, not just to learn them, but for the camaraderie it brings, and the benefits to your brain and overall well-being. “One of the greatest joys in being a beginner, it turns out, is meeting other beginners.”
Time to try something new!
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