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"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.
About the Author
TOM VANDERBILT has written for many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Popular Science, Financial Times, Smithsonian, and London Review of Books, among many others. He is a contributing editor of Wired UK, Outside, and Artforum. He is author of You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), and Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America. He has appeared on a wide range of television and radio programs, from the Today show to the BBC's World Service to NPR's Fresh Air. He has been a visiting scholar at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a fellow at the Design Trust for Public Space, and a winner of the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, among other honors. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“Tom Vanderbilt elegantly and persuasively tackles one of the most pernicious of the lies we tells ourselves--that the pleasure of learning are reserved for the young. Beginners belongs with David Epstein's Range on the list of books that have changed the way I understand my own limitations."
— Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of Outliers
“Beginners is ultimately about more than learning. It’s about the about the possibilities that reside in all of us.”
— Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human
“Tom Vanderbilt’s book explores how to learn completely new skills, how to change our world - even after we’re supposed to be done with schooling. This is a book about how to become a beginner again, and it makes you want to plunge in with both feet.”
The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
"A thoughtful and stirring look into the art and science of lifelong learning. Currently, I’m learning Gaelic, dressmaking and how to lay floors. Last year, it was knitting and coding. I’m 50, and not supposed to be a beginner any more -- according to society’s conventions -- but Tom Vanderbilt turns that flawed assumption on its head with the grace with which he learns to reach a high note or surf a wave."
—Rose George, author of Ninety Percent of Everything
"Tom Vanderbilt shows us why it’s never too late to be a beginner, and that there should be no shame associated with the word ‘dilettante.’ Now I’m off to learn how to play the trombone, speak Portuguese and bake soufflés"
— A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
"A wonderful and inspirational book. The only thing that will make you put it down is a burning desire to try something new. It's full of the sort of encouragement and wisdom that bridges the small, tricky gulf between enthusiasm and action. A book that will launch thousands of journeys that might not otherwise have happened and prove life-changing for many who take those first steps."
—Tristan Gooley, author of The Natural Navigator
'You don’t have to try all the activities that Tom Vanderbilt took on in his heroic, self-sacrificial effort to persuade us of the benefits of learning throughout life. After you read this invigorating book, you might want to take a nap. But then you’ll get up, refreshed, ready to learn a new skill. You’ll be ready to begin.'
—Carol Tavris, Ph.D., co-author of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)
‘Witty, well-researched, myth-busting and curiously of the moment. Vanderbilt tells a compelling tale. Eighty pages in, I joined a choir.'
—Robert Penn, author of It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
"It's impossible to pick up a book by Tom Vanderbilt without learning something. An engaging and fascinating mix of the personal and the general. I never thought I'd read a book that could persuade me to take up juggling, but this one did it."
"Vanderbilt.. composes lucid prose and explains concepts... with relative ease, and his thesis is practical and worthwhile... compelling... A solid beginner's guide to beginning."