Beginners

The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning

Published by Penguin Random House

“Tom 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. Beginners belongs with David Epstein’s Range on the list of books that have changed the way I understand my own limitations.”

— Malcolm Gladwell

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? 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, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five skills, choosing them for their difficulty to master and their lack of marketability–chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling. What he doesn’t expect is that the circuitous journey he takes while learning these skills will be even more satisfying than any knowledge he gains.

He soon finds himself having a rapturous experience singing R.E.M. in an amateur choir, losing games of chess to an eight-year old child, and avoiding scorpions at a surf camp in Costa Rica. Along the way, he explores the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner. Weaving comprehensive research and surprising insight gained from his experiences, Vanderbilt shows how anyone can get better at beginning again. And he shares how his new sense of curiosity opened him up to a profound happiness and a deeper connection to the people around him. Beginners is not a “how to” book as much as a “why to” book. It’s about how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.