On sale from Knopf in the U.S. on January 5th, and from Atlantic Books on January 7th in the U.K.
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.
From the tangled underpinnings of our food taste to our unsettling insecurity before unfamiliar works of art to the complex dynamics of our playlists and the pop charts, our preferences and opinions are constantly being shaped by countless forces. And in the digital age, a nonstop procession of “thumbs up” and “likes” and “stars” is helping dictate our choices. Taste has moved online—there are more ways than ever for us, and companies, to see what and how we are consuming. If you’ve ever wondered how Netflix recommends movies, how to spot a fake Yelp review, or why books often see a sudden decline in Amazon ratings after they win a major prize, Tom Vanderbilt has answers to these questions and many more that you’ve probably never thought to ask.
Would you be surprised that road rage can be good for society? Or that most crashes happen on sunny, dry days? That our minds can trick us into thinking the next lane is moving faster? Or that you can gauge a nation’s driving behavior by its levels of corruption? These are only a few of… Read more »
The Cold War was the war that never happened. Nonetheless, it spurred themost significant buildup of military contingency this country has ever known: from the bunkers of Greenbrier, West Virginia, to the “proving grounds” of Nevada, where entire cities were built only to be vaporized. The Cold War was waged on a territory that knew no boundaries but… Read more »