Sunday, August 17, 2014

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens, by Benedict Carey

Random House, ISBN 9780812993882, September 2014

In this book, Benedict Carey (no relation, as far as I know) takes a look at our surprisingly haphazard and incomplete understanding of how we learn.

We think we know how to learn. Be organized, be disciplined, focus, concentrate, keep plugging away. Do your reading and studying for academic subjects, and practice, practice, practice for physical skills, be it playing basketball or playing piano.

Yet we all know people who barely seem to study at all, who hardly seem organized about it, yet who ace their courses, or pick up new skills, apparently without breaking a sweat. What's going on?

Our brains are a good deal more complex and interesting than we usually assume, and didn't evolve to learn in organized, concentrated big chunks of time devoted to a single subject or skill. Carey, starting in part with his own stressful experience in high school with mediocre results, compared to his greater success with tougher subjects when he did what seemed like goofing off in college, explores our still-incomplete understanding of the science of how we learn. His interest isn't abstract; he wants to know what we can do to make learning easier, faster, more effective--and more fun.

Carey takes us through the often slow and frequently misdirected progress in learning how our brains learn, interleaving practical suggestions for applying this growing understanding to help us absorb new knowledge faster, more permanently, more accessibly, and with less stress.


I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.

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