The Art of Learning

I almost stopped reading this book after the first 30 pages.

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance is by Josh Waitzkin. My edition of the book had a different cover and tagline than the image above. Instead of “An Inner Journey To Optimal Performance” it read “A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence“. It also had no photos of the author. In a previous book review, we discussed judging a book by its cover. The cover above is clearly that of an autobiography. Mine implied a performance manual. It took me 30 pages to figure it out.

But I kept reading the book. It is a good story and very well written. The author had some tips on learning in competitive environments (chess and martial arts), but it was mostly an autobiography. If you are interested in chess, martial arts, or parenting a kid involved in competitive endeavors, this book will be valuable.

If you do read this book and come across a valuable idea, take notes as you go, because the learning tips are buried in the story. Maybe this has been fixed in other editions, but mine had no index in the back. Why you would put out a nearly 300-page book full of names, dates, places, and concepts without an index is baffling. I wanted to share one cool idea from the book, but I couldn’t find it when I went back to look for it.


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  1. Ever since I started grad school I’ve gotten into the habit of actually writing in books. And folding corners of books. It feels a little sacrilegious but when it comes time to discuss the book, it’s helpful. That an my uncanny ability to remember that something was, for example, about a third of the way through the book, on a left page towards the bottom. Not quite “photographic” memory, but good enough.

  2. I like your method for reference books that you plan on keeping. My old San Diego hiking book had lots of notes added. Cookbooks would also benefit with additional notes. Library books, not so much. 😉

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