Customer Review

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars anticlimactic?, 23 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything ... Fast (Paperback)
After reading the first three chapters of this book, I was certain this was going to be a five-star book. Mr Kaufman manages to explain the basic tenets of rapid skill acquisition clearly, convincingly, and yet concisely, and his plan for the rest of the book sounds solid: standing by the principle that practice trumps theoretical learning, the remaining chapters will be case-studies of rapid skill acquisition. Great idea!

Sadly, the case studies don't deliver on the built-up expectations: there's too much "what", and too little "how".

Take eg the chapter about computer programming: Mr Kaufman explains (and he doesn't do a bad job) such details as what loops and conditionals are, and what SQL queries look like, and how you wrap those with an object-relational mapper, and how he used sites like Stack Overflow and Hacker News (great choices, incidentally) to find lots of information in a very short time. That's all well if this was a book about programming. But it's not: what I would have hoped to read about at this point, is how, approaching the subject of programming as a novice, he managed to seek out two such high-quality resources - if you're completely new to something, how do you recognize quality? That is a relevant problem for "the first 20 hours" of anything, and something I could take into other areas than programming.

Similarly, in the same chapter we learn all kinds of details about Heroku and Sinatra and DataMapper and what not, when actually I don't care so much what software stack Mr Kaufman chose, but rather how I should go about choosing so quickly, in a domain that is all new to me? Mr Kaufman rightfully warns that one can easily get stuck reading Stack Overflow all day without making choices, but he doesn't explain how to avoid that trap - how much preparatory research is enough, and how much is too little? Did he set himself a time limit? What rules of thumb make him decide that it's ok to copy "git" commands without looking them up, while a "bundler" warning prompts him to read about that library (and spend a section on it)?

In the end, I come away well-impressed that anyone could learn so much about yoga and programming and the ukulele etc etc in so few hours, but I'm still not clear how I could become as fast.
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