January 1, 2014 Uncategorized 20

smarterTitle: Smarter
Author: Dan Hurley
Source: from publisher for review
Fun Fact: After weaning, the only food proved to enhance cognition is coffee.
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: The author clearly did his research and presents his findings in an engaging, fun fact filled way.

Can we make ourselves smarter? Dan Hurley tries to answer that question by first interviewing many intelligence researchers and then trying the most promising strategies himself. This involves everything from exercising to learning the renaissance lute to wearing a nicotine patch. The results include some actionable advice and lots of fun stories.

As a scientist, I think we need more people like Dan Hurley – one for every subject! The first half of this book contained the same information as a review article for the field of intelligence research. It read like a story. The research was explained clearly and simply for a general audience. Areas where scientists disagree or are uncertain were clearly distinguished from known facts. And in a brilliant move that gave this section a narrative, the research is explained as the author shares his experiences talking to researchers. Conversations, first-hand views of research labs, and witty asides keep this potentially dry section moving right along.

The second half of the book describes the author application of what he learned to his own life. This included adding a lot of things to his daily routine, so it was both hectic and humorous. I appreciated that the author made it clear his results were unique to him. No conclusions were drawn from his sample size of one. It did, however, make for a good story. It also gave the author more room to include his experiences with different brain-training techniques. I would love to see more fields of research summarized in such an accessible way. Highly recommended for anyone who likes books with lots of fun facts, who appreciates accurate science, or who has wondered if we can learn to be smarter.



20 Responses to “Smarter”

  1. Laurie C

    This sounds fun, something like A.J. Jacobs’ books, maybe. It’s also a subject I’m interested in, especially the coffee-is-good-for-you part!

    • DoingDewey

      It reminded me of what I’ve heard about A.J. Jacobs, but without having read anything of his yet, I was hesitant to compare. Based on reviews I’ve read, I would guess that while this book was good, it probably wasn’t as funny.

      I was very excited about the coffee is good for you thing. Usually I get myself coffee on rare occasions as a treat when I’m working hard, but perhaps I should be having some every day 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, yeah, my goodreads TBR list is so long, sometimes I’m not sure why I bother. I think this year, I’m going to try to make more of an effort to actually pick books off the list instead of just reading review books and books I randomly pick up at the library 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It was a very interesting read, especially if you like non-fiction with lots of fun facts. I definitely have the same problem with finding non-fiction recommendations. Although I can always just go to the library and pick something up, I often prefer to read something I’ve heard about if I can 🙂

  2. Angie

    Lately I feel like I am … well losing my smarts. LOL… I don’t know how else to put it. I am not really learning anything new.. I am getting older. Sometimes I am having a conversation with intelligent people and I sit there stunned not knowing what to say. I just don’t have a brain that retains facts. I watch the news… yet I just can’t remember that politician’s name. It can be awful. I wish Luminosity website was free… I would totally use it to keep my brain a little smarter.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m so really bad retaining facts too! I’m working very hard at doing so for grad school, since it’s generally expected that we be able to back up ideas by referring to results from research papers for which we know the first author’s name and the publication date. But even in my fun reading, I love to read books with interesting facts and I wish I remembered more of them. I would also be all over luminosity if it were free 🙂

  3. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    This sounds good! It reminds me of Moonwalking With Einstein, which was an amazing book about a regular guy who wants to know if you really can teach yourself to remember things and decides to compete in the world memory championship.

    • DoingDewey

      Moonwalking With Einstein sounds like one I’d enjoy a lot too 🙂 I’m kind of a science geek, so when people manage to write an interesting and accessible (but accurate!) science book, I’m all over that.

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