Thursday, March 31, 2022

Range by David Epstein: Good News for Generalists


I get the best book recommendations from people who know me well. Since I've started my new journey toward an Ed.D in Educational Leadership, I am reading a disproportionate number of academic texts. I love fiction. I love a good story. Somehow I must find a way to satisfy that urge too.

Recently, a friend I've kept up with who is also in higher education recommended David Epstein's book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialize World. I was barely into the book before I wanted to write a letter to the author and started thinking who needed to read the book along with me. 

I am an unapologetic universalist. (Well, I do apologize a little.) It says a lot that I have an undergraduate degree in accounting but have taught English for more than 30 years (not counting the time I spent teaching Lamaze childbirth and aerobics and selling real estate.) Even now, knee deep in my dissertation process, I find myself pursuing all my other interests. I'm still going to concerts, listening to great music, and writing about it. I mentor a student teacher, three young moms, and a thirty-something single who lets me borrow her cool jackets. I still sew, particularly handwork. 

Epstein opens the book Range with a side-by-side comparison of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Woods was primed for his golf career practically from birth; Federer tried out lots of sports. Things worked out well for both.

The book is full of stories that confirm what I've suspected all along. The best decisions are made, the toughest problems are solved with a variety of minds working together. Austin Kleon's books (such as Steal Like a Genius) would be perfect companion reads to this book.

Epstein reassures me that quantitative research alone cannot, should not rule the world. Ask those NASA scientists with "In God We Trust; Everyone Else Must Show Data" on the wall--and the Space Shuttle disaster on their resumes. 

What I loved most about this book is the opportunity to talk further about it. There are so many implications for the classroom, for example. I look forward to lots of ripe conversations as soon as my book people indulge me and check it out for themselves.