Virtual Event: Tom Vanderbilt
The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning
in conversation with FAITH SALIE
January 12, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes TOM VANDERBILT—author of the bestselling books Traffic and You May Also Like—for a discussion of his latest book, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning. He will be joined in conversation by Emmy Award–winning writer, actress, and comedian FAITH SALIE.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $3 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Beginners on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to fail? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of being a beginner? Or is it simply a fact that you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Inspired by his young daughter's insatiable need to know how to do almost everything, and stymied by his own rut of mid-career competence, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five main skills (and picks up a few more along the way), choosing them for their difficulty to master and their distinct lack of career marketability—chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling.
What he doesn't expect is finding himself having rapturous experiences singing Spice Girls songs in an amateur choir, losing games of chess to eight-year-olds, and dodging scorpions at a surf camp in Costa Rica. Along the way, he interviews dozens of experts to explore the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner. Weaving comprehensive research and surprising insight gained from his year of learning dangerously, Vanderbilt shows how anyone can begin again—and, more important, why they should take those first awkward steps. Ultimately, he shares how a refreshed sense of curiosity opened him up to a profound happiness and a deeper connection to the people around him—and how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.
Praise for Beginners
“Tom Vanderbilt elegantly and persuasively tackles one of the most pernicious of the lies we tells ourselves—that the pleasures of learning are reserved for the young. Beginners belongs with David Epstein's Range on the list of books that have changed the way I understand my own limitations." —Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of Outliers
“Beginners is ultimately about more than learning. It’s about the possibilities that reside in all of us.” —Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human
“Tom Vanderbilt’s book explores how to learn completely new skills, how to change our world—even after we’re supposed to be done with schooling. This is a book about how to become a beginner again, and it makes you want to plunge in with both feet.” —Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
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