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Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  699 ratings  ·  93 reviews
For centuries, experts have argued that learning was about memorizing information: You're supposed to study facts, dates, and details; burn them into your memory; and then apply that knowledge at opportune times. But this approach to learning isn’t nearly enough for the world that we live in today, and in Learn Better journalist and education researcher Ulrich Boser demons ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Rodale Books
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me be honest: I’m a biased reviewer. In fact, I wrote this book. But GoodReads is giving me the chance to say a few words, and other people whose opinions that I trust have been saying good things about the book. Publisher's Weekly called Learn Better "engaging" and "thought-provoking,” while author Walter Isaacson said the book was "alternately humorous, surprising, and profound.”

My goals with the book were pretty simple, and I aimed to translate the new science of learning, to make it more
Manuel Antão
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Professor of Something: "Learn Better" by Ulrich Boser

“The act of writing is a good example of metacognition because when we think about composing sentences and paragraphs, we’re often asking ourselves crucial metacognitive questions: Who will be reading this? Will they understand me? What things do I need to explain? This is why writing is often such an effective way to organize one’s thoughts. It forces us to evaluate our arguments
Matt Root
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
There's good content here. But it's one of those 'popular science' books that's about 90% anecdotes. Some people learn well from this way of writing, but I find it tiresome.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty good - I think it was longer than it needed to be, but the examples did a good job of illustrating the benefits of putting into action the methods described within each chapter. So the ways we learn better are:
value - see the value in what you're learning. If your disengaged out of principle, it's unlikely you'll learn much in your activity. If you're not interested, you're telling your brain not to learn.
target - know what it is you want to learn and target your learning goals every sess
It was okay. Some useful content but not well written and in desperate need of a better editor. Frequent typos, absent or poorly placed words hampered meaning and discredited the author's claims of expertise. Could have easily been summarized in one well-written blog post rather than filling a whole book.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
The biggest issue I had with the book is that it never seemed to know if it was geared at school learning (students, teachers, parents, etc) or adult learning (learning new skills, information, etc). There would be long passages about adult learning (what I'm interested in) that would end in 'and this is how it applies to a chemistry test.' Some of the examples were condescending (I bet you don't know the capital of Australia! Or how a toilet works!) and while the little pop quizzes illustrated ...more
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Learning is a skill. You can get better at it. Boser can help you discover how.

This is a readable, well-paced, organized introduction to the scientific literature on learning. Occasionally a bit heavy on anecdote (much like Malcolm Gladwell), but overall quite informative. It focuses mostly on the big picture, explaining in a general sense how learning occurs and how to structure your approach to learning in a global sense. Some specific practices are recommended, such as spaced repetition and
Ziyad Khesbak
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Ultimately, it is lacking in writing quality and meanders with its stories, following formulaic non-fiction format of "This person knows ____. He is a ___ at ___ University and studies ____. Once upon a time, he was ____ and wondered ____, which led him to study ____ and discover ____." Over and over.

Regardless, Boser provides a narrative format to learning research better served in a well-structured text such as "The ABCs of Learning" which I absolutely loved and does a more robust job of inte
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teach-at-home
I enjoyed reading this. There's some very valuable information and examples on better learning techniques. Some are very obvious but...

I recommend!!
Tiffany Taylor attaway
I will caveat this by saying I am probably the wrong audience for this book, since I read a lot of this type of book, and I studied cognitive psychology as part of my grad school curriculum. But I hated this book. It uses/overused the most trite practices of pop science books in a way that will annoy anyone with any knowledge of the subject.

He repackages established learning theories by giving anecdotes from contemporary researchers instead of referencing the more established terminology. If thi
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is full of good information. Unfortunately, the writing is pretty awful. Boser jumps around between facts and anecdotes without considering his reader; the lack of flow is distracting and has the unfortunate effect of being jerked around on an old wooden roller coaster. For a book about learning, there were also a surprising number of instances where his points were either unclear or misleading. If you are a learner, parent or teacher interested in how to apply the findings in this boo ...more
Nathan Powell
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book takes a very well-rounded approach to learning how to learn. Most others in this space focus on one particular set of scientific research to prove their point and miss the broader picture of how to learn effectively.

Although there are six chapters, each focusing on a different phase of the learning process, my takeaways can be summed up in three key points:

1. Motivation(we need deeply personal reasons for why we are studying our topic)
2. Relation(relate ideas to other ideas to think de
Mars Cheung
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Learning material from a vast assortment of various subjects (languages, history, politics, science) ranging from the obscure to the controversial in order to be able to understand and engage in conversation has been a great interest of mine. Being able not only to take in but assimilate stores of information and draw inferences is a skill that anyone could spend more time honing.

I enjoyed the book for some perspectives it offered on how 'learning' occurs and what are some tools/strategies/metho
Bud Winn
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting read. Good examples and some vignettes. Framework looks promising - will play around with it.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first time I ignored the warning of reviewers about a book and got it anyway because it happened to be the Amazon Editor's Pick for Best Science Book of the Year. Well, it's actually kinda mediocre, especially compared to such powerhouses as Magness & Stulberg's Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, Benedict Carey's How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens, Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code: Gre ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book is supposed to spotlight some of the latest findings in how people learn and the most effective strategies for learning, but much of it is old hat. For instance, metacognition (“thinking about thinking”) is at least a twenty year-old idea; using flashcards and self-quizzing to learn words or concepts was a strategy widely used by high school and college kids in the 80s; the finding that people learn best in environments free of distractions or that building knowledge happens best throug ...more
Shubham Basera
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
Call it the “stuff” approach to education. We think there’s “stuff” to be learned—a fact, some procedures, a formula or two—and we want to jam that stuff into our brain’s storage bins and drawers like an old pair of socks.

This book is about learning the methods of learning!

There are six chapters on six steps of learning in this book on Value ,Target, Develop, Extend, Relate and Rethink. And an epilogue and a toolkit. Toolkit has strategies based on the method of this book for learners, for paren
Anthony Amore
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In "Learn Better," Ulrich Boser has written one of those books that isn't just remarkably well-written and sourced (though it is), but is also a must-read for educators, public policy leaders, administrators, and anyone interested in how we learn. The writing is accessible--entertaining, even--and hard to put down. I think this book will ultimately be that rare work that is commonly known by name in college classrooms and school departments around the country.
Jordan Brown
Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
At first I thought that this book was pretty good. Then, I realized that the entire book was mainly going to be summaries of studies over and over. I liked when the author used his own stories as examples. What really got me, though, was the massive--and I mean massive--number of errors in the book. Missing words galore. It was almost comical. How did it go to press in this condition??

I'd recommend this book if you're new to the topic.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
A book about how we learn. It had some memorable points but a lot of fluff too. I don't really care about the personalities or the appearance of all the people who the author interviewed. This book made me want to spend more time learning in a specialized (as opposed to generalized) way. I should read by topic/theme, rather than reading whatever book piques my interest.
David Pulliam
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
It is a wordy book, some of the claims are backed up only by anecdotal evidence (personal stories, etc.) and I feel like a lot of it was taken from How Learning Works and How we Learn. It is not nearly as well written. You can get the same info and ideas in a shorter and better written book with those other 2 books. Skip this one.
Dharma Agastia
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I admit I did get some useful information out of this book, but then, it's just another of those popular science books that attempts to justify its "science-y" claims with anecdotes. Skip the anecdotes and distill the important takeaways (at least, the ones you think are), and you're good to go.
Jeff Walker
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: thinking
Some useful information, and a good deal of solid motivation to learn smarter. But most of this book is stories and anecdotes from the author’s own life and many, many interviews. There is a short appendix that lays out the key points over a few pages. Feel like this is all I really needed to read.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Pros: some useful tips on high-value learning methods that can be implemented immediately to improve learning habits
Cons: interviews and anecdotes throughout the book often seemed only tangentially related to the point argued
Jaron Dunford
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-business
6 forms of learning:
• Value – It’s impossible to learn if we don’t want to learn, and to gain expertise, we have to see skills and knowledge as valuable. What’s more, we have to create meaning. Learning is a matter of making sense of something.
• Target – In the early part of gaining mastery, focus is key. We need to figure out exactly what we want to learn and set goals and targets.
• Develop – Some forms of practice make people more perfect than others. In this stage of learning, people need to
Jun 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Typos start in the introduction and continue throughout book.
Chen-Yu Yang
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
It's a good book about learning, but I think knowing the high level principles are more than enough so I skimmed through most of the pages...
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Not all of the ideas were presented as clear as could be. Also, he connected a lot of different concepts without a clear connection.
Daniel Connolly
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Near the end of Ulrich Boser's book "Learn Better," he quotes a cognitive scientist: "If education were in the same realm as medicine, we would still be doing bloodletting with leeches."

This quote illustrates a central point of "Learn Better": that most people have never learned to learn, and most teachers have not learned how to teach.

"As an example, consider the word 'studying,'" Boser writes.

"It's a remarkably vague expression. Does studying mean rereading a textbook? Doing sample problems?
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Learning Better,” by Ulrich Boser, forces us all to think about learning in new and creative ways. He is humble with his own personal story of learning; sharing how learning was a struggle for him, how he thought of himself as slow. He reminds us how parents who just won’t give up on their children, and teachers who take time to care, can make an enormous difference in our lives. His concept of thinking about thinking is just one of the many ways he challenges us to learn better and challenges ...more
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