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Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,944 ratings  ·  239 reviews
Software development happens in your head. Not in an editor, IDE, or design tool. You're well educated on how to work with software and hardware, but what about wetware--our own brains? Learning new skills and new technology is critical to your career, and it's all in your head.

In this book by Andy Hunt, you'll learn how our brains are wired, and how to take advantage of
Paperback, 251 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Pragmatic Bookshelf (first published August 15th 2008)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  3,944 ratings  ·  239 reviews

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Veselin Nikolov
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Turn yourself into a robot in five easy steps.

- Switch off your Phone, Skype, Email
- Zombie yourself by silencing the internal voice in your head
- Doodle, write notes and mind maps
- Buy a second monitor and code with vim on screen one
- Breathe

The book is amazing. It explains things that I do to get focus and solve puzzles since kindergarten.

It is also boring and kind of sad. It implies that you need to be a zombie robot to succeed and become an expert. I'd love to disagree but I'm afraid they mi
Jeanne Boyarsky
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
I borrowed a copy of “Pragmatic Thinking & Learning” by Andy Hunt and enjoyed the read. In addition to referencing ideas from Bert Bates and Linda Rising, there was a good mix of concepts and concrete techniques.

Favorite three concepts:
1) Dreyfus model – novice vs advanced beginner vs etc. And why it matters to us
2) Extended analogy between human brain and computer
3) Why certain models of learning work better than others

Favorite three suggested things to try:
1) Block out time to learn and fight
Rod Hilton
Andy Hunt's "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" is a programming book only in the most liberal definition of the phrase. Sure, it's geared toward programmers, but the fact of the matter is that this book would be useful to anyone.

The book essentially covers two topics. The first topic is how your brain works. This is interesting, to be sure, but the book really shines when it comes to the second topic: how to use your brain, knowing how it works.

Andy talks about very light cognitive science, and h
Jan 05, 2018 added it
Shelves: abandoned
Clearly a lot of people love this book. I wasn't one of them, but I don't think I'm the target audience. So this review is more of a comment to help people discern whether or not they're in the target audience.

"Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" is a book about how to learn and think better. The gimmick is that the "Pragmatic" series of books is about computer programming, and this book is written in the style of one of their programming books - although it's not exclusively written for programmer
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I just finished reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. The book is geared towards anyone who wants to learn and think better. It has plenty of specific details for software engineers.

The book does a lot of build up to get you to understand what it means to be an expert, what are the levels of skill and how the brain works for better and worse.

The best part of the book is the last few chapters. He puts the theory aside and gets to the low level practices along with some t
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who interested in self-improvement, geeks
Initially, I read The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master written by the same author and it was a treasure for me. I found conceptual thinking and down-to-earth approaches in one book which is rare. Therefore, I was lured by this book from the very beginning.

So, what about this one? Currently, I use 4 criteria in evaluating read book.

Level: 9
(a) The level of the author is high despite the fact that he is not neuroscientist or psychologist. Especially I like that the person with very
Jonathan Fretheim
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Despite the nauseatingly gimmicky subtitle, I gave this book a chance because of how many rave reviews and references I've seen. There were a lot of tips, tricks, perspectives, anecdotes, metaphors, etc., about thinking and learning that were worth being exposed to. Certainly some I'd seen before, but a lot of new ones, too. The chapter on the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition (a sequence of five discrete levels beginning with Novice and ending with Expert that can be applied to someone's "expe ...more
Apr 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
Totally disappointed, waste of time.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good book to read for all the workaholics specially for a software professionals but not restricted to only those.

All the nine chapter in the book are very informative and well written, my personal favorites are
1. Debug your mind
2. This is your brain &
3. Manage Focus.

I liked the concept of how Andy points out to SMART practices and also that portion where he writes about Lizard Logic. With lizard logic I was able to explain to myself of different behaviors I have seen at my work place and c
Nathan Glenn
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
This is definitely one of the best books I've ever read.
Andy takes research from cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral science and everything else you can think of to show you how to be the best person you can be.
This book is filled with interesting facts, and to-do lists that challenge the reader to take immediate action.
Random tidbits:
The notion that our brain cells can die but we can't create new ones is now known to be false. It turns out that you need to be happ
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book about how our brain works, how it learns, searches for solutions and answers. Moreover it shows many tips and tricks how to squeeze out from our brain as much as possible to increase our mental abilities. More about this book can be read in my blog post ...more
Ivan Ruski
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for the knowledge-workers.

I loved the final chapters on learning deliberately, gaining experience, managing attention and beyond expertise.

I’ve treated learning and reading like I am a computer and I can read/learn something now and use it after several months. It turns out this approach is not very effective because our brains are not designed for this.
Dec 06, 2009 rated it liked it
I have a lot to say about Hunt's ideas in this book, unfortunately I'm not inclined to go into all the theory, chipping away at it. But I don't want to avoid the theoretical arguments in his book altogether, just for the sake of preserving what's useful about his practical tips for improving memory and creative thinking skills.

Hunt correctly observes what is wrong with the programming discipline, and also understands, I think, why programmers are not encouraged to be experts, let alone competent
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning the meta-skills around thinking, learning, and focus.

A bunch of the material in here is stuff that I’ve already heard of and tried and/or actively practice. (That was validating.) There was some of practices in here that I hadn’t really heard of before — the Pragmatic Investment Plan in particular felt like a revelation. The book even had me hive Mind Maps another try, with good results.

Big takeaways for me: consider your skills along the D
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I like the tools described in it and using them, I like not only the description of R & L modes of our brains however practical examples how to use them and switch between.
During reading the book, I found out some bugs in me and will continue refactoring of the wetware to have them fixed in the nearest next versions :).
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure if the book is just a tad outdated, or if the target audience is mostly aimed at Americans. Most examples and practises are things I already knew or already implemented myself. ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book twice now and I'll probably read it again. Very good tactics for 'rewiring' your thinking. Especially good for engineers but I think others can enjoy it too. ...more
Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
This book would probably be more useful to a college student or recent grad.
Ilya Ivanov
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing

You know you've picked up the right book, when you just can't stop reading it at 3 AM.

Andy Hunt - the co-author of a well-known "Pragmatic Programmer" masterpiece, tries to debug human brain in order to understand patterns and failures of human behavior.

Core idea of this book in that your brain has two modes of operation:
Linear mode. Performs thinking: verbal, analytical, abstract, rational, logical, analytic.
Rich mode. Performs thinking: non-verbal, intuitive, concrete, non-rationa
Jacob Tjornholm
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Initally I was going to give this book a mediocre review. The computer hardware analogies annoyed the crap out me, and (I will just straight up admit this) I didn’t appreciate being lectured on how my mind works. Maybe everyone else’s, but Andy was talking to me personally, and that bothered me a great deal.

It turns out that I was wrong. This book is actually amazing. It is interesting on so many levels. First of all, I thought that I would hate it. This is interesting, given that I ended up lov
Rafael Bandeira
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: programmers, students, researchers, designers
Recommended reading for those constantly seeking for improvements in their day-to-day life, career and profession. Hunt goes right and deep in theories and studies about how the brain operates and how differently our creativity and logistic are and why having both working together is ought to bring betterment to one's learning, focusing and making.

From the several concepts brought to the table we have the Dreyfus Model for talent acquisition, and the R-mode and L-mode studies that go on the diff
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is one of the better books I have read recently. It is as if the author "Andy Hunt" wrote this book to inspire me personally. This was the perfect book to read around new years. It helped me re-gain my focus and passion about being in technology.

I don't want to get in to too many specifics about the book, since you can read the outline of the book online elsewhere, but generally speaking, the book helped me create a plan for 09, and suggests ways to help effectively execute my plan.

Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book and got a lot of value out of it. I thought it did a good job of distilling decades of research into easy-to-understand and salient ideas that can be put to use immediately. I really appreciated how the author heavily referenced his research material so that you can easily dive deeper into a particular subject if you want to. The part that made this book really great, for me, was all of the practical ideas that you can start right trying away. I've already begun doing some of ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The authors give the reader a great framework for thinking outside the box and learning outside the classroom. They discuss tools to help with retention like mind-maps and Mnemosyne, tools to help comprehension like mind-maps, tools to help with retrospect such as keeping a personal journal, and tools to help with archival and retrieval like a personal wiki.

This was a fantastic book and a great read. Although it talks some about programmers and their habits (after all the author is one), its con
Jason Kittredge
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoy the pragmatic programming series very much, and found that this book was pretty good. I've read a lot of other self-help "how to think better" types of books (e.g. Mind Hacks), and think that this book is on par with most of the others that I've read.

The best parts of the book are the practical discussions at the end. The review of the Dreyfus model of expertise is interesting, but not really what I was looking to get out of the book. However, the more pragmatic suggestions toward the e
John Schneider
Although this work is written mostly for programmers and other knowledge workers, it contains a wealth of knowledge and practices that will enable even the most learned to do more. Written in a clear and compelling style, "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" succeeds at illustrating how to think better and lear better. I really wish that I had read this book before the completion of my formal education because I am certain that I would have learned far more with the insights this work contains. Imp ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: management
This is a very interesting book on how to understand and rewire ones brain...

I came away with a number of valuable insights, largely around the Dreyfus Model of Skills (Shu Ha Ri from the martial arts world) but also extending into Right/Left brain, how to learn, & how to focus.

I saw immediate areas, largely work related, where my 'mental models' were incorrect and deficient and were preventing me from communicating with and motivating/influencing those I work with.

This is a book that will be re
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone (Everyone should be learning more)
This is an awesome collection of information about the way our mind works and how to get the most from it. Much of the information was not new to me. It even mentioned many things that I do personally. The real value came from:
Having all this material collected into one location with a decent Bibliography to learn more.
A single text that I can share with others so that we are all on the same page so to speak.

I just wish I could keep my hands on my copy of the book for more than a few days so tha
Torben Rasmussen
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wanted
Highly recommended. I truly enjoyed this book.
Andy Hunt have managed to strike an excellent balance between overview and introduction while providing sufficient concrete advice on how to realize it to be able to get started on 'refactoring your wetware'.
While there wasn't many new and novel ideas, it is a great composition of a lot of different techniques and approaches.
The book is written for people working with IT, but most parts can surely be appreciated by people working in other industri
David Mitchell
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is probably one of the best books I've read on learning and memory. It covers a broad spectrum of topics from how to lear and how our brains function to how to read and remember things. Describing and compiling in one concise location topics I've learned and seen in a number of other books.

By far one of the best books I've read and I keep going back to it to increase my understanding of specific topics and to refresh my memory of certain techniques.
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A question regarding R-mode drawing exercise 2 17 Jun 01, 2014 03:48AM  

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see also Andrew Hunt

Andy Hunt is a programmer turned consultant, author and publisher.
He co-authored the best-selling book "The Pragmatic Programmer",
was one of the 17 founders of the Agile Alliance, and co-founded
the Pragmatic Bookshelf, publishing award-winning and critically
acclaimed books for software developers.

Andy started writing software professionally in early 80's across
diverse industri

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