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Wait, What?: And Life's Other Essential Questions

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,036 ratings  ·  396 reviews
New York Times Bestseller

What, What? is a welcomeand joyfulreminder that true wisdom comes from asking the right questions. Should you read this book? Absolutely.

 Clayton Christensen, bestselling author of How Will You Measure Your Life?

Based on the wildly popular commencement address, the art of asking (and answering) good questions by the Dean of Harvard Universitys
...more
ebook, 144 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by HarperOne
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Patreesha 'Wait, What?' is available at the Laurel County Public Library in London, KY, near you, I believe. I'm in the middle of reading the copy I borrowed…more'Wait, What?' is available at the Laurel County Public Library in London, KY, near you, I believe. I'm in the middle of reading the copy I borrowed from our local library. Got to love libraries!!(less)

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 ·  3,036 ratings  ·  396 reviews


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Gruia Novac
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it
the book has the right intention , sends the right message, but the virtues of the writer are slim.
95% redundant, unless you are a simpleton ) here is the TLDR

Wait, what? is at the root of all understanding.
I wonder . . . ? is at the heart of all curiosity.
Couldnt we at least . . . ? is the beginning of all progress.
How can I help? is at the base of a3ll good relationships.
And What truly matters? helps get you to the heart of life.
if you dont know what to do, just ask !
...more
Erin
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
Nothing earth shattering to be found, quite straightforward and personal to the author. Publishing companies certainly seem to feel that we all need these "pearls of wisdom." Whatever! It was a quick read!
Lubinka D.
Sometimes even the most obvious questions, when actually asked, offer marvelous revelations into the wonders of our mundane, at times boring lives. Exceptionally enjoyable book, heartfelt and insightful.
John
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brevity is beautiful. You can easily read this book in one sitting but the lessons should endure. The 5 essential questions posed by the author are very basic, but the rationale and personal histories behind each lesson are invaluable. This book gets very personal and shares intimate details; however, the focus is on articulating and sharing practical life lessons. A few reviewers have marked this book lower because the key takeaways are so brief and obvious. But for those of us who have ...more
Min
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick read, peppered with touching anecdotes about family. Key takeaways (mostly paraphrased quotes):

Wait, what? is at the root of all understanding.
I wonder... ? is at the heart of all curiosity.
Couldnt we at least... ? is the beginning of all progress.
How can I help? is at the base of all good relationships.
What truly matters? helps get you to the heart of life.
If you don't know what to do, just ask.

"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?"
The "even so" at the end of the
...more
Terri
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read "Wait, What?" by James E. Ryan as part of my research on the "second act." James E. Ryan is the dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. The book originated as a graduation speech Ryan delivered for Harvard School of Education students. I listened to the speech first and found it to contain some good advice and information I might use in the class I'm thinking about leading, so I ordered the book. Unfortunately, much of the book is word-for-word from the speech. Ryan ...more
Anna
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The graduation speaker at MIT's hooding this year was just average to me so I was really excited to be given this book. This is just the kind of graduation speech I love. Ryan writes honestly from him heart and his life. While none of the takeaways are particularly brand new, it's the context and persuasiveness with which Ryan talks about the five essential questions that made me reevaluate how well and how often I really ask them. I especially loved his dedication to his friend, who embodied ...more
Scott McD
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A good read, well worth your time. As a crisis worker, the author has inspired me to ask more questions of my patients, particularly wait, what? As he says, it is better to ask the right questions, than to try and have the right answers. If we all tried to improve our communication skills, and practice kindness, what a better world it would be.
Kimberly
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful human, humor, and humanity
Travel Writing
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wait, what? is at the root of all understanding.
I wonder . . . ? is at the heart of all curiosity.
Couldnt we at least . . . ? is the beginning of all progress.
How can I help? is at the base of a3ll good relationships.
And What truly matters? helps get you to the heart of life.
...if you dont know what to do, just ask !

And now, you have basically read the book. Seriously, that's it.

If you want to read the little stories that support or lead into these 6 sentences, then read the whole book. I read
...more
Cameron
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Ok, quick easy read. Tells stories about why asking questions and getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Synopsis, ask questions get better results, lets you learn more, and fosters deeper relationships.
Hannah
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: x, non-fiction
A message I can get behind, prose I cannot. I felt like half this book didn't need to be there, and the bits about the author were not as interesting and in no way enlightening (for me, at least). It might seem obvious that asking questions is the best way to learn but a lot of people don't question anything they are told so I still think there is value in saying it. Unfortunately I just didn't find this book interesting beyond that.
Bob Varettoni
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Listened to this during a long drive through New Jersey on a Friday night, and thought, Eh... So maybe you can blame location or the darkness, but I didnt find this as inspirational as Admiral McRavens Make Your Bed or Jonathan Fields How to Live a Good Life or, hell, even James Comeys A Higher Loyalty. I would have preferred the shorter, speech-as-delivered version of this book especially if the original didnt include the graphic childbirth stories. I get the premise about the questions, I ...more
May Ling
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short book. Good questions to consider. More impressive he made a book out of 5 questions. Worth a read and short. Needed it to make my annual reading goal.
dylan fogarty
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
the most successful people arent the ones with all of the answers, but rather the ones with the good questions ...more
Becky
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a sucker for inspirational, self-help books, especially those with a practical approach. This one hit nicely in that sweet spot between helpful and entertaining. This started as a graduation speech the author made at the Harvard School of Education. As so often happens, the video went viral and publishers came calling. They convinced him to expand his speech into a book and he did a good job with fairly thin material.

The strength of the book was in the author's personal experiences. I
...more
Bea Bezmalinovic
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a print version of a graduation speech that James Ryan, Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education. In it, he explains that he has a penchant for asking questions, one that dates back to his youth.

He identifies 5 important questions:

wait, what?
I wonder...?
Couldn't we at least?
How can I help?
What Truly Matters?

I confess that I did not buy this book. It was a freebie that was handed out at a conference. The book is a quick read. I like the questions and the way that Ryan
...more
Greg
Loved this short book! It's an expansion of a speech Ryan gave at a commencement ceremony. He uses events from his life and other stories to expand on 5 crucial questions (and a bonus question) that everyone should ask themselves from time to time. As one who helps others figure out how to hold difficult questions, negotiate competitively, and generally communicate more effectively, I think the questions he highlighted could help everyone lead a more fruitful life. They would certainly help us ...more
Lindsay Nixon
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is definitely a book Ill repeat a few times. It feels like a long graduation speech (and thats fair to say since it came out of one) or a great lead at an AA or Al-Anon speaker meeting...

You learn in the book that his mother was a recovered alcoholic (shes deceased, this is all a footnote in the book for context) so Im sure he was influenced...

Id say this memoir is very much his personal share of experience, strength and hope... aaaand 1 of the essential 5 questions he suggestions you
...more
Jan
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This gem of a book made me laugh out loud and deeply weep as well. It is very short: I read it in one sitting, between bathroom breaks: I did not rise out of my chair from start to finish. But it is packed with stories and impact. Light-hearted and simultaneously deeply touching, it deserves my best compliment, which is this: Who deserves this book as a gift? I plan to purchase my own copy (this one's from the library) and keep it on my shelf of treasured books. Many thanks to Lisa for this ...more
John
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
About what you would expect from the self-help mode. Nothing really profound, but the author's personal story is heart-warming (he was adopted).

Note: I listened to this on Audible (former deal of the day). Ryan surprisingly is not a very dynamic reader. Speed it up to at least 1.75 to make it tolerable.

Note: I have articles and speeches by the author (he is the new President of my Alma Mater). He recycles A LOT.
Lada
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The first few chapters of this short book were instructive on asking questions more often and how. But the last bit got into the meaning of life and was rather proscriptive. It is not clear that one should evaluate how to live one's life based on how one will evaluate it on one's deathbed (or how one will be written up in an obituary). There is a lot of living to be done before that, and I should think that figuring out how to do that is more relevant.
Autumn
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even at 144 pages, it might be longer than it needs to be, but this little book is still worth the time put into reading it. My biggest takeaway was the question How Can I Help? It is much more effective than, Do You Need Help? or Can I Help You? How? negates the Yes/No response that most people will give even if they do need help. Try it--I already have!
Kian
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love books that encourage bridge building. This book does just that. The encouragement to engage in civil and polite conversations is so welcome and needed.

"Questions are like keys. The right question, asked at the right time, will open a door to something you don't yet know, something you haven't yet realized, or something you haven't even considered--about others or yourself."

"Even if a better understanding of an idea or perspective doesn't change your mind, it is likely to make you
...more
Laura
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
James Ryan was Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education when he delivered the commencement address that is the basis for this short book. He's now the incoming President of the University of Virginia, one of my alma maters, which is why I picked up the book. Ryan argues that asking the right questions is probably more important than having the right answers and he suggests 5 that are important: Wait, what?; I wonder? Couldnt we at least?; How can I help?; and What truly matters? His ...more
Samarth Gupta
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this as an audiobook over the course of two runs because I remembered Dean Ryan's commencement speech and the audiobook was readily available on OverDrive. The premise of the book is simple, as are Ryan's essential questions, but both are also intimate and encompassing. Ryan gives deeply personal stories and approaches the book with a sense of humility. This is a great, very fast read for a mental reset and I enjoyed it.

"Inquiry, in other words, should always precede advocacy."
Jamie (Books and Ladders)
I probably shouldn't have listened to this at work because it made me cry, but I loved every minute of this. It examines life and what is most important in yours while giving good advice but not pushing you in any direction. I'll have a full review up on Books and Ladders!
Kari
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this quick read by the very interesting and inspirational Jim Ryan. Practical and touching. The five essential questions and the bonus question are magical in their simplicity and profundity.
Emorgan05
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This was interesting. It's an expansion on his commencement address, about the essential questions to ask as we move through life. I liked his examples, and he had me thinking of my own.
Houssem Mallem
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
This book is quite different from the Self help books i read before, The author talks about how asking five questions which are packed with bunch of interesting stories can not only deepen your understanding and connection to others but yourself included.
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James E. Ryan is the eleventh dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before joining Harvard, he was the Matheson & Morgenthau Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia Law School, where he founded the schools Program in Law and Public Service. A former clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as a former rugby player, he has argued before the United States ...more

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
53 likes · 17 comments
“Asking good questions is hard because it requires you to see past the easy answers and to focus instead on the difficult, the tricky, the mysterious, the awkward, and sometimes the painful.” 2 likes
“Wait, what?” is at the root of all understanding.         “I wonder . . . ?” is at the heart of all curiosity.         “Couldn’t we at least . . . ?” is the beginning of all progress.         “How can I help?” is at the base of all good relationships.         And “What truly matters?” helps get you to the heart of life. If” 2 likes
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