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The Polymath: Unlocking the Power of Human Versatility

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Every human is born with multifarious potential. Why, then, do parents, schools and employers insist that we restrict our many talents and interests; that we 'specialise' in just one?

We've been sold a myth, that to 'specialise' is the only way to pursue truth, identity, or even a livelihood. Yet specialisation is nothing but an outdated system that fosters ignorance, expl
ebook, 352 pages
Published January 4th 2019 by Wiley
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Nathan Gilliatt
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a challenging book, in multiple senses of the word. It's a dense read, full of references to individuals from all around the world and throughout recorded history. Sometimes a single paragraph will support a point with references to the implications of multiple philosophers and incorporating the ideas of another few polymaths. There is an amazing amount of material to lead the reader off into additional explorations.

It's also a personal challenge, making the case for polymathy in a speci
Pete Wung
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A few months ago, I started a mission to learn all about polymathy. One of the first things I did was to look up the term ‘polymath’, one of the first things that popped up in Google was the web site for this book: The Polymath by Waqa Ahmed. I approached it with a certain amount of cynicism, just because I am uneasy with this kind of serendipity. I read through the description, felt a bit better, then found it on Amazon, and read through the blurb on Amazon. I decided to buy it on a whim, partl ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn with this book. On one side, I think it was my own expectations of what I would find in it. I expected an in-depth analysis of the lives of polymaths and what to learn from them. The book does deliver on that point but in a too-shallow way for my taste. Again, this was probably my own expectation.

That said, the book is quite inconsistent. There are parts that read like an amateur reporter, sprinkled with wishful thinking and naivety. Other parts, while interesting, lack sufficient proof
Karthik Warrier
Nov 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The topic and content is extremely close to my heart. And the content is exhaustive and from diverse fields. Hence I can't give a rating lower than this.
However, the author has managed to make the book read like a dictionary. That too one with each word thrice.
João Pedro Lopes
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it

"Yet educational institutions have not progressed from their centuries-old role relating to the collation and distribution (transfer) of knowledge in order to teach how best to organise, understand and use it. Critical thinking is needed equally, if not more, today than in the past in order to discern what information is needed, when, to what extent and in what context."

This book would be easily a five-star book, unfortunately it's slightly repetitive and the ending tone of the book is naiv
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a marvelous wonderful book! I don't even know what to say about it except that I devoured it in a couple of days because I could just not put it down. Very insightful, well written and interesting. My only negative comment is that things that are written in languages other than English (Latin/French) were *horribly* misspelled and that made me question the quality of the book. ...more
Joanna Pieters
If you like your ideas wide-ranging and your characters taken from every time and civilisation, this book fulfils both requirements. The idea of polymathy - expertise in multiple areas - has been around for millenia. Waqas Ahmed has literally travelled the world to uncover stories of extraordinary people who have rejected the expecation to specialise, and instead have developed extraordinary skills and expertise in a vast range of fields.

One of the strengths its its refusal to stick to a Euro-c
Mar 29, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
NOT RECOMMENDED (except for a few)

As an aspiring polymath, I was really excited to read this book, but ended up disappointed. Although I'm inclined to agree with its espoused values and diagnosis of the current situation, there are numerous problems with it; it is bad.

-There are a LOT of typos and grammatical errors. The prose rambles. Words are often repeated within a short space. Did WILEY really publish this? Where were their editors? Why did they abandon their usual function of pruning and c
Helen Mary Labao Barrameda
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish there were ten stars on Goodreads to rate this well-researched, engaging and highly insightful book. The title was catchy enough but it did not prepare me for the mental journey it has taken me. It’s a book, it’s a field trip to history’s greatest minds, and it’s an eye opening discourse. It’s probably my most cerebral read for this year. And it’s one of those books that I would like my children to read and inherit from my book collection when they grow up. Waqas Ahmed presented a lot of ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Should’ve titled it “a very very long list of polymaths throughout history with an unfortunate attempt to convince you that you can do the same despite living in the year 2021 with your completely different personal circumstances <3”
Kane Clamage
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Ahmed has done an incredible service to all humanity in writing "The Polymath." While some may see this as work done by an interviewer; some, a great lecture from an academic; and others, as a work of personal insights from someone with a passion to better understand polymathia, the truth is - it's all of the above! He found the interconnectedness of his own life experiences and pursuits to write this book in a way that can appeal to every type of reader, and make an impact towards their ind ...more
Maia Losch Blank
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ensayo
El inmenso valor de este libro radica en la urgente necesidad de un cambio de paradigmas. El mundo especializado no ha conseguido elevar nuestro nivel de felicidad colectivo. La separación contra-natura de las distintas áreas de conocimiento puede que sean muy efectivas en algunos casos, e incluso necesarias, pero llevadas a un extremo no posibilitan un avance emocional ni holístico de un sistema en declive tanto a nivel moral como efectivo.

Si bien en algunos momentos me sentí un tanto apabulla
This book could've been titled "Everything you wanted to know about polymaths but were afraid to ask." It's certainly not a book for the general public. I was interested in reading the book as I would like to think that I've led my life following the polymath model. The author views polymaths as "humans of exceptional versatility, who excel in multiple, seemingly unrelated fields (more than two).

He identifies many historical and cultural figures as polymaths Including DaVinci, Benjamin Franklin,
J Brandon Gibson
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
[If you see this... I decided to finish up the last few chapters, to see what I can pull from this, and perhaps give this maybe a 3 stars if it woo's me at the end... ]

I will make this as brief as possible. I really wanted to like this book. I have been interested in, and researching the concept of the polymath now for a few years. I was very excited to find this book referenced on the website of another author I follow. If I was looking for a fascinating book that listed out hundreds of polymat
Lee Barry
Most people wouldn't care about recent maps or photographs of a Jovian moon, but polymaths would be on it immediately--and anything that it leads to such as poetry and literature, and so on. Rainy days for polymaths are typically beautiful days.

Polymaths are at the ready to apply and use metaphors. Most people can't (or won't) make remote connections, but polymaths naturally do because they have given themselves permission to make them. One of the core courses for being an artist would be polym
M. Sabina Lee
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I came upon this book on my library shelf as completely drawn to it's title and subject matter. Must admit it was very challenging read to get through to the end and I do feel the last chapter falls short of his strong argument for polymathy. Nevertheless, it had allowed me to widen my views and thoughts on many levels about the misaligned social constructs of our current education system and encouraged me to explore my perpetual curiosity as an asset, not impediment, and source of joy. ...more
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a good book and very interesting. I could not give it a 5/5 because it seemed to repeat a running theme throughout the book. However, it made me realise a lot about the impact of polymaths throughout the ages and the dearth fo them currently. I'd give it a 4.4/5.0 overall. It is easy to read and interesting. ...more
Sergio Huaman Kemper
A 4-star book in writing style that deserves the additional point for the incredibly inspiring message it promotes. To unfold yourself in your multidimensional essence in order to achieve change and happiness. Clearly the writer believes in his message, and its emotion permeates to you.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tremendously inspiring book to help understand our origins to motivate us into being what we are designed for. He highlights many things wrong with our societies and education systems. At the same time this book is an encyclopedic references of the many polymaths of history.
Norlinah Salamat
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think there’s a polymath in every one of us, be it the homemaker, the taxi driver, the office worker or the CEO of a multinational company. Given the opportunity to unleash our multifarious selves, we can lead more fulfilling lives.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting concept... That could be stated in two pages.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read.. Ahmed provides a framework to living a polymathic life. Truly focused on unlocking the most out of each and every one of us.
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
excited to read about polymath
Ali Sirri
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blinkist-2020
An eye-opening book!!
Totally opposite to today’s specialist approach.
Very interesting examples for successful people.
I recalled Mel Gibson’s film ”Bird on a Wire”.
Mirwais Wakil
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was a pure joy to read. I literally got a headache due to my inability to stop reading.
Niranjan Thakurdesai
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
TL;DR The book walks you through the history of polymathy, the evolution of specialization and how it became the norm in our contemporary society, common traits among polymaths, and conversations with living polymaths.

The first revelation for me was that specialization was not the norm historically. To quote the book, "In a world where specialization in all spheres of life is almost compulsory, it is difficult for us today to imagine that polymathy was considered normal, even natural. There are
Pramod Pant
What hyped up rubbish !
Doesn't know how to write.
Quotes from others are all over the place.
The kid has to grow up.
The only positive thing that I can say about the author is that he is sincere.

Book is lousy, unfortunately.
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"The book's focus on polymathy is pioneering" - The Lancet ...more
Andreea Paine
rated it liked it
May 10, 2020
Choi woongsik
rated it really liked it
Nov 10, 2020
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Waqās is considered a world authority on multi-disciplinary thinking. His work spans several fields including art, science and international affairs.

He is currently Artistic Director at The Khalili Collections – one of the world’s great art collections – and simul­taneously completed his postgradu­ate studies in Neuroscience at Kings College London, where he researched multi-disciplinary approach

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