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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  11,726 ratings  ·  1,357 reviews
What's the most effective path to success in any domain? It's not what you think.

Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you'll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 28th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  11,726 ratings  ·  1,357 reviews

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May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Disclosure: I won this pre-release copy in a drawing from the publisher.

The book wasn't badly written, but for me it was something of a slog. I've enjoyed similar books in this genre more, the sort of pop-psychology-self-help mashup including books like "Willpower" (Baumeister/Tierney), "The Upside of Down" (McArdle), "The Power of Habit" (Duhigg), among others. There was nothing distracting in the style of "Range" that failed to work for me. But the presentation often left me wanting more,
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.”

An incredibly slow read for me but I enjoyed it a lot and felt like I was on information overload after finishing each chapter. Who knew that so many case studies and anecdotes could support having breadth vs. depth of knowledge? The author of course nods to the fact that it’s important to have both kinds of people (generalists and specialists), but his argument is against the prevalent thinking that we should pick an
Randall Wallace
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’ve staked my entire adult life on following the generalist’s path instead of the specialist’s, so I hoped this book would answer my basic questions: What about the role Neuroplasticity plays with keeping the following people analytically extra-sharp: The Polymath, the Multi-Instrumentalist, and those like Noam Chomsky, composer Elliot Carter, Aristotle, Leonard da Vinci, or Bertrand Russell all deeply learned in multiple fields (range), yet known for changing how we understand, hear, or see ...more
Michael Perkins
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example.


This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book....

James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New Zealand

Flynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has
Kobe Bryant
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-ideas
This book looks at how an emphasis on specialization can actually hamper our ability to really excel at something. It aligns with what I try to do when I am coaching, in my stories, and what we’re doing with Mamba Sports Academy—create all-around athletes who can think critically and make assessments in real time to enhance their play rather than rely only on a narrow set of skills.
Cindy Rollins
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
As a believer in Charlotte Mason's generous feast, I knew the minute I heard about this book that I had to read it. It did start slow but this book snowballed itself through my mind gathering momentum during a long, lonely car trip. After finishing the audio I immediately bought the Kindle version because I plan to use much of this information in a talk I have already done a few times. This book illustrates so well how important a wide and generous feast is. Beating out Atomic Habits, another ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a useful mythbuster--grit, 10,000 hours, deliberate practice, tiger moms--this book says forget all of that (*sort of). Try lots of things, read broadly, and fail lots of times. I agree with this formula for success. Specialization is boring.

*I think there is something to being obsessive once you are in the right track. Once you figure out the project or sport, you need to focus. This doesn't go against the thesis of the book, but he wasn't explicit about it
David Epstein
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Do I think it's a five-star book? It's very hard for me to say, as I wrote the thing. By the time I'm done working on a book, I have such a strong insider view of the project that it's difficult to be objective. I will say this: I worked extremely hard on it, and as a writer, researcher, and reader, I found it to be much more interesting than my first book. Most readers enjoyed that first book--at least according to Goodreads ratings--so I hope most reader will (as I have) enjoy this one even ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
After encountering the 10000 hours theory (Gladwell), the grit theory (Duckworth), and the Tiger Mom theory (Chua), it seemed obvious to many that we should specialize as much as possible and as early as possible. Because Tiger Woods was unusually athletic as an infant and his father had him golfing as a toddler, the thinking went, parents who didn't have their children excelling at playing chess or the obo at a soon-to-be-grandmaster level by kindergarten were failures. Range: Why Generalists ...more
Douglas Wilson
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Really enjoyable, really information, and jammed packed with confirmation bias.
Kimberly Dawn
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tomas Ramanauskas
If you felt inferior, because you didn’t find your one true passion yet (at 30, at 40, at 50).
If you're going about life trying out new things, disciplines, professions, vocations.
If you're interested in too many things.
This book is for you.

RANGE talks about the power of breadth instead of depth. It doesn’t say depth in the field is not important, just that it is way overrated and drives “closed skills learning” tendency. Diverse experiences expand our creativity and innovative capabilities.
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some non-fiction can be boring and even useless, but this is a work of non-fiction that everyone should read; I certainly got a lot out of it and feel many others will too. Offering a wide-ranging wealth of information and research Epstein shares data, as well as his opinion, on how to become and stay successful in a constantly evolving world. What surprised me a lot was how compulsively readable it was and despite being a work of non-fiction Epstein can sure engage you in an almost mesmerising ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everyone--butcher, baker, candlestick maker; teacher, student, scientist, business analyst; parent, job hunter, retiree--will get something motivating and useful from this book. No matter where you are in life, you will see the world a bit differently after you read this energetic and energizing look at how we solve problems, how we learn and how we succeed, regardless of what field we are working in. Seriously, I haven't stopped recommending this since I finished it several weeks ago. I don't ...more
A.G. Stranger
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Here's something to remember from this book:
"If you want it to stick, learning should be slow and hard, not quick and easy.
The professors who received positive feedback had a net negative effect on their students in the long run. In contrast, those professors who received worse feedback actually inspired better student performance later on."
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly ...more
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this book 3.5 stars. The point of this book is that specialists do well in a "kind" world, where rules are clear and feedback is immediate (like playing golf or chess). Generalists do well in a "wicked" world, where rules are unclear or unknown and feedback is not immediate (like practicing medicine). Therefore, a cardiologist with a wider range of knowledge (like nutrition and physiology) would make a better doctor than one who is focused only on acquiring more technical knowledge about ...more
Growing up, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I'd say either something super sarcastic or "nothing." Because the fact we expect people to know what they want to do for their lives before they're 18, 21, 25? Is bananas. You don't know who you are or what you like or don't like yet (add in that you need experience to GET experience in today's global economy and it makes it worse). So Epstein's premise is one I really agreed with already and I found his exploration of why ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Covers the idea of having a wide range of knowledge outside one's specialty helps people succeed. Often new ideas come from thinking analogically about things unrelated to what one is looking at. Has lots of case studies that make the argument that having a wide range of experiences can help with one's endeavors.
Bartosz Majewski
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
I used to have some envy towards people who are highly specialized in their field. Over time I've developed an understanding that mastering one field (mine was sales) and then developing myself within adjacent fields (management, strategy, marketing, writing, public speaking) is an optimal strategy. After reading Range I'd have to change my mind again. Since people ask me for advice on various topics like career development I need to correct myself: if I told you that you should specialize I ...more
Sugavanesh Balasubramanian
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"For reasons I cannot explain, David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong. I loved Range"
- Malcolm Gladwell

reads the backcover of the book.

It started 5 years ago really, picking up Blink, and reading my first Malcolm Gladwell book talking about the power of intuition and what it actually is. The journey went through "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman questioning a lot of functional wisdom and how
Nidhal Guessoum
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. A must read for everyone.
Laura Noggle
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: improvement, 2019
One of my favorite reads of December 2019.

It also helped assuage my psyche regarding an underutilized MA in China Studies ...

“The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyperspecialization. While it is undoubtedly true that there are areas that require individuals with…precocity and clarity of purpose, as complexity increases—as technology
Bjoern Rochel
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eng-mgmt, 2019
A good read in the style of "Team of Teams" or "Barking up the wrong tree".

Debunks the general applicability of the 10000h rule and deliberate practice for knowledge work (e.g. the wicked world) and shows with a lot of case studies that often top performers are the result of a larger broad experimentation phase, followed by late specialization.

I pretty much enjoyed all of them from Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Gunpei Yokoi (the Gameboy inventor), Johannes Kepler (the father of modern
Miebara Jato
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
The core of Epstein's argument is that the world has become that complex that starting early and specialising in just one field doesn’t help performance. In this complex world, it's the Generalists, those who engage in diverse fields that would ultimately stay ahead.

In the Outliers, Point, Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the 10,000 hours theory. And how starting a specialized path early and doggedly sticking to it makes great athletes and innovators. In Range, Epstein is saying you don't have
R Nair
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best thing this book can teach you - practice does NOT make perfect.

Here's why-

Tons of books talk about how early specialization is the key to success in life and a majority of parents are seen pushing their kids into activities at an early age to give them that 'career advantage' later on in life. David Epstein trashes this idea so thoroughly in this book that I feel it should be mandatory reading for couples trying to have a baby.
Epstein starts off with the poster boy for early
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

It’s not easy to come across good Buisness/ psychology books as most seem empty not really leaving you with much. But that’s not the case for range, it frames concepts in interesting ways and supplements with engaging examples. Range advocates for breadth in skills, advising against the modern workplace stress for specialization.Trying and getting good at a variety of things eventually leaves people much better even at tasks that need ‘closed skills’ such as chess or violin .
When it
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this was so fascinating, especially as a parent.
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book resonated with me perfectly. In my profession (Software Development), there is an increasing demand for specialization. There are back end engineers, front end engineers, devops, data engineers, data scientists blah blah blah. I never felt comfortable with a label. The entire field of computer science is interesting for me. I also read a lot of books related to history, politics, biography, psychology, physics, philosophy and any well written book in general. I used to feel guilty for ...more
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David Epstein is the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, which has been translated in 21 languages. He has master's degrees in environmental science and journalism and has worked as an investigative reporter for ProPublica and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He lives in Washington, DC.
“We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.” 18 likes
“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones. Our conceptual classification schemes provide a scaffolding for connecting knowledge, making it accessible and flexible.” 12 likes
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