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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  276 ratings  ·  43 reviews
“Urgent and important. . . an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” —Daniel H. Pink

“So much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education.” —Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet

A powerful argument for how to succeed in any field: develop broad interests and skills while everyone ar
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 28th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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4.28  · 
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 ·  276 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Michael Perkins
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked the first 10 chapters of this book. In chapters 11 & 12 the author turns it into business book with some extremely tedious cases studies that they do in MBA programs. It reminded why I don't like and never read business books. So this a caveat for this book that removes one star from the rating.


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
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways
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, argu
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
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 t ...more
The Artisan Geek
Apr 23, 2019 is currently reading it
A someone who has always considered themselves a generalist through and through, I am really interested to have a read! Riverhead books was so nice to send me over a copy, so a sincere thank you to them! :D

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Jim Robles
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five stars! Read everything. It is all useful.

One of the things I lived through, and benefited from, during my time at Boeing is the rise of the deep generalist. You cannot integrate disparate technologies unless you understand all of them.

We also saw that innovative solutions come from disciplines purportedly far from aerospace.

"Introduction: Roger vs. Tiger" (1)

"I dove into work showing that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, e
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
An enjoyable book - plenty of fascinating stories/studies and Epstein demonstrates plenty of range of his own (I enjoyed his earlier Sports Gene, but this book goes far beyond the world of sports, even if it starts there). I think there are two different books packed in here - one provides examples of people who have developed breadth thriving in different fields and explores some of the contours of what that looks like, and the sorts of "wicked" world (disordered, unpredictable) where that rang ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Range : Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein is an interesting book about the value of not being overly specialised and focused on one thing.

The book starts by pointing out how Tiger Woods took up golf at an early age and how this example is picked by many as an example of how mastery of a subject needs to be done. Epstein compares this to Roger Federer who played many sports before focusing on tennis. Epstein states, with some evidence, that stars like Federer
Roger Smitter
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Author Epstein wants us to think about the value of being a generalist or a specialist. His first few pages focus on the difference between two famous athletes: Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Woods’ training (delivered almost exclusively by his father) focused almost exclusively on learning to be a golfer from the age of three. Woods learned that all that matters is golf. And, of course, Tiger became a famous athlete who has hit many problems in his life.

Epstein’s narrative about Federer begins
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Too many stories I already know. Doesn't consider the good arguments for the other side. Eg a basic question: the best scientists are more likely to have additional creative pursuits, but why think this is causal and not an effect of being more open to experience? Thought-provoking in that Gladwell way.

"Rather than letting students grapple with some confusion, teachers often responded to their solicitations with hint-giving that morphed a making-connections problem into a using-procedures one."

Brandon Kleinman
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joel Wentz
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a quite enjoyable book in the vein of Gladwell-style journalism/self-help/pop-psychology (though I would put it slightly higher than much of Gladwell's work, who I also generally like). It's a breezy read, full of interesting anecdotes and well-synthesized research, that makes a good counter-argument to the currently fashionable 10,000 hours/grit/specialization line of thinking.

As someone with a "generalist" personality type, and who has had a bit of a meandering career path, I found it
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's difficult for me to review this book. Some chapters were illuminating and some were a big stretch. But overall, this book was life-changing for me. It did me more good as a self-help book than anything else. I had accepted the wisdom of the 10,000 hours/Tiger/specialization principle, even while disdaining it. I've lived my entire life as a generalist but never embraced it as a value. This book has taught me how to accept this aspect of myself, and more - not just accept, but celebrate it. ...more
Hariharan Gopalakrishnan
2.5-3 stars.
Moderately interesting, but light-weight and flawed read. Fails to consider some obvious mistakes in the argument presented for the conscious development of 'range' or the ability for 'far transfer' - for eg: these could just be signals of innate ability and not an easily changeable factor. My understanding of the current scene is that educational psychology research does not have any consensus around a case of far transfer and this book does not present a convincing argument (it's m
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Often when I learn new things, I find myself hearing contradicting claims. Specialization vs generalization is one of those topics where I've heard a lot of contradicting arguments, both side supplied by facts and captivating anecdotes.

What I appreciated about this book is that it provided under what context each side can hold true. The delineation of "Kind" and "Wicked" environment provided an aha moment as to when each wisdom/axiom/perspective makes sense. There's more to the book than that,
Luis Cuesta
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of "Range" as a Goodreads giveaway. I think David Epstein delivers a work aimed at showing that specialization is not the only path to success. His essay covers a notable lists of athletes, artists, inventors, and business-people who followed atypically paths before becoming successful. The book is centered against the idea that narrow specialization leads to success, as Epstein mounts convincing evidence that generalists bring more skill, creativity, and innovation to work in ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Felt it was a easy read with some very entertaining examples. The authors storytelling definitely draws you in and makes it difficult to put down. Instead of arguing against specialization the author points out where depth still works. But provides cautionary tales and environments where being a specialist could go very wrong. In extreme cases specialization has lead to death or at least been a main contributor. If anything these cautionary tales should cause some to pause and rethink their appr ...more
Jay Hardy
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you've talked to me at any point during the last few weeks, you've probably heard me talk about this book. This isn't your typical popular press dumbing down and bastardization of academic findings. This is a well researched, well articulated, well thought out compelling argument that runs contrary to the prevailing advice advanced in society as a whole. Check it out if you get the chance. This book has changed the way I think about the world and my place ...more
Peter Caldwell
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Delving into some major questions in sports as he did with his Sports Gene title, author David Epstein looks at the issue of early specialization versus sampling a range of activities for performance excellence. Parents of gifted kids wrestle with this question all the time, i.e. if they don't focus early on a particular sport, they will be at a disadvantage compared to peers and their chances for a scholarship are lessened. Provocative reading and at the same time reassuring that not only in sp ...more
Jerry Smith
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019

The book's topic is something I hold dear, education, profession and social (I like having friends with diverse interests.) So whenever I see some material on the subject I usually scoop it up. I don't recall where I saw this but I didn't wait on the library, I went ahead and purchased and will donate later.

While Epstein makes some excellent points and has killer examples, he needs an editor desperately.

There were times I forgot what the book was about, the through-line was so convoluted.

May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World as a Goodreads giveaway. Each chapter in the book provided new and interesting true stories to support the author's argument about generalist triumphing in a specialist world. On a personal note, as I was growing up, I constantly heard that the sooner one finds his path in life, that the more successful he will be. The author, David Epstein, demonstrated time and time again how the previous statement was not always true. I found th ...more
Karen Ng
Review to follow.. no aha moment, yet I fell asleep a few times during this first read. But since I really agree with the idea of this book- it correlates with my basic guideline of raising my three kids, I will restart from the beginning for a second try, which is rare, with my quick comprehension and good memory, I never needed a second read on any books, not even long textbooks. I don't know what happened and apologize for the wait.
Zachery Tyson
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
A quick, light, entertaining read in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Not particularly deep, but that is sort of the point of Range - breadth vs. depth. That being said, it's not particularly broad either, covering what you'd expect in this sort of book - Philip Tetlock, Superforecasters, some light cognitive science, innovation from outsiders, etc. The most valuable part for me was the interesting anthropological survey of early 20th-century Soviet peasants being converted to modernity.
Phil Simon
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology, psych
Epstein checks all of my boxes for a compelling text. First, he clearly did a great deal of research. Second, he is a gifted storyteller. Third, he supports his claims with plenty of data.

For a long time I've argued for an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving. Unfortunately, many higher-ed institutions discourages this at many levels. To this end, I hope that decision makers in colleges and universities heed Epstein's timely and essential advice.

Just a joy to read.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love this book! Gives plenty of intriguing information how introducing creativity and improvisation increases productivity and innovation. Lots of anecdotes and supportive data to boost the thesis of the author. Change is imminent and the ability to adapt to change provides a higher chance of success!

Thanks to the publisher for the advance reading copy.
Stevo Brock
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was Stevo's Business Book of the Week for the week of 6/2, as selected by Stevo's Book Reviews on the Internet. You can find me at, on my Stevo's Novel Ideas Amazon Influencer page ( or search for me on Google for many more reviews and recommendations.
3.5 stars. This ended up being very interesting and engaging. It definitely gave me a lot to think about, more than the typical pop psychology book. The author weirdly inserts himself in a few places and it wasn't really seamless in those areas, but he did do a good job of telling engaging stories. I think this book will change how I go about learning things in the future.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Range adds evidence to the "Renaissance [person]" as a very important figure. Broad interests help the world, if not more, than the hyper-specialists. From sports to music to education, the human mind is more primed for the breadth of range than hyper-specialization. Read this if you are a teacher. Read this if you are a parent. Read this if you do not love what you do. Read this.
Michael Wolcott
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. The research and presentation of the information was mind-blowing. It gave me so much perspective and so many ideas of how to engage our students in this type of mindset and helping them recognize how talent and expertise develops. A must read.
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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.
“Overspecialization can lead to collective tragedy even when every individual separately takes the most reasonable course of action.” 0 likes
“The sampling period is not incidental to the development of great performers—something to be excised in the interest of a head start—it is integral.” 0 likes
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