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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  55,144 ratings  ·  5,410 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. Bu
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 28th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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CR Yes, Epstein does address intention and motivation (extrinsic compared to. intrinsic, for example). I would also say that the book does not simply cen…moreYes, Epstein does address intention and motivation (extrinsic compared to. intrinsic, for example). I would also say that the book does not simply center on a debate about which is better in regard to generalization or specialization but rather establishes the benefits of broader learning and how that can make even specialists more effective in their disciplines or chosen fields.(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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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 th ...more
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.
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
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 readers will (as I have) enjoy this one even m ...more
Dr. Appu Sasidharan

Is starting young and practicing a lot, and focusing on one specialization an essential factor for success? This book is trying to find an answer to this controversial yet crucial question

What I learned from this book
1) Is experience the best teacher?
The author says that extra focus on specialization making us dumber and tunnel-visioned to a certain extend and mentions that it is the reason why the generalists are triumphing over the specialists

“Scientists examined the life path of
Jun 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps needless to say, I really want the main argument in this book to be true. As someone who has been a quality control inspector in a chocolate factory, a house painter, a counter hopper in a post office, an archivist, a technical writer, a strategic researcher, an industrial officer in a trade union, and a research fellow – and initially who started a degree in physics and then shifted to do one in philosophy and professional writing and editing, then a graduate certificate in adult litera ...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
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
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In a lot of ways, this book is a vindication of everything I hold dear.

Why? Well, granted, it IS a vindication of a mindset that rebels against going down any single rabbit hole to the exclusion of everything else in this life, which is basically another way of saying that specialists are generally unable to see beyond their own field. Being widely read, having wide experiences, and knowing a ton of different fields lends the person in question a much greater chance to make creative connections
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 gr ...more
Michael Perkins
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 resp
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now THIS is how you write a compelling non-fiction book! This has catapulted itself on my must-have shelf after the introduction alone!

The topic is nothing new: specialized thinking vs. broad thinking. We have it in evolution in Darwin’s famous fitness of surviving species. It has nothing to do with size or teeth or muscle strength. Rather, it’s about adaptability. It also applies to thinking processes.
Thus, the author examines the different psychological variations within the human population t
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had wanted to read ‘Range’ since some time, having come across it in discussions at work. The content is without doubt critical and vital today – while there is an increasing trend towards specialization, the biggest innovations are multi-disciplinary. Some of the treatment in the book is simplistic, especially at the beginning, and not all scenarios are explored holistically, and yet – this is a thought provoking read.

The book starts with a simplistic example comparing Tiger Woods and Roger
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
After encountering the 10000 hours theory (popularized by 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: Wh ...more
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it
My general problem with this kind of non-fiction/self-help book is that they are just too long. Too generic and not significant enough. I mostly feel they lack depth or information when talking about a certain theme. I do prefer non-fiction books based on science and history because I feel they are based on better research.

Anyway, the book was an ok read; the writing style is easy to comprehend and the book gives us plenty of examples and famous people who succeeded through being a generalist. U
David Rubenstein
This book is an engaging look at the multitude of ways in which generalists can generalized thinking is essential in the modern world. The emphasis in today's society is increasingly on specializing in specific fields. This book contains many anecdotes about how generalized training and thinking resulted in the greatest successes.

Later in the book, the author shows that societies certainly need specialists. The specialists dig deep into technical areas, increasing our knowledge and skills. The g
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
It has lately become an article of faith among many people, especially certain type-A parents, that to do anything well, one must spend 10,000 hours (or some other arbitrarily chosen criteria) practicing the activity, from playing the violin to mastering a foreign language to becoming an outstanding soccer player. Single-minded focus is recommended by the "tiger-mother" school of thinking, and is unfortunately inflicted on many children by well-meaning parents. David Epstein has done extensive r ...more
Joy D
There is a commonly held perception that starting young and specializing in a particular area is a key to success. It is easy to find examples of child prodigies, such as golfer Tiger Woods. However, Epstein contends that early specialization is only applicable in what he calls “kind” learning environments, where repetition (practice) leads to success. He has found that a journey of experimentation, diversification, and experience across a breadth of disciplines is even more important in most si ...more
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I actually read this book a while ago but just never got around to writing a review for it. I though the book had some very interesting points and stories in it but I found that the book dragged on for me and I wasn't always very excited to read it. I think the stories were interesting but the writing itself could have used some editing. That said, this is one of those books that has actually really stuck with me. I have found that there have been many times, especially when dealing with my chil ...more
Douglas Wilson
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Really enjoyable, really information, and jammed packed with confirmation bias.
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts by questioning what's in other bestsellers by so-called thought leaders, in particular the rugged individualist trope that hard work overcomes everything, as in Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. He explains why activities such as chess are not representative of life in general. He also comes up with some good analogies like "Drop your tools!" for firefighters running away from a wildfire to represent anyone who should try to l ...more
Andrew Hoskins
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Core idea resonates with me and a few interesting stories and examples that I remember, but wow what a slog to get through (I didn't finish and skimmed mostly). Endless examples trying to prove the same points. Could be summarized in a 10 page length blog post. ...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
Aug 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cindy Rollins has been recommending this book for a number of years now and she is completely right. Great book. Great things to consider.

One thing I loved was how throughout the book, Epstein uses analogical thinking to see how situations compare. Fantastic.
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 08, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: health-fitness

This is the third book I have read recently examining the notion of success. The first book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, popularized the idea of the Ten Thousand Hour Rule, which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become elite. The second book was The Sports Gene by David Epstein, the author of this book. In that book Epstein examines the genetic and environmental factors contributing to some success in sports.

The main premise of this book is a comparison be
Kimberly Dawn
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Lou (nonfiction fiend)
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
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 specializa
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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. ...more

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“We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.” 63 likes
“You have people walking around with all the knowledge of humanity on their phone, but they have no idea how to integrate it. We don’t train people in thinking or reasoning.” 46 likes
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