The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery

Liveright: Norton. Mar. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781324090755. $30. PSYCH
New Yorker writer Gopnik (Paris to the Moon) combines his own ruminations about expertise with discussions of various skills he has decided to learn. Through his apprentice experiences with magic, boxing, dancing, driving, baking, and drawing, Gopnik explores the ways a person might approach learning a skill. Interspersed and intertwined with these personal essays are thoughts about what might comprise expertise in each of these areas, with particular attention paid to the opinions expressed by each of Gopnik’s teachers, who range from a driving instructor to a magician and owner of a magic shop. Gopnik acknowledges that he may not master the areas he explores, but he characterizes himself as slowly moving towards gaining such know-how.
VERDICT This lyrical examination of learning various skills and the ways in which expertise can manifest is recommended for collections where compilations of essays are popular.
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