Book Review: “Smarter Faster Better” by Duhigg (3 of 5 stars)

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Reading this book on improving productivity was, unfortunately, not a very productive use of my time.

Which is unfortunate because Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg’s first book, The Power of Habit, was well-written, thoroughly researched, and quite motivating. But,despite some unique and thought-provoking insights, Duhigg does not match that same high standard in this book.

Duhigg has taken eight themes and written a chapter on each. These are themes related to both work and personal life, and, to his credit, the topics are well chosen.

The strength of Duhill’s writing is that he is a master storyteller. He is like the person at the party who starts telling a story, and slowly everyone stops talking and listens to him or her – and soon all are hanging onto every single word. He did the same in his first book, and this unique ability, somewhat similar in approach to Malcolm Gladwell’s style, is a true pleasure to read.

Where the book falters is in the actual content and messaging for these eight topics. The first couple of chapters are quite interesting and one has high hopes for this book based upon these initial chapters. But the remaining chapters don’t match this same standard, and by the time one finishes this book, there isn’t a feeling of having gained much more actual learning and insight then one could get from reading a couple of good articles on productivity topics. For some of the topics, one even struggles to see what is new and insightful beyond what is commonly already known about the topic.

Each chapter follows a pattern of starting with one fascinating story, switching to another equally-compelling story in the middle of the first one, and, as Duhigg is completing these stories, he interweaves the specific theme for the chapter along with research on the theme, lessons learned, and how we can apply this topic in our work and personal lives. The approach is great, but more often than not, at the end of a chapter one is somewhat underwhelmed by the final conclusion and lesson(s) from the chapter.

I was debating whether to give two or three stars, but am going with three since I personally did gain from this book by applying some of the few items I learned from this book.

Duhigg’s first book was very good and quite impactful, so – just like Dan Brown came back strong with his solid “Inferno” after the lackluster “The Lost Symbol”, hopefully Duhigg also soon writes a wondeful third book that matches, or perhaps even exceeds, his first book.

Rating: Three stars (out of five stars)

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