Bounce was quite a bit more sports-focused than I was expecting, but it’s very much of a piece with the Freakonomics series, Malcolm Glawell, and Heath brothers books in that it’s in the “economics as science of human behavior” genre I can’t get enough of.
Syed discusses the psychology of success (and naturally, failure) in an engaging and readable way, mostly in athletics, but also peripherally associated fields like chess. There’s not much that’s a revelation here, but I’m a soft touch for this kind of thing and may have just read too many similar books. Syed talks about success being as much about opportunities as talent (he himself was a table tennis olympian, but goes through how having a table tennis table in his house, skilled competitors who could challenge him, available hours to practice, and a top coach nearby meant that he was the top of a small pool of those with similar opportunities rather than the top player of millions in the country), and much more about practice than innate skill.
He also devotes a chapter to “choking” and the exact mechanism by which one chokes – thinking too hard about implicit actions makes one behave like a novice because the part of the brain that has been trained to expertise defers to the logical brain, and that brain IS a novice. Flow and Choke have been touched on by Gladwell as well, but I hope someone gives that topic the full book it deserves.
I read a lot of books this year, but no double cannonball for me. I choked.