Range by David Epstein – A Book Review

While discussing our range of interests with friends, one of them recommended a book with that very name — Range by David Epstein. You may remember this author from his other, very popular book entitled The Sports Gene.

Subtitled Why Generalists Triumph In a Specialized World, Range offers many examples as to why it’s totally okay to find your path later in life and that specializing too early may actually prove to be an ultimate detriment. Epstein provides case after case of athletes, musicians, artists, scientists, and even inventors who benefitted from flitting from one interest to the next and how synthesizing all of those experiences proved a great advantage to them.

Epstein also discusses that when we become too specialized, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. A tight focus adhering to policy and routine can actually sometimes blind specialists to both potential problems and obvious solutions. Of course, Epstein celebrates those who are both specialists and generalists, but that’s not an easy feat for most people to accomplish due to time constraints.

As a parent, Range offered me quite a bit of solace. Epstein advocated for choice and play, especially among young people. He claims that driving children into a specialization, such as golf, can sometimes create the next Tiger Woods, but evidence suggest it is unlikely. For many different reasons, those kids become very good, but usually not exceptional.

I enjoyed some aspects of Range more than others. Like with similar books, the examples can sometimes feel overdone to me. However, I learned a lot from this book and I’m very glad that I read it. If you are interested in psychology, achievement, or specialization, I highly recommend you give it a look.