• Beginners

  • The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning
  • By: Tom Vanderbilt
  • Narrated by: Tom Vanderbilt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (200 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An insightful, joyful tour of the transformative powers of starting something new, no matter your age - from the best-selling author of Traffic and You May Also Like

“Vanderbilt elegantly and persuasively tackles one of the most pernicious of the lies we tell ourselves - that the pleasures of learning are reserved for the young.” (Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of Outliers)

Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to be bad at something? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of beginning from the ground up? 

Inspired by his young daughter’s insatiable curiosity, Tom Vanderbilt embarks on a yearlong quest of learning - purely for the sake of learning. Rapturously singing Spice Girls songs in an amateur choir, losing games of chess to eight-year-olds, and dodging scorpions at a surf camp in Costa Rica, Vanderbilt tackles five main skills, but learns so much more. Along the way, he interviews dozens of experts about the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner and shows how anyone can get better at beginning again - and, more important, why they should take those first awkward steps. 

Funny, uplifting, and delightfully informative, Beginners is about how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.

©2020 Tom Vanderbilt (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Witty, well-researched, myth-busting and curiously of the moment. Vanderbilt tells a compelling tale. Eighty pages in, I joined a choir." (Robert Penn, author of It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels)

"It's impossible to pick up a book by Tom Vanderbilt without learning something. An engaging and fascinating mix of the personal and the general. I never thought I'd read a book that could persuade me to take up juggling, but this one did it." (Robert Colvile)

"Vanderbilt.. composes lucid prose and explains concepts...with relative ease, and his thesis is practical and worthwhile... compelling...A solid beginner's guide to beginning" (Kirkus)  

What listeners say about Beginners

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What a waste of time

This book has excessive biographical detail about the author's efforts to learn lots of new skills, more than any reader would want to know -- and disappointingly little about any bottom-line generalizable take-away's on how others can be more successful in their own "beginnings".

10 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t put this book down!

As a career entrepreneur and serial hobbyist, I found this book giving articulate diction to the thoughts I feel on a daily basis. Often times I find myself starting new hobbies out of nowhere end realizing how much I hate being bad at things yet have grown to appreciate what it is to struggle and overcome. It only took me around 24 hours to ingest the information and story telling Tom provides in this book and would recommend to anyone.

7 people found this helpful

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Encouragement to stay curious as we age

I started this book with the idea that 'I am too old to be a beginner at XYZ...' and other doubts that often seem to keep me from starting new things. Having completed it, I am armed with all sorts of reasons to learn, stumble, be humbled and work hard at something for no other reason than to just be a beginner at something.

2 people found this helpful

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Love this book 💞

it's exactly what I needed, sending to family and friends. it's very inspiring and I'll definitely want to listen again.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

Loved every minute of this book. His experiences are compelling and although he does get into the science behind learning he does bury you in studies and statistics.

2 people found this helpful

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Not sure what the takeaways are at all

The author over-describes irrelevant details. Very little of the book delves into "Beginners" and learning new things and the lessons associated with them. It's more about describing his experience/process in painful detail about singing, surfing, juggling, etc. He digresses into verbose, unnecessary descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the topic. On the rare occasion that he touches on the takeaways and the benefits of learning new things it's very interesting, but I struggle to understand what the author's hoping the reader will take away from this. For me, it reads like the author is just trying to learn new things to feel youthful again.

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Never stop beginning!

Tom Vanderbilt blends science, personal experience and the wisdom of his guides in this engaging work. You may have heard the phrase it's not the goal it's that's important but who you become while pursuing the goal.
Excellent Read!

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Inspiring

Love this book, engaging and inspiring to learn new things and take lessons for skills I wish I had and thought I missed out on (too late to learn =lies).

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I didn’t want it to end!

In an inspiring book about life-long learning, one of the greatest gifts I discovered was my own desire to learn new things. I made a list of games, hobbies, and skills I’ve thought or wished about since childhood. I also reflected on “why” I haven’t yet pursued even one of the things on my list. This book truly got my gears turning. Now it’s time to get started!

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Yawn ….

I feel the main points could have been summarized in 2 sentences. It was really hard to finish it. I would have stopped all together but I was reading it for a work book club. During our discussion most had the same negative review.