• Superhuman

  • Life at the Extremes of Our Capacity
  • By: Dr. Rowan Hooper
  • Narrated by: Richard Lyddon
  • Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper, an awe-inspiring look into the extremes of human ability - and what they tell us about our own potential.

In 1997, Yiannis Kouros ran 188 miles in 24 hours. In 1984, at age 42, Maria Moreira gave birth to her 10th set of twins. In 1973, Terry Tao learned to read when he was two years old. Tao started college at age nine, and at 24 was appointed a full-time professor at UCLA. Janine Shepherd broke her arms, neck, and back after a truck smashed into her while cycling. It left her paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors gave her a slim chance for survival. She now routinely walks her three children to school. 

What does it feel like to be exceptional? And what does it take to get there? Why can some people achieve greatness when others can’t, no matter how hard they try? Just how much potential does our species have? Evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper has the answers. In Superhuman he takes us on a breathtaking tour of the peaks of human achievement that shows us what it feels like to be exceptional - and what it takes to get there. 

Drawing on interviews with these “superhumans” and those who have studied them, Hooper assesses the science and genetics of peak potential. His case studies are as inspirational as they are varied, highlighting feats of endurance, strength, intelligence, and memory. They serve to address Hooper’s larger themes of humanity, including resilience, bravery, and happiness. 

Ultimately, these seemingly outlandish stories are the story of humanity themselves. Superhuman is a fascinating, eye-opening, and inspiring celebration for anyone who ever felt that they might be able to do something extraordinary in life, for those who simply want to succeed, and for anyone interested in the sublime possibilities of humankind.

©2018 Rowan Hooper (P)2018 Rowan Hooper

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Missed the mark

Pass on this book. The underlying premise is that a person’s ability and life span are almost solely determined by genes and people are wasting their time trying to change that.

The author glosses over complex topics and cherry picks details to support his views. It’s like your annoying neighbour arguing that they knew someone that smoked for 70 years and therefore smoking doesn’t cause cancer. It’s almost like the author completely disregarded his extensive scientific training.

The structure of the book is also irritating. The author interviews people who he believes have a special talent (chess, ultra running, writing etc), asks them to self report on why they are better than other people and then supplements that self justifying logic with his own opinions and a handful of curated academic findings. Many conclusions are bland, if not useless. For example, one conclusion from an interview with an F1 team is: ‘Hewett says “an f1 driver’s working memory can hold more discrete items than that of an untrained driver.”’ A PhD in biology is hardly necessary to reach that conclusion. The same can be said about cabdrivers who, unlike F1 drivers, have been the subject of numerous brain studies.

It’s a shame the author botched this book because the concept has merit. Let’s hope that he is wrong about K Andres Ericsson so as to give his writing a fighting chance of improving.

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