Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Power of Habit -- Charles Duhigg -------------- 4 Stars

So, for anyone that follows my blog, you know that there is a certain type of book I really enjoy.  I kind of know, often before I read a book, how much I'll like it.  Sometimes I'm surprised or I'm off by a little bit (especially books of fiction), but, for the most part, those types of books, like The Power of Habit, I always like.  They're the Gladwell or Nudge or Freakanomics type books.  You know, they have some overarching them about how we live told with really great stories and anecdotes and written a very easy way to consume.  Well, this book sort of fit that niche perfectly.

I really enjoyed this book and struggled between 4 and 4.5 stars.  Ultimately I went with 4 stars as I found it a very entertaining book but one that is not as 'incredible' as some of the other 4.5 star books.  The book basically breaks down into explaining how habits work and then looks at habits at the individual level, organizational level, and societal level.  Nearly every chapter within those areas was interesting (save the chapter about civil rights; never really got the connection).  Duhigg's stories within each chapter, which illustrated an overarching concept about habits, were nearly always fascinating.  Some, like the story of Alcoa's new leadership and how they train at Starbucks, were among the standouts.  As a whole, I leave having a much better understanding of how habits develop (cravings) why they continue (our routines) and how to change them (that's a bit more difficult).  Basically, any habit can change if you work through it and determine a new way to take it on.

In general, the book is written in a very easy to understand way and the afterword was actually pretty interesting too (I can't say the same for the 50 pages of notes... I'm not sure why I felt the need to read those).   There are some drawbacks though.  Like many books, he rolls along too long with some themes.  As I mentioned earlier, the two chapters about habits in 'societies' were pretty weak.  I didn't really understand the connection with Rosa Parks and the last chapter was basically discussing how gambling addictions are neurological illnesses, though since one can understand that, is responsible for changing them.  It was just kind of a let down to end the book.  However, first 3/4ths was absolutely excellent.

So, who would enjoy this book?  I think most people.  The big picture thoughts about how habits develop and how they can be changed are really quite fascinating.  In addition, the examples he provided really made me think about my life and job and how I could change things if I really wanted to try (spoiler alert: it's quite hard to change habits but can be done through hard work and diligence).  Do check this book out if you like a nice easy read that you'll also pick up some things about your life too.

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