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Top Dog



Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

I finished it, but it was a bit of a slog. Some interesting tidbits along the way where the authors aggregated a handful of studies for the read, but definitely not an enthralling page turner. I’m actually surprised that this made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. The different reactions to stress and competitive situations between men and women was a memorable takeaway, but most of the book fell into the “common sense” category for me.

Booklist: Bronson and Merryman follow up the best-selling NurtureShock with this intriguing look at the nature of competition. Most of us are taught from an early age that it’s good to be competitive, but we’re not usually taught how to compete. Sure, we can learn how to play a sport, and we can practice the skills, but practicing is not the same as competing. You can perfect your baseball swing in practice, but how do you react when you’re facing a pitcher who wants you to miss? The key element of competition, the authors say, is the ability to compete under pressure in situations that are not under one’s own control. Using plenty of real-world examples, from Olympic athletes to fighter pilots to intelligence operatives, the authors persuasively argue that technical skill is only one part—in many cases, the least important part—of what it takes to come out on top. Expect lots of talk-show play for this one.