cover image How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

Benedict Carey. Random, $27 (244p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9388-2

In this highly accessible exploration through one of our most perplexing processes, New York Times reporter Carey brings the concept of learning out of the classroom setting and into the wider world. More than just a “when, where, and why” account, Carey expands our understanding of the phenomenon to consider the “who,” encompassing individuals of all ages. Much as learning seems like a product of deliberate concentration, it can often be most fruitful when we embrace moments of distraction, and Carey relies on personal, at times tortured, anecdotes to illustrate his points. The role of memory is relevant, but not central to his study, which involves a more integrated means of remembering and forgetting. Learning does not consistently culminate in a singular goal; rather it is an ongoing process that can be traced, but not always measured. Carey admits that his science is at best imperfect, but he utilizes biology and cognitive science to structure and inform his work. His writing, personal and presented in the most understandable terms, strikes an appropriate tone. What we come to realize is that we are all learners, however different, which makes this book less about learning than it is about being comprehensively and attentively alive. (Sept.)