Saturday, February 7, 2015

You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. by Ben Carson, 2015

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Throughout his life, renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson has needed to overcome many obstacles: His father leaving the family; being considered stupid by his classmates in grade school; growing up in inner-city Detroit; and having a violent temper. But Dr. Carson didn't let his circumstances control him, and instead discovered eight principles that helped shape his future.

In You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to Think Big, Dr. Carson unpacks the eight important parts of Thinking Big--Talent, Honesty, Insight, being Nice, Knowledge, Books, In-Depth learning, and God--and presents the stories of people who demonstrated those things in his life. By applying the idea of T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. to your life, and by looking at those around you as well, you too can overcome obstacles and work toward achieving your dreams.
(240 pages)

It's misleading of the cover and synopsis to suggest that the mnemonic is the focus of the entire book. Carson doesn't even mention it until over halfway through! He spends the first half of the book explaining his own humble beginnings and tracing his path to success. Then he turns around and tells the reader how "you too can become a famous neurosurgeon by following this one simple trick!"

Haha, no, that's not what he says. Really, I think he just wanted a nice kind of gimmicky mnemonic to help people remember his advice. And let me just say, it's definitely solid. He traces his early life and career in what is, for those of us who have read any of his other books, partly a review. To be fair he did mention things I hadn't read in the other books, focusing more on his study habits than on his relationship with God this time around, but there was still quite a bit of overlap. I suppose for some this might be kind of annoying, but for me it was nice to get a refresher and see exactly what he did in his own life to become successful. I wasn't sure if he was going to be one of those people who becomes successful one way, then turns around and advises something completely different for those who want to get ahead in life. By showing his own life, and what worked and didn't for him, he proved to me (and to anyone else who reads his book) that he's not just making this stuff up - the ideas presented in T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. really were the ones that helped him climb to the top.

As a teen, I found a lot of practical advice that I am definitely going to work on implementing in my own life. By putting the practical advice in the last few chapters, he makes it very easy to go back and reread concise instructions for applying each step in T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. I'm in the middle of a book about study techniques entitled Make it Stick (link goes to Goodreads) that I have to say is probably the most rambling. boring nonfiction I've ever read. I'd have quit it long ago if it weren't for the fact I'm required to finish it for English. After reading the mess of advice, examples, and anecdotes running rampant in Make it Stick, I really appreciated the way that Carson separates his anecdotes from his advice in a way that actually makes his anecdotes interesting but separate from his advice.

Do you need to read this if you're an adult who has read his other books? Probably not, unless you've got a burning desire to read everything the man writes. Should you read it if you're a student or the parent of a student trying to prepare for academic success? Most definitely. While Carson's approach may not work for all of us (I think it's pretty obvious he's got a natural advantage in the brain department - pun intended!), there's still a lot of good info in there about study habits, choosing a career, and remembering to focus on God before all else.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review

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