Sunday, April 14, 2013

Double Your Brain Power by Jean Marie Stine

In Double Your Brain Power, Jean Marie Stine doesn’t tell you how to make your brain more powerful. She tells you how to get more out of the power your brain already has.

There are five major areas of brainpower covered by the book: learning, memory, reading, listening and thinking. Under each part, a few short chapters introduce specific techniques for improving performance.

I was particularly interested in the chapter on reading. I read a lot for pleasure and work. If I can get my work reading out of the way more quickly, I’ll be able to manage my other duties better. If I can read more books, I’ll be able to post more reviews on my blog. I’ve picked up some books on speed-reading and found the techniques to be so tedious that I never followed through on developing the skill. Stine doesn’t try to teach speed-reading. Her focus is on reading smarter, getting the information you need without reading every word, and remembering the important information. The techniques probably won’t help you get through Moby Dick in a day (though they might get you through it faster than if you didn’t use them), but they probably will help you plow through the paperwork, memos, and reports that come across your desk.

I also paid close attention to the chapter on memory. If you’ve read books on mnemonics, you’ll have seen some of the techniques Stine includes. The down side of mnemonics is it takes time and effort to be good as using the techniques. Fortunately, this is not the only, or even the primary, thing in the chapter.  There are effective, and easily mastered, methods for remembering better that Stine includes.

There are recurring themes that apply to many areas of brainpower. Be attentive. Relax because your brain works better when you relax. Believe you can do better and have a firm intention of improving. Focus and concentration improve all areas of brainpower. Make connections to the things you want to learn and remember, both to things you know and to your personal experiences. Use your feelings as well as you thoughts. Review important information.

Double Your Brain Power is almost a model how-to book. It focuses on specific areas one may want to improve and skills for making those improvements. Stine built some of the skills she teaches into the structure of the book, especially reviewing. The reviews are very brief, so the book does not seem repetitive. Illustrative stories are few, brief, and directly related to the skills discussed.

This structure lends itself to including a lot of information and to brevity. I find that to be a very good quality in a nonfiction book.

In addition, Stine follows the old adage about speaking or teaching: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” This is not as bad as it sounds. Stine does not linger on introductions and reviews. They serve their purpose of reinforcing the major points briefly.

Double Your Brain Power does not have a great deal of original concepts, and the author readily acknowledges when ideas or techniques are adapted from others sources. The advantage of this book is that it brings many useful skills together, gets to the point and describes them briefly.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in

Stine, Jean Marie. Double Your Brain Power. 1997. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2000.