Top 10 Books on Skill Development

Erik Hamre
7 min readJan 8, 2020
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Many of you have asked which books I recommend about skill development.

Here is my top 10 list:

  1. The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance — Josh Waitzkin

Josh reveals the journey to the top in two completely different fields. First, becoming a grandmaster in chess (his story is the inspiration for the movie Searching for Bobby Fisher). He then went from complete beginner to world champion in the martial art Tai Chi Chuan.

How was he able to reach the top in two such different fields?

When asked Josh answered; ‘I’ve come to realise that what I’m best at is not Tai Chi, and it’s not chess. What I’m best at is the art of learning.’

His attitude towards learning and practice methods reveals some of the work that’s required to reach the top in any field.

2. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise — Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Anders Ericsson is the world’s leading expert on what makes experts so great.

It’s a book for anyone who wants to get better at anything.

Ericsson has for decades studied world class performers in chess, music, sports, memory and many other fields.

In the book he illustrates how you can get much better at any skill you’re practicing. The core message of this book is: The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else will.

He defined the term deliberate practice, and suggests that those who achieve the most are those that are best at putting in quality practice in the skill they are learning.

Anders explains how the 10 000 hour rule, in fact isn’t a rule at all. There are many people that have practiced for decades, that are no better than when they started, sometimes they even get worse over time. Just doing something over and over, doesn’t automatically make us better. He clarifies how the 10 000 hour rule is not a great description of his findings.

Finally he suggests that our defining characteristic as human beings is that we can improve ourselves, and describes us as homo exercens, the human who improves himself.

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