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The Real Work

On sale

14th March 2024

Price: £10.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529414653

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Bestselling author and New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik embarks on a wildly creative inquiry into perhaps the oldest question: how do we learn a new skill?

For decades, Adam Gopnik has been one of our most beloved writers, a brilliantly perceptive critic of art, food, France, and more. But recently, he became obsessed by a fundamental matter: how did the people he was writing about learn their outlandish skill, whether it was drawing a nude or baking a sourdough loaf? In The Real Work-the term magicians use for the accumulated craft that makes for a great trick-Gopnik apprentices himself to an artist, a dancer, a boxer, and even a driving instructor (from the DMV), among others, trying his late-middle-age hand at things he assumed were beyond him. He finds that mastering a skill is a process of methodically breaking down and building up, piece by piece-and that true mastery, in any field, requires mastering other people’s minds. Exuberant and profound, The Real Work is ultimately about why we relentlessly seek to better ourselves in the first place.


[A] springboard for a discussion of art, family, empathy, mortality. Via memoir, analysis and criticism he assembles a celebration of the flaws that make us human... Gopnik is at his most moving when addressing the limited time we have on Earth
[A] beautifully written, epigrammatic, penetratingly intelligent book.
Irish Examiner
Gopnik is everything, then, that you might hope a seasoned writer for The New Yorker to be. He has a mellifluous style that can lead you into deep waters, and then out again, in the space of two or three paragraphs, while still making the experience rewarding and moving seamlessly on to a new theme. The Real Work is the real deal.
New Statesman
Among the uplifting pleasures of Gopnik's writing is the range and ardour of his enthusiasms. If his only truly fanatical pursuit is making sentences, he seems to intuit that his best ones - his truest - are those that are unselfconsciously committed to their subject, and vitalised by the passionate curiosity that also reins them in