Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions by James E. Ryan

7/10

Based on a commencement address that went viral, Ryan (Dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education) has expanded upon his thoughts about the art of asking (and maybe answering) good questions. And the questions are good ones; they seem superfluous at first glance, but Ryan makes his case well about why each is important to living a meaningful life.

To be fair, this is a fast and simple read—perhaps too much so. It certainly would be a good gift for someone about to graduate (at any level), start a new job, or embark on any new life adventure. But, at the same time, it’s also the kind of book that you might receive as a gift and then keep around as shelf-filler without ever cracking open. Which is not an insult to Ryan per se; if you do open the book, it is witty, and well written, but the fact remains that there’s not a whole lot of intrigue. What you’re told you’ll get on the back is what you get: questions.

Ryan gives a lot of his own personal history throughout, which livens up what could otherwise be a very preachy work. There’s insight, and some very quotable lines, but I keep coming back to the fact that the whole thing is based on questions that you should ask yourself and others, without much in the way of answers. Not that it needed to have answers, but it needed something more than it had to give. So give it a go for yourself if you’d like (or buy it as a gift).

But if you don’t choose to do either, you could always just watch the original address…

 

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