Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have a knack for digging into scientific research and making it both comprehensible and engaging. The first book they co-wrote was NurtureShock, an eye-opening look at parenting (particularly the areas in which common knowledge is wrong). Last year they published Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, and it’s just as fascinating—I included it in my Best Books of 2013.
Top Dog is now out in paperback, and to celebrate we’re giving away 5 autographed copies! The entry form is at the end of this review.
Top Dog is about competition in many forms—it’s about performance anxiety and stress, individuals and teams, the differences in how men and women approach winning and losing. Although it’s not specifically about parenting, if you’ve got kids then there is competition in your life: your kids are being graded and evaluated and measured against each other all the time. Why do some kids flourish and some wither when faced with high stakes? When does a bit of “friendly competition” improve performance, and when does it do more harm than good? Bronson and Merryman dig into these topics.
The other reason I found Top Dog fascinating, though, is because I’m a gamer. I love playing board games, and I play to win. But I also love losing. I get a lot of joy simply from competing, and a closely-contested loss is more satisfying than a massive win. Take the recent Super Bowl—I’m sure there are Seahawks fans who would’ve found the game more interesting to watch if the Broncos had scored a few more times. Bronson and Merryman compare the Mark Effect (“the last shall be first”) to the Matthew Effect (“to everyone who has, more will be given”). It’s the difference between a Eurogame with a catch-up mechanic and a game like Risk where the person in the lead gets even more armies.
Bronson and Merryman do a great job combining statistical studies with illustrative anecdotes—you get the hard numbers and the memorable stories, in a form that’s an easy read. Whether you’re a gamer or a parent or a teacher or a manager, there’s probably something in Top Dog that will inform the way you think about performance, both your own and that of the people around you.
To enter to win a copy of Top Dog, fill out the form below (or click here to enter). Entries must be submitted by 10pm PT, March 7, 2014. Five winners will be chosen at random from the entries received. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman will both sign the books—I’ll get in touch with you to find out how you’d like them signed!