Review of Top Dog, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

Top Dog

The Science of Winning and Losing

by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
read by Po Bronson

Hachette Audio, 2013. 9 hours on 8 CDs
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 Nonfiction

I’ve enjoyed all of Po Bronson’s books that I’ve read, most recently NurtureShock, which was also written with Ashley Merryman. I’ve been accused of being too competitive, and I recently joined a weekly board game group, so I was thinking about competition when this book became available.

Po Bronson explores many different aspects of his topic, presenting studies done in any way related to competition. All of them are fascinating. Some of those things include how performance is affected by competition, what happens in our bodies when we compete, differences between men and women in competitions, family dynamics and competition (only children are less competitive — no surprise there!), what happens when teams are involved, and how we respond to winning and losing.

The part about the differences between men and women was especially interesting, except that I was annoyed that no data was given as to how prevalent these differences are. In other words, are all women as described, or just the majority? I’m curious if, as a competitive member of a large family, the qualities they attribute to women apply to me.

Since I listened to it, I can’t quote great bits. I found it interesting that some people do better when competing — and some people do worse. I love playing games, but many of my friends don’t enjoy it at all. This book helped me see that probably has a lot to do with our genes and our upbringing, and not something either of us is likely to change in a hurry.

In the section on teams, I thought it was interesting that teams do best not when everyone is equal, but when there are well-defined roles. I thought that related to recent plans to do away with some of the hierarchy at my workplace. It’s not necessarily a good idea.

If you’re at all interested in any type of competition, this book is sure to cover some aspect of that type. Fascinating stuff.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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