nonfiction book

The art of learning

Everyone in the chess world knew the name Josh Waitzkin by the time he earned the Chess Master designation at the age of twelve, somewhere in the middle of his eight national championship titles. Notoriety in the chess world then morphed into pop culture fame five years later with the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on Waitzkin’s life.

In seeking an escape from the inner turmoil caused by his child celebrity status, Josh stumbled upon the Tao Te Ching, and was drawn by the Buddhist and Taoist philosophies of inner tranquility. Pressing further into Tai Chi, he found that the methods he used in chess to convert techniques and theory into subconscious memory also worked in Tai Chi, and leveraged that knowledge into a Tai Chi career that overshadowed even his brilliant chess record, with 13 national championships.

The journey from king of the chess nerds to martial arts legend is astounding in itself, but the real story here is that Josh subsequently accomplished what few have done. In studying philosophy at Columbia, he began to unearth the foundation of the highest levels of learning, retracing his steps and breaking down a process that typically can only be grasped intuitively. The result is a book that explains in clear and practical terms what every grandmaster of every craft has known, but few have so eloquently expressed.