Monday, April 5, 2010

How to Become Smarter

Nikolai Shevchuk, PhD
CreateSpace (2010)
ISBN 9781449919597
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (03/10)

"How to Become Smarter" by Nikolai Shevchuk has a lot going for it, starting with the front cover.  Let's face it, who could resist picking up a book like that off the shelf and at least reading the first few pages to see what it is all about?  We all need to become smarter in some way or another, so it is a natural read.

I have to admit that before opening the cover of this book I was a little skeptical.  Who is this guy and what is he selling?  Is he a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a motivational speaker, or perhaps some kind of charlatan?  And what is he selling? As I began to read, I quickly realized that the answer to those two questions is none of the above, and nothing.  Specifically, Dr. Shevchuk has a PhD in molecular and cellular oncology from George Washington University.  He is an author or coauthor of fourteen scientific publications in the field of biomedicine.  The only thing he is selling is this book, in which he makes a strong and credible case for certain dietary and lifestyle changes that in his words, "can help you to: understand complex or dull text; concentrate on reading and writing; get along with people and live without conflicts; sharpen your wit and entertain people; and more."

Dr. Shevchuk's writing style won me over almost immediately with the following statement early on in the book, "Each chapter contains an informative summary and there is also a summary of key points at the end of each section within each chapter.  It may be easier to read the summaries of all chapters once or twice and then key points at the end of each section.  After that you can proceed to read chapters that you find particularly interesting or the whole book from start to finish."  A man after my own heart!  That's just how I like to read books of this type. Armed with this advice, I proceeded to read steadily and with good comprehension through the main chapters of the book which are: Mental clarity or "fluid intelligence;" Attention control or the ability to concentrate; Management of sleep; Emotional intelligence; Reading and writing performance; and Social intelligence.

You may be wondering why a Russian microbiologist would write so knowledgably and persuasively about nonpharmacological approaches to mental fitness.  I don't have an answer to that, but my wife, who was born in Poland and spent most of her life there, tells me that Russians are famous for their home-remedy skills, mainly because there has always been a shortage of doctors in the smaller towns and villages there.  This seems plausible to me.

So what's the bottom line?  Do I recommend this book or not?  Let me put it this way: my review copy is on my desk and it is going to stay there until I get a chance to read it again slowly, highlighter in hand, cover to cover---especially the chapter on reading and writing performance.  Meanwhile, a copy is on its way to my son along with stern admonition to thoroughly read the chapter on social intelligence.  He could use a little help in that department.  In other words, "How to Get Smarter" by Nikolai Shevchuk is an excellent and practical read and I highly recommend it.   Cпасибо, Dr Shevchuk!

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live