Book Review: Plays Well with Others

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I had high hopes for Plays Well with Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. Several years ago, I read and reviewed Eric Barker’s first book, Barking up the Wrong Tree. I thought it was great. Many of the things that made it great are also true for Plays Well with Others. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are other things that made the first book great that are missing from this book. There are some irritating things, too. They make this book far less satisfying than Barker’s first book.

The Good

Research in this book is solid. It presents several sides of interesting issues. If those issues are important to you, you’ll love the individual chapters devoted to them.

The Not-So-Good

Addressing interesting issues is important, but it’s not enough to make a good book. A good book connects the dots and draws important conclusions from the totality of the book’s content. Plays Well with Others doesn’t do that. There’s no throughline and it’s more like a collection of essays or blog posts than like a great book.

The individual chapters are not connected. You can read a chapter late in the book without having read an earlier chapter. And the lessons of the individual chapters are not drawn together in the conclusion.

That can be a benefit. If one chapter or another is really interesting to you, you can read it without worrying that you’ll miss any of the meaning by not reading other, earlier chapters. You can dip into this book selectively.

The Irritating

There was one thing that was irritating to me that may not bother you at all. I’m a book writing coach. I strive to have my clients write in a transparent style. I believe that if you read a book and notice the style, you’re not noticing the content.

For me, this book had way too much “look at me!” prose. That may work fine in its single essay or a blog post, but it becomes irritating if it fills an entire book. Noticing the author’s style doesn’t help me understand and doesn’t move the book forward.

In a Nutshell

Plays Well with Others will give you good research and interesting insights into a range of issues. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the author doesn’t connect the dots, so Plays Well with Others is more like a collection of essays or blog posts than a powerful book.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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