A book review that warmed an author’s heart

Every once in a while, someone says something about my book that makes all the hard work I put into it worthwhile, and makes me feel like I truly accomplished something. I received such a review today, from someone called Stew Mulligan. I was so excited about it, I had to reprint it on my blog. The original review can be found here. Thank you Stew Mulligan, wherever you are!

The author and her book

The author and her book

“The Secrets of Top Students, by Stefanie Weisman, is a great book!

As a Stuyvesant High School alumnus, I know what it means to be that school’s valedictorian. Stuyvesant is not just any high school. It is a school that if you become a doctor you are considered an underachiever. They expect you to at least become head of a department in a major hospital or medical school. Stuyvesant graduate David Axelrod, is ONLY an advisor to the President; Stuyvesantian Eric Holder, is US Attorney General: not bad, but not a Supreme Court Justice. It’s where if you get 800 on your math SAT nobody lifts an eye. But in all seriousness, this is a school of really, really smart kids and, as such, I am awed by Stefanie’s academic accomplishments — not only the Stuyvesant valedictorian but she also graduated with the highest GPA from Columbia College. That’s like being the baseball Rookie of the Year and then following up by winning the MVP and Triple Crown. Stefanie knows how to hit academia’s fast ball, curve and knuckleball, and all for homeruns.

As a rule, if you want to learn something well, it is a good idea to learn from the best, and Stefanie Weisman’s Secrets of Top Students is now THE SOURCE on how to maneuver through the obstacle course of higher education. I guarantee that this book will not disappoint.

If school, in general, and tests, term papers and the like, in particular, give you anxiety attacks, then this book is definitely the relaxant. By all rights, Stefanie should never have become valedictorian. In fact, she probably should have been mediocre at best, since she has a certain learning disability. But by putting excuses aside, she learned how to use her strengths to overcome her weaknesses, by developing a relatively simple system of studying. In Secrets of Top Students she conveys her system, no longer secrets, in a clear and concise manner. And, I might add, with a particularly droll and somewhat self-effacing sense of humor. In other words, she explains how to walk the walk, how to traverse through the killing fields of the classrooms with the least possible pain and suffering. She explains how to avoid being an academic casualty or also-ran and to get through it all, knowing you did the best you can, while actualizing your potential.

This is not a textbook. But it tells how to penetrate the textbooks. This is not a lecture, but it tells how to absorb and retain what the lecturer is “trying” to expound. Being smart is not enough. You have to know how to learn. This book shows how to do it in an efficient and intelligent manner. Stefanie’s prose is concise and easy to follow and the book develops in a logical manner. (It ends with a chapter on “How to Take a Test”, by the way, since test taking is where the rubber meets the road.) The use of well placed bullet points and bold font help to highlight the most important concepts. At the same time, the book makes clear that there are individual differences, and that students have to make adjustments in their own studying methods that work best for them. Nevertheless, these basic concepts are still applicable, to different degrees and with different emphasis, to all types of learners.

Nor does the book sugar-coat the reality. It tells it like it is, which is to say that the most important thing in becoming a good, or a great student, is commitment and a willingness to work hard, damn hard. There is no easy way. There is only a EASIER WAY, a SMARTER WAY. This book is the roadmap.

I guess my only complaint, after reading this book, is that it was published 40 odd years too late. If only there had been a Stefanie Weisman to write such a book for us baby boomers, to help us get through the morass known as education, like a machete in a rain forest, who knows what grades I would have gotten. But today, 2013, if you are a young person wanting to maximize your potential in school, or if you are a parent of a student and would like to see your child rise to the top, take my advice and go out and purchase this book ASAP.”