The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction

Matthew B. Crawford

Book cover

I ended up not liking this book very much. It’s a little tough to put my finger on exactly why. First, I got interested in it because of a “preview” article published by the author in the NYT (, which, while dealing with issues that I find interesting and claiming that it was “adapted” from TWBYH, has virtually nothing to do with it. In fact, TWBYH seems like a return to Crawford’s standard topic that it can be good to work with your hands. (I haven’t read “Shop Class as Soulcraft”, nor do I intend to at this point.) That’s fine, as far as it goes. But something about the way Crawford presents his case rubs me the wrong way. Oddly enough, I was often reminded of Ayn Rand when I read this book. In Crawford’s paean to the artisanal master-apprentice relationship, I see something of the same longing for an objective system for sorting people out from best to worst. Crawford often uses the phrase “earned independence of judgment,” which rubs me the wrong way. He generalizes skill and hard work in one arena of life somehow to imply competence in other arenas (hello, Donald Trump), and the idea that independence of judgment is anything but the birthright of every person doesn’t seem right to me. Although I no longer have the book with me to cite specific examples, I recall frequently encountering Dennettian “boom crutches” including surelys, rathering, and deepities, just to name a few.

The most interesting part of the book is his discussion of kinetic feedback in car design.

My Goodreads rating: 2 stars