Book Review: Improv Wisdom

As previously challenged, I have created my first-ever book review. (I assume that junior high school book reports don’t count.) The following is now on Amazon.

(2 stars) A great idea with a trite implementation

I love improv, and my short time learning and performing it has taught me much about how to live life adventurously.

I was expecting this book to have the following promising premise:
1) Here is a concept from improv.
2) Here is how this concept applies to creating great improv.
3) Here is how to apply this concept to your everyday life to make it more exciting/rewarding/entertaining/fulfilling.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t have this premise. At least most of the book didn’t. A couple chapters almost followed this format, and half of these chapters half worked.

Many of the chapters had no discernible or explained connection with improv at all. For example, one chapter covered saying “thank you” to people, but never explained what this has to do with improv. Many other chapters make long nonsensical segues into topics like meditation or Japanese tea parties.

My favorite lesson from the book is this: Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism. That is where the book started and, unfortunatly, it rapidly went downhill after that.

My advice:
1) Be suspicious of the abundance of five-star reviews. A number of them feel like ‘astroturfing’ to me.
2) Find a (free) local improv group/workshop that practices together every week. This is the best way to gain improv’s wisdom.

This happened to be the most recent book that I was reading. It happened to fit into this blog’s theme of challenge, but it happened to be for a book that I didn’t care for. Oh well. I’ll be sure to highlight some favorites for my next few reviews!

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1 comment so far

  1. Patricia Ryan Madson on

    Dear Sir or Madame,
    (I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find your name on the article). I want to thank you for taking the time to write a review of my book. I am truly sorry that it was disappointment, and that the ideas presented in the book didn’t uphold the premise that you were expecting. All I can say is that the book represents my own experience of teaching and working with improvisation over the years. If you are an improviser perhaps you have some experiences and advice that would fit the premise you suggested. I sincerely hope that you will write that book yourself. And, if you got to the end of the book you will know that I completely agree with you. On page 158 I say that “the best way to study improv is by working with a group” and then I go on to make suggestions about how to find a group in your area.

    And, to clarify, “saying thank you” has to do with the eye that is carefully watching what others are doing for you, and in general what others are doing. Only when you see this clearly can you build upon what IS happening to create a scene.

    Best wishes to you for all of your improvisations either in life or on the stage.
    Regards,
    Patricia Ryan Madson


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