Novel Reactions: Flow

Mihaly Csikszentihalyi’s Flow is all about having optimal experience, leading to a state of “flow.” When you’re in a state of flow, you’re more productive, more creative, and more content. If this is the case, it sounds like flow would lead one to (or, might be the expression of) self-actualization (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), given that we’re talking about optimal experience here.

So… the concept is interesting. However, the truth of the matter is that I did not enjoy reading the book. Yes, the book is rated highly on Goodreads, and I actually read Flow based on a colleague’s recommendation, but I only finished the book as a personal challenge. If I were more well-versed with this topic, I would probably recommend that people skip this and read another book instead.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so thank you for introducing me to the concepts of flow and optimal experience, and if anyone else is interested in the topic, go ahead and read Flow. (May your reading experience be more optimal than mine.) I’ll let you know if I find a better alternative.

It could have been better.

Some of the chapters of the book could have been condensed and combined. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again to the point that I must have been punishing myself by trying to finish the book. Chapters one and two were alright since they set the stage, but chapters three through five simply dragged on for too long—we get the point, can we please talk about something else? Chapters six and ten were the only ones I truly enjoyed. What a shame that it had taken half the book to finally appreciate the book.

Second, there is an air of condescension throughout the book. This is not my first nonfiction read, so I know that nonfiction writers totally are capable of writing interesting books without making readers feel like they are being talked down to. Aside from that, the book seemed to offer black-or-white opinions on incredibly grey situations. I’ve already had 11+ years of religion classes; I was not amused by this.

Finally, I did not appreciate the choice of pronoun usage throughout the book. Using “she” as opposed to “he” and vice versa distinguishes supposedly feminine traits or activities from supposedly masculine ones. I get that the writing might flow more smoothly if only one or the other (“he” or “she”) was used, especially in the cases when an actual person was being referred to, but for generic examples, why choose a gender-based pronoun when you could use “one” or “they” or “them?” This really bothered me especially because it was quite noticeable as I read the book (since, you know, actual words were used).

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