[ blog » 2022 ] Book: The Science of Self-Control (by Philipp Gesang, location: the armchair)

A quick read despite the 375 pages (see below for more on that), Henselmans’ book condenses the essence of hundreds of studies into a series of brief chapters. The cornerstone of his approach to drawing practical advice from that vast amount of research is the distinction between “system one” and “system two” popularized by Kahneman in his work Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thanks to explanations in terms of this familiar notion, Henselmans introduces a plethora of theoretial concepts with ease and his writing never requires of the reader to resort to the numerous sources he cites in support. A useful simplification for sake of efficiency.

“The Science of Self-Control” is intellectually lean as information is tighly packed on those pages. The condensed format pays off as there’s not a chapter from which nothing can be learned. Practical, immediately useful advice on the main topics of productivity, diet, planning and adherence, exercise and general motivation flows from every paragraph, some of it powerful enough it may revise long held convictions. Henselmans draws from and expands on the articles posted on his website so given familiarity with his writings, one occasionally can skip ahead a page or two, but even parts too might provide updates useful to those familiar with earlier works of his.

Where the book shines is its content, much less so the presentation. The typesetting is plainly abhorrent. ³/₂ interline spacing has no place in a book, ever. The impression arises that the final draft may not have seen an editor or typesetter at all and went directly from Word document to the printing press. Consequently the reading experience suffers as the eyes jump around when they lose track of the lines. As condensed as the writing is, as fluffy is the overall density of the book. The tone too might have benefited from an editor as occasionally it borders on rambling bro-speak, which is a shame as it will needlessly limit the book’s audience. Hopefully these issues get sorted out for the second edition that the content deserves.

Menno Henselmans (2021): The Science of Self-Control, ISBN 979-8700048361.