Life at the Extremes of Mental and Physical Ability
By Rowan Hooper
Superhuman is a fascinating, eye-opening and inspiring celebration of the best that the current human species has to offer.
This is a book about what it feels like to be exceptional - and what it takes to get there. Why can some people achieve greatness when others can't, no matter how hard they try? What are the secrets of long life and happiness? Just how much potential does our species have?
In this inspirational book, New Scientist Managing Editor Rowan Hooper takes us on a tour of the peaks of human achievement. We sit down with some of the world's finest minds, from a Nobel-prize winning scientist to a double Booker-prize winning author; we meet people whose power of focus has been the difference between a world record and death; we learn from international opera stars; we go back in time with memory champions, and we explore the transcendent experience of ultrarunners. We meet people who have rebounded from near-death, those who have demonstrated exceptional bravery, and those who have found happiness in the most unexpected ways.
Drawing on interviews with a wide range of superhumans as well as those who study them, Hooper assesses the science of peak potential, reviewing the role of genetics alongside the famed 10,000 hours of practice.
For anyone who ever felt that they might be able to do something extraordinary in life, for those who simply want to succeed, and for anyone interested in incredible human stories, Superhuman is a must-read.
Rowan Hooper is Managing Editor of New Scientist magazine, where he has spent more than ten years writing about all aspects of science. He has a PhD in evolutionary biology, and worked as a biologist in Japan for five years, before joining the Japan Times newspaper in Tokyo, and later taking up a fellowship at Trinity College Dublin. Two collections of his long-running column for the paper have been published in Japan, and his work has also appeared in The Economist, Guardian, Wired and the Washington Post. He lives in London with his partner and two daughters.
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- Publication date:
03 May 2018
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Fascinating, timely and very well put together . . . The range of human activities, and abilities, covered in Rowan Hooper's study is astonishing and inspiring. It's a reminder of the incomparable adaptability that evolution has brought about in the human body and mind, and I found myself frequently wondering: what else are we capable of? How much further can we reach? And not least: how can we make sure the human race survives long enough for all our potential to unfold? The whole study is enthralling — Philip Pullman
Rowan Hooper's book corrals humans who are the best at things we revere, such as intelligence, musical ability, bravery and endurance, plus the things that matter the most, longevity and happiness. He sought achievers from all over the world and asked them why and how . . . The result is terrifically entertaining. Hooper is the managing editor of New Scientist magazine and that precious thing, an easy, fluent, funny scientist (evolutionary biology in his case). From an armchair this is spectacularly enjoyable. Hooper is an amiable, jaunty companion who explores the science of extreme human achievement - a mix of environment, practice, genetics, psychology and passion. The message from this upbeat, clever, feel good book is that all of us have greater capacity than we realise. I finished the book inspired — Melanie Reid, The Times
For his new book, Superhuman, Rowan Hooper has travelled the world meeting people who are the best in a range of coveted traits . . . The book details conversations with people who have reached the peak of human potential in happiness, focus, resilience, sleep, ageing, language, bravery and much more - and lays out the scientific studies that back up their experiences . . . Rowan found the people he met, like Ellen MacArthur, explained time and time again in different words that you can overcome any obstacles if you have a burning passion and a goal to strive towards. Find a 'why' and you'll find a way — Niamh Horan, Irish Sunday Independent
In this excellent book, Hooper seeks out the highest achievers in myriad fields and also the scientists studying human capability to reframe the old debate: it's never genes or environment, it is always both things, together — New Scientist
This fascinating book reveals what it takes to be superhuman . . . as an evolutionary biologist, Hooper is persuasive in arguing that the genetic element in extreme performance is generally underestimated — Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail