Book review: The Geography of Thought

Some time ago I ordered a bunch of books from Book Depository. One of them was Confessions of a Public Speaker, and another one was The Geography of Thought, a book about the differences between how East Asians and Americans think and behave.

The book explores the difference between East and West thinking and how those societies work. By using “East” the author mostly means China, Japan and Korea, and by “West” he means most Europe and America, although it’s particularly focused on the US. It starts with the old Chinese and old Greek philosophers, showing how they lived, how their societies were like, and how they approached knowledge. From there it explains how those initial philosophy approaches and how people behaved reinforced each other in a kind of spiral. Some of the findings are pretty interesting or revealing, and the book is full of examples and experiments used to discover differences in how we think. It was pretty cool that I found out things not only about Asians, but also about Americans. Actually now I have a pet theory about why I tend to dislike Hollywood films :-D

Not everything was good though. Things I didn’t like about it:

  • I found the language needlessly complex, it took me a chapter or two to get used to it

  • Some of the points felt repeated over and over again

  • Some (admittedly not many) parts felt a bit like a pissing contest, like somehow trying to work out which culture was “better”; I’m sure that wasn’t the author’s intention, but the wording of some parts could have been better

In summary, a quite good read on a very interesting topic, with a couple of relatively minor issues.