Book review: Delightful exploration of what makes ‘the greats’ so great

Adam Gopnik’s hugely entertaining The Real Work follows him as he learns various new skills and tries to understand ‘the mystery of mastery’

The charm of Adam Gopnik’s book The Real Work lies in the pilgrim’s progress towards enlightenment. Picture: Getty

Since 1986, Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer at the world’s greatest magazine, The New Yorker. One of its leading literary luminaries, Gopnik is comfortable expatiating on a vast range of subjects from art and musical theatre to food, Francophilia and much else besides. Arid intellectualism is not his thing; he’s a crowd-pleaser, a versatile middlebrow who can enliven any subject.

No better man, therefore, to take on the daunting challenge of his new ...