This isn’t a terrible book, but it’s not spectacular either. On one hand, Chua and Rubenfeld put into simple words something I inherently understood but had never said out loud before: Insecurity, a sense of superiority, and impulse control are what make people successful. “I am better than everyone else” + “I have to prove it” + “I’m willing to suffer/work hard” = externally validating forms of success.
I’ve seen this “triple package” work very well in individuals, but never thought to apply it to whole cultural groups before, something Chua does with relish. Kids who learn diligence early on do much better than ordinary lazy American children who just watch television. She backs up this hornet’s nest of a sociological supposition with a mountain of data–the end notes are something like 30% of the book.
Despite the mountain of data, I couldn’t help shake the “bell curve” type vibe of this book, as if the whole book was dedicated to proving that Chinese people are better (and maybe Mormons, but not so much Jews, who have been losing it recently.) Maybe I’m unduly influenced by her Tiger Mom book, which was apparently mostly a manifesto for forcing your children to do what (you think) they ought to do.
My rule of thumb for a cookbook is that if you get one recipe you can add to your weekly repetoire, it’s a good cookbook. By this rule, it’s not a terrible book. I did have an ah-ha moment. But except for that and a sort of half-assed patriotic feel-good assessment of “American” culture at the end, I can’t say this book is a must-read for anyone.