The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam (Hardcover, 2008)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
As someone who has long made a practice of drawing and/or gesturing while talking (talking with your hands, some people call it), I felt drawn to this book (no pun intended). I agree with most of the author's general comments, and I admire him for coming up with a symbol/drawing system that is logical and, if used properly, powerful.
I think if your job or pastime requires you to play the persuasion game, it's worthwhile to learn some kind of system that allows you to draw quickly and efficiently. Roam has such a system.
This book consists of four parts. If you read just the first part, you get that warm feeling that comes from having grasped some pretty useful concepts. The other three parts show the techniques Roam uses, and these can make you feel a little lost. Unless you intend to study and learn his specific techniques, these last three parts are better skimmed than read.
He uses a specific case history, and you watch this evolve from very simple through various stages to the final step. This case history makes up, by far, the bulk of the book.
Once you understand the basic concept, you could stop reading as you finish Part 1 (it ends on page 45). The rest of the book walks you through a long example of how to use the concept.
Personally, I find this system to be too complicated to adopt for my own use. I have better uses for the time it would require to learn and practice, as it doesn't solve a problem I have. But that is only my situation; yours may be entirely different. For the small price of this book, you may want to buy a copy and judge for yourself.
The book's cover is 49 square inches in area (7H x 7W) and 260 pages long (278 pages, if you count the appendices and index). There is a newer, expanded version out now. I don't see the purpose of it, unless you want to study and adopt Roam's system as your own.
This brings us to my statement that I agree with most of the author's general comments. Where I disagree is his opinion that you have to draw pictures to communicate effectively (that, at least, seems to be what he's saying--repeatedly). I think if you hone your verbal, written, and composition skills to such a level that you can score 90% or higher on a test of Standard Written English, you will have the ability to effectively communicate.
All investments of time and money have opportunity costs. If you can't score highly on a test of SWE (few Americans can), then you should first learn English well enough to do that. Only then should you enhance your communication skills by adding the pictorial method. Then again, it may be that using a pared-down version of Roam's method could help anyone be a better student of English.