Book Reviews

The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan

ISBN-13: 978-1406647167
Publisher: BBC Active
Pages: 240

Mind maps are an efficient technique for organizing thoughts around complex areas, be it in business or daily-life. Tony Buzan is the inventor of modern mind mapping (the concept of mind maps actually have a much longer history ). I use mind maps a lot when attending presentations, learning a new domain, or understanding an existing program. I read this book with the goal of making my mind mapping more efficient and understand how it's really done.

Buzan kicks-off the book with a brief but informative overview of how our brain works on the neuro-biological level. It's obviously a strongly simplified presentation, but it serves its purpose by setting the stage for Buzan's idea of radiant thinking. Radiant thinking is intended to reflect the structure and processes of our brains, where associative thought spreads in different directions from a given point. And a mind map mirrors this activation pattern; a mind map always radiates from its central image or idea. The result is a hierarchical and non-linear view of its subject.

But a mind map is more than just a different organization. Mind maps build on ideas from learning theory and memory research by harnessing and combining multiple senses and skills like colors, images, and words. Buzan does a good job of presenting the problems that mind maps solve and explains the rules of mind mapping, which are more like a supporting set of principles.

So far, I've been quite positive in my review. But the book has a few problems. The most obvious is the final chapter, which reads like a sales brochure for the mind mapping software company that Buzan owns. To me, it would have made a better case if Buzan had included a slight touch of critical thinking; digitalizing mind maps must involve some trade-offs and that discussion is sadly absent in the book. Further, the organization of the book is disappointing. For someone preaching the importance of involving multiple senses in a learning experience, it's surprising that the book has such a traditional layout. I mean, take a look at the Head First concept . That's brilliant and engaging. Putting rules in a PowerPoint-style bullet-list is not. On the plus side, Buzan includes several truly beautiful mind maps.

But there are more serious problems with the book than its layout. Buzan makes a lot of strong statements (for examples, read the back-cover where mind maps promise to "dramatically improve your intelligence, creativity, communication, concentration and memory"). But he rarely references any scientific support for his claims. Not that they are wrong, but without references I have to take it with a pinch of salt. Adding references would also serve as an excellent guide to further studies.

I realize that this review will come along as pretty critical. And yes, critical it is, but make no mistake - mind maps are a valuable technique and The Mind Map Book is a good introduction. It's just that it could have been so much better.

Reviewed February 2010