Book by Edward Burger & Michael Starbird
Review by Brandon Kroll 
Advisor – Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in the Sociology Department
University of South Florida, Tampa

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird is a fun little book with great tips to improve overall thinking skills. The authors give instructions in the beginning of the book that it should be read at least three times, which the compactness of the book allows for without any trepidation. First, they ask that the reader simply read through the whole book. It is upon the second reading that they suggest working the exercises and taking notes. And it is the third reading that they suggest will be helpful for reference as the reader uses the book as a tool.

The book as a whole takes a problem or an issue and breaks it down into the four main chapters of the book. A strong component of the book is the authors’ equating the elements of the issue/problem to the classical elements of nature and matter. Earth represents understanding deeply the issue at hand. Fire represents the ignition of thought through the use of failure to learn what not to do. Air equates how answers can lead to the creation of additional questions. Finally, Water is used to represent the flow of ideas and how to best harness those ideas.  This connection is entertaining and purposeful and the authors do a good job of connecting the element to the issue/problem throughout each specific chapter.

Burger and Starbird break the issue/problem down into these elements because they believe that anyone can become a great thinker using their steps, tools, and exercises. Continually, the authors make the point that great ideas came from small beginnings and were built upon failures to where a final product can be realized. This theme builds confidence in the reader that he or she can open the door to new insight by simply following the books instructions. This aspect of confidence building is perhaps the book’s strongest and most lasting effect on readers.
I can recommend this book to fellow Advisors because it is easy to read and can be used as a reference again and again to tackle tough problems that arise. However, I think that The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking is better suited for students who can employ the techniques in the book to earn better grades and become better thinkers. Advisors who read The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking can offer it as a resource to their students and that, I think, is the best use of the book for advisors.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. (2012) Book by Edward Burger & Michael Starbird. Review by  Brandon Kroll.
Princeton University Press. 168pp., $19.95. ISBN # 978-0-691156-66-8

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