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Becoming the Iceman Paperback – November 22, 2011
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I initially gave the book a 1-star review, but I later upgraded my review to 3 stars to reflect the useful content in the book.
First, 3 suggestions to readers, then the specific criticisms of my review:
1. Compare other books on the subject. When I purchased this book, it was the only one available on the Wim Hof Method, and I found it lacking in readability. I can't comment on other books, as this is the only one I've read on Wim's methods. Info from online sources didn't come anywhere close to matching the depth of what I found in the book.
2. If you get the book and manuscript quality is important to you, keep in mind reviewers' criticisms of weak points. If I'd known those ahead of time, perhaps I wouldn't have gotten so frustrated from assuming the book would be of at least average editorial quality and then finding it came nowhere close to that. The book's terrible editing annoyed me so much that I tossed it in a donation box long before finishing it. Still interested in finding out more about Wim's methods before shelling out for the online course, though, I eventually retrieved and finished the book.
3. If you find the book difficult to get through, consider reading Wim's chapters first and then going back through Justin's. I found it much less frustrating when I switched to this method, because the information flowed more logically.
This book scores very low for readability and usability. It sorely lacks ease of referencing specific material due to the lack of both an index and table of contents. It also scores poorly in clarity of writing and logical sequencing of information. The book's useful background & technical information is buried in a morass of poor organization, utterly trivial and irrelevant detail (especially in author/editor Justin Rosales' sections), and frequent errors.
The book contains some excellent information. The authors come across as open-hearted, enthusiastic, conscientious, and deeply devoted to sharing their subject matter. If they ever spring for a real editor to clean up the manuscript and reissue it with an index and/or a table of contents at minimum, the book could be a fine showcase for Wim's methods and both authors.
Before I had even heard of Wim, I read up on cold exposure to inform my approaches to workout recovery and for cold water habituation for open water swimming. I have been interested in Russian Special Forces "cruelty training" for soldiers and cold water "tempering" for wrestlers and Olympic weightlifters. I've kept a 100 gallon tank in my back yard for my own use and frequently make use of the Russian Banya in my city. So finding Wim, watching everything online covering him and his achievements has been fun and gratifying.
So imagine my disappointment when I picked up the book, at my cost, and found it to be complete amateur hour. Before one even gets to the content, it's impossible not to notice that the book is an editorial nightmare. There are factual and typographic mistakes on every page. The narrative is anecdotal, first person, and displays a randomness that sometimes reads like a high school kid trying trying to stretch one page of ideas to meet a 10 page paper requirement. There's no arc or connection between paragraphs of the narrative that should be a fundamental element of any non-fiction work.
It turns out that the book is edited by Wim's co-author, Justin Rosales, an undergraduate student at Penn State, and Justin's girlfriend. Their qualifications for this task appear to be nothing more than their acquired friendship with Wim. In addition to the lack of quality editorial, the content suffers from overall lack of rigor and information. Justin and Wim trade off chapter for chapter for no apparent reason, and the thinking within and amongst the chapters is arbitrary and grows increasingly annoying and boring, especially in Justin's chapters, as the book progresses.
For example, Rosales spends one chapter describing his first trip to California to gain exposure to Tummo, the Tibetan meditation form than comprises part of Wim's approach to cold exposure. The chapter is filled with myriad weird (and as it turns out, absolutely unimportant) details about the trip such as his decision to forgo a dinner at a Popeye's fried chicken franchise. Wha?
When he finally gets down to describing his experience at the Tummo seminar, the details are absent except what feels like a forced explanation that he couldn't stomach the religious aspects of Tibetan Buddhism that underlay the practice of Tummo. Um yeah, and there are folks that bug out on the "religious" aspects of yoga too. But why? He never explains and as it turns out, again, this has no bearing on anything else in the book. It's just story telling about nothing.
The best part of the book is the last 10 or so pages when the authors finally provide something reasonably approximating a method for "becoming" like Wim and experiencing cold exposure in all of it glory. It's still a weak narrative, there's nothing presented on the science that 's been conducted on cold exposure and habituation, or on Wim's own exploits.
In summary, this book is the perfect follow-up to Wim's TED Talk appearance. In that TED talk, Wim speaks to the audience about his accomplishments and a little bit about the research conducted on him directly. Then he climbs into an upright tank that is filled with snow as he is interviewed by the TED presenter. When the talk is done, nobody on stage could figure out how to get Wim out of the tank as they had clearly not worked out those details ahead of time, figuring that wowing the crowd would be sufficient. Amateur hour.