Po Bronson photo by Cary Goldstein.

Po Bronson

Po Bronson has built a career both as a successful novelist and as a prominent writer of narrative nonfiction. He has published six books, and has written for television, magazines, and newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and for National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Po Bronson's book of social documentary, What Should I Do With My Life?, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and remained in the Top 10 for nine months. His first novel, Bombardiers, was a #1 bestseller in the United Kingdom. His books have been translated into 19 languages.

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s New York magazine articles on the science of parenting won the journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Mensa Award, and a Clarion Award. Their articles for Time  won the award for outstanding journalism from the Council on Contemporary Families. Their recent collaboration, the book NurtureShock, has been a New York Times bestseller and was featured on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Currently they are writing regularly for Newsweek.com.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Co-authored by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman

Twelve Books, 2011

One of the most influential books about children ever published, NurtureShock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.

Released in hardcover in September 2009, NurtureShock remained on the New York Times best seller list for three months, and was one of Amazon's best selling books for 2009. The book has become a worldwide phenomenon with editions published around the world - in fifteen languages, to date.

In addition to Bronson and Merryman's writings on praise—first made famous in New York magazine—there are nine more equally groundbreaking chapters. Among the topics covered:

Why the most brutal person in a child's life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults.

When is it too soon—or too late—to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more—so is school diversity backfiring?

Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids, 73% of the time—the new neuroscience explains why.

Why are kids—even those from the best of homes—still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television's unexpected influence, and social dominance.

Parents are desperate to jump-start infants' language skills. Recently, scientists have discovered a series of natural techniques that are astonishing in their efficacy—it's not baby videos, sign language, or even the richness of language exposure. It's nothing you've heard before.


Why Do I Love These People?

Understanding, Surviving, and Creating Your Own Family

Random House, 2006

We all have an imaginary definition of a great family. We imagine what it would be like to belong to such a family. No fights over the holidays. No getting on one another's nerves. Respect for individual identity. Mutual support, without being intrusive. So many people believe they are disqualified from having a better family experience, primarily because they compare their own family with the mythic ideal, and their reality falls short. Is that a fair standard to judge against?"

In the pages of Why Do I Love These People?, Po Bronson takes us on an extraordinary journey.

It begins on a river in Texas, where a mother gets trapped underwater and has to bargain for her own life and that of her kids.

Then, a father and his daughter return to their tiny rice-growing village in China, hoping to rekindle their love for each other inside the walls of his childhood home.

Next, a son puts forth a riddle, asking us to understand what his first experience of God has to do with his Mexican American mother.

Every step—and every family—on this journey is real.

Calling upon his gift for powerful nonfiction narrative and philosophical insight, Bronson explores the incredibly complicated feelings that we have for our families. Each chapter introduces us to two people–a father and his son, a daughter and her mother, a wife and her husband–and we come to know them as intimately as characters in a novel, following the story of their relationship as they struggle resiliently through the kinds of hardships all families endure.

Some of the people manage to save their relationship, while others find a better life only after letting the relationship go. From their efforts, the wisdom in this book emerges. We are left feeling emotionally raw but grounded—and better prepared to love, through both hard times and good times.

In these twenty mesmerizing stories, we discover what is essential and elemental to all families and, in doing so, slowly abolish the fantasies and fictions we have about those we fight to stay connected to.

In Why Do I Love These People?, Bronson shows us that we are united by our yearnings and aspirations: Family is not our dividing line, but our common ground.

Or choose Kindle:

What Should I Do with My Life?

The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

Ballantine Books 2005

What should I do with my life?

It's a question many of us have pondered with frequency. Author Po Bronson was asking himself that very question when he decided to write this book—an inspiring exploration of how people transform their lives and a template for how we can answer this question for ourselves.

Bronson traveled the country in search of individuals who have struggled to find their calling, their true nature—people who made mistakes before getting it right. He encountered people of all ages and all professions—a total of fifty-five fascinating individuals trying to answer questions such as: Is a career supposed to feel like a destiny? How do I tell the difference between a curiosity and a passion? Should I make money first, to fund my dream? If I have a child, will my frustration over my work go away? Should I accept my lot, make peace with my ambition, and stop stressing out? Why do I feel guilty for thinking about this?

From their efforts to answer these questions, the universal truths in this book emerge. Each story in these pages informs the next, and the result is a journey that unfolds with cumulative power. Reading this book is like listening in on an intimate conversation among people you care about and admire. Even if you know what you should do with your life, you will find wisdom and guidance in these stories of people who found meaningful answers by daring to be honest with themselves.
Among them:

The Pittsburgh lawyer who decided to become a trucker so he could savor the moment and be closer to his son.

The toner-cartridge queen of Chicago, who realized that her relationships with men kept sabotaging her career choices.

In the words of Publishers Weekly: "Brimming with stories of sacrifice, courage, commitment and, sometimes, failure, the book will support anyone pondering a major life choice or risk without force-feeding them pat solutions."

SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
NurtureShock
New Thinking About Children

Publishers Weekly
The central premise of this book by Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?) and Merryman, a Washington Post journalist, is that many of modern society's most popular strategies for raising children are in fact backfiring because key points in the science of child development and behavior have been overlooked. Two errant assumptions are responsible for current distorted child-rearing habits, dysfunctional school programs and wrongheaded social policies: first, things work in children the same way they work in adults and, second, positive traits necessarily oppose and ward off negative behavior. These myths, and others, are addressed in 10 provocative chapters that cover such issues as the inverse power of praise (effort counts more than results); why insufficient sleep adversely affects kids' capacity to learn; why white parents don't talk about race; why kids lie; that evaluation methods for giftedness and accompanying programs don't work; why siblings really fight (to get closer). Grownups who trust in old-fashioned common-sense child-rearing -- the definitely un-PC variety, with no negotiation or parent-child equality -- will have less patience for this book than those who fear they lack innate parenting instincts. The chatty reportage and plentiful anecdotes belie the thorough research backing up numerous cited case studies, experts' findings and examination of successful progressive programs at work in schools.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Bookmarks Magazine
Reviewers were generally wowed by Bronson and Merryman's breezy synthesis of the latest parenting research. They often favorably contrasted NurtureShock with traditional parenting guides, which seem old-fashioned compared with the authors' cutting-edge approach. But at least one skeptic felt that NurtureShock was just more of the same; the New York Times Book Review noted that every generation has a "revolutionary" book of parental advice, and this one may only seem novel because of a new kind of packaging. Nevertheless, even Pamela Paul found parts of the book interesting, suggesting that there may indeed be something in NurtureShock for everyone.

"The authors throw open the doors on this research to create a book that is not only groundbreaking but compelling as well. Even if you don't have children, or your kids are grown, you should find the revelations about how the brain works and the rigors and frustrations of the scientific process captivating . . . We see [Bronson and Merryman] doggedly digging for answers to confounding questions . . .  Bronson, with his gentle, conversational style, lays out every conundrum clearly, and shows all the steps the researchers took to ensure accurate results, including tweaking their testing methods when results were inconclusive or seemed flawed. In a sense, it's "Science for Dummies" - explaining cutting-edge research to a lay readership... Riveting."
-- San Francisco Chronicle

"Engaging . . . It's not didactic - more of a revelatory journey  . . . Bronson relays some startling scientific findings . . . Nobody's ever done this before in a systematic way . . . Using the simple technique of speaking to researchers and observing them at work, Bronson and Merryman avoid the smugness common to the parenting oeuvre, which is often rather self-satisfied and/or guilt-inducing. This book's great value is to show that much of what we take to be the norms of parenting - i.e. what's good for children - is actually non-scientific and based on our own adult social anxieties . . . This is a funny, clever, sensible book. Every parent should read it."
-- The Financial Times

"NurtureShock is one of the most important books you will read this year. Bronson and Merryman move parenting out of the realm of folklore and into the realm of science -- and reveal what decades of studies teach us about the complexities of raising, happy, healthy, self-motivated kids. As a writer, I was impressed by the prodigious research and keen analysis. As a father, I was consumed with taking notes and exhilarated by all I learned."
-- Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

"The least touchy-feely [parenting book] ever . . . Bronson delights in showing that most parental intuition and supposedly common knowledge about child rearing is just bullshit, and he has the facts to prove it. Much like in his previous work, he's entered a genre known for emotional cheese, and produced a book that's hard to put down and easy to take seriously. Grade: A" -- The Onion AV Club

"Bronson is a writer who can capture unwieldy topics such as Silicon Valley (The Nudist on the Late Shift), family (Why Do I Love These People?) and big decisions (What Should I Do with My Life?).  Now, in NurtureShock, he's taking on child rearing, and raising some issues about adolescent intelligence, language acquisition, early friendships and aggression that will surprise even well-informed parents."
-- Time Out New York

"A provocative collection of essays popularizing recent research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising children...[Bronson and Merryman] ably explore a range of subjects of interest to parents... Their findings are often surprising. For example, in schools with greater racial diversity, the odds that a child will have a friend of a different race decrease; listening to "baby DVDs" does not increase an infant's rate of word acquisition; children with inconsistent and permissive fathers are nearly as aggressive in school as children of distant and disengaged fathers. Bronson and Merryman call attention to what they see as two basic errors in thinking about children. The first is the fallacy of similar effect-the assumption that what is true for adults is also true for children. The second-the fallacy of the good/bad dichotomy-is the assumption that a trait or factor is either good or bad, when in fact it may be both (e.g., skill at lying may be a sign of intelligence, and empathy may become a tool of aggression.) The authors also provide helpful notes for each chapter and an extensive bibliography. A skilled, accessible presentation of scientific research in layman's language."
-- Kirkus

"Bronson is a modern Studs Terkel."
-- Glasgow Herald

 


SELECTED REVIEWS FOR

Why Do I Love These People?
Understanding, Surviving, and Creating Your Own Family

From Publishers Weekly
The 19 families profiled in this absorbing book face a familiar litany of domestic dysfunction: infidelities, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, messy divorces and the intergenerational estrangement of immigrants. Novelist and social documentarian Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?) finds the solutions to their dilemmas in the good old-fashioned elements of character and action, as people take stock of themselves and their motivations and painstakingly piece together their relationships and lives. Bronson's is an unromantic view of family life; its foundations, he believes, are not soul-mate bonding or dramatic emotional catharses, but steady habits of hard work and compromise, realistic expectations and the occasional willingness to sever a relationship that's beyond repair. But he also has an optimistic view of today's crazy-quilt of blended and unconventional families, reassuring commitment-shy young adults that "the golden era of family is not in our past, it's in our future." Bronson occasionally lapses into shallow pop psychology, as when he chalks up one husband's philandering to the oxytocin "high" caused by sex with someone new. But usually he offers a probing, clear-eyed, hopeful narrative of familial problems that many readers will recognize.
-- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Bronson interviewed 700 people, 19 of whom are chronicled here. His book is "about decoding the mystery of family life." The stories center on men and women who lead satisfying lives with their families despite destructive childhoods, people who overcome their impulses to repeat what was inflicted upon them, and those who heal in their own particular way, not conforming to any fashion. There are some relationships rescued from the brink and some people whose lives improved after a much-needed divorce or break from their parents. Some couples created compromises by which both get their needs met and contribute equally to the family culture. Others take responsibility for the rest of their lives and no longer let themselves be victims of their experiences. The author examines such subjects as divorce, death, illness, money, prejudice, and abuse. The author of What Should I Do with My Life? (2002) posits that to give and receive love during hard times, it helps to have been shown how beforehand.
-- George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved



SELECTED REVIEWS FOR

What Should I Do with My Life?
The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

From Publishers Weekly
In this elevated career guide, Bronson (Bombardiers; The Nudist on the Late Shift) poses the titular question to an eclectic mix of "real people in the real world," compiling their experiences and insights about callings, self-acceptance, moral guilt, greed and ambition, and emotional rejuvenation. Bronson crisscrosses the country seeking out remarkable examples of successful and not-so-successful people confronting tough issues, such as differentiating between a curiosity and a passion and deciding whether or not to make money first in order to fund one's dream. Bronson frames the edited responses with witty, down-to-earth commentaries, such as those of John, an engineer whose dream of building an electric car crumbled under his personal weaknesses; and Ashley, a do-gooder burdened by the unlikely combination of self-hatred and a love for humanity. Bronson wants to understand what makes these people-among them a timid college career counselor trapped in his job, a farmer bullish on risk-taking, a financial expert grabbing an opportunity to rebuild her brokerage firm devastated by the World Trade Center tragedy and a scientist who rethinks his lifelong work and becomes a lawyer-tick. He occasionally digresses, musing on his own life too much, and frequently hammers points home longer than necessary, but neither of these drawbacks undercuts the book's potency. The "ultimate question" is a topic always in season, worthy of Bronson's skillful probing and careful anecdote selection. Brimming with stories of sacrifice, courage, commitment and, sometimes, failure, the book will support anyone pondering a major life choice or risk without force-feeding them pat solutions.

From Booklist
Novelist and writer Bronson made his name chronicling the rise of cyber careers and attendant fortunes, which later evaporated with the downturn in technology companies and their stocks. In this book, he offers profiles of individuals searching for meaning in what they do for a living, drawn from interviews and personal observations. The subjects include a spiritual leader recruited by the Dalai Lama who nonetheless had to learn his purpose in life for himself; a corporate attorney who had a kidney transplant and then searched for the perfect job where she could use her passion for advocating for other patients in need of transplants; a woman who cast aside a career as a surgeon because she couldn't learn to disconnect from the demands of the profession; a college career counselor who fell into his position and was so fearful of making any changes in his own life that he was of questionable use to his student-clients. Throughout the book, Bronson explores the many fears and misconceptions arising from the search for a career.
-- Vanessa Bush Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Po Bronson speaks to The Power Within.


NurtureShock: Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's New York Magazine articles on the science of children won the magazine journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications. Their articles for Time Magazine won the award for outstanding journalism from the Council on Contemporary Families. Bronson has authored five books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller What Should I Do With My Life?


Don't miss Po Bronson's personal website, chock full of articles, background, philosophies, and writing advice.