Critical Thinking, Tom Chatfield – An Honest Review

Initial Thoughts and Impressions:

The cover and overall appearance of the book does not scream textbook rather it replicates a similar vibe to the wreck this journal by Keri Smith. – It is simplistic, yet eye-catching due to the vibrant yellow and mimics that of a an old school work book.

Upon flicking through the book I am immediately drawn to the vibrant colours of text, which in fact is a page dedicated to a quote. The majority of pages have text in a handwritten style that at first made me think someone had used my copy; to accompany the text specific words are highlighted and referred to in the margins of the book.

This saves time on students’ having to personally highlight and write in the book themselves.

It appears this is not like any ordinary textbook and has the potential to be very interactive. Overall, the textbook is very aesthetically pleasing.

The contents

The book itself is split into two parts:

Part 1: The art and science of being reasonable

Part 2: Being reasonable in an unreasonable world


Each part contains six chapters all with unique titles and subheadings. As I am a typical student with assessments and commitments I have decided to look at 6 chapters that I think are the most interesting and relevant to my studies. I have personally never read or studied critical thinking, yet something about this book makes me excited to?

After watching a video about the author, Tom Chatfield, I now feel I have more of an understanding as to what critical thinking is and a sense of confusion as to why I had no idea what it was before now.

Chapter 1: Understanding the reasons behind things

The first chapter of the book eases the reader into the world of critical thinking. It has a lot of activities to keep the reader on their toes and interacting with the content to make sure they understand it. It begins by discussing arguments and conclusions, something I thought I already knew about, turns out I didn’t and actually got some of the exercises wrong.

The chapter continues in a similar format of exercises based on the text you’ve just read but explores four different types of information commonly found in speech and writing. This chapter would be particularly useful to look at when approaching essays! Even if you didn’t have time to read the whole chapter, the summary at the end of the chapter clearly explains the key points of the chapter.

Chapters 3, reasoning with logic and certainty and 5, developing explanations and theory begin to throw the reader into the deep end. Or at least I felt like I was in the deep end. They discuss topics such as deductive reasoning, valid and invalid arguments and reasoning, abduction, explanations, theories and hypotheses and conducting meaningful research, plus many more topics. Both of theses chapters unlike the first one, truly makes you think and personally I found myself reflecting on my past work and noting how I would do things differently upon reading these chapters. Chapter 3 includes exercises to help understand the text in a similar format to chapter one, there as chapter 5 is more focused on the actual text, rather than exercises. This is more what I am used to and I liked that not all of the chapters were going to be full of exercises. I know for a fact before an assignment I will be looking back at chapter five as a refresher.

Chapter 9: Understanding Cognitive Bias

Chapter 9 once again submerges the reader into the text, testing them on different examples and making them apply the knowledge they have just learnt. By teaching students about Behavioural Economics it allows students to apply this to both the research they read but also interactions with people in their every day life.

As a future marketer it is important to know about the different types of bias and how they are presented.

Chapter 11: Thinking Critically About Technology

Chapter 11 goes into detail about thinking critically about technology and how technologies have their own biases and blind spots and how they overlap with our own biases in complex ways. The most useful topic in that chapter for myself is the “ten tips for spotting online misinformation”. As a student is very easy to follow “fake news” and irrelevant information and these tips help you to decipher the fake from the real. What may seem like obvious tips to most, as a student it is very easy to forget these ten steps. Another essential read for students is “search, discovery and categories of knowledge”, this section helps students to search effectively through search and discovery strategies. Once again, simple enough steps to some people but easily forgotten by students in a panic to write their essays they’ve left to the last minute.

Chapter 12: Putting It All Together: Critically Thinking in Study, Work and Life

The final chapter is fittingly titled “putting it all together: critical thinking in study, work and life”. The chapter goes through steps for good writing in general and good academic writing; quite literally breaking down everything you need to do in order to write to a good standard. It also talks about overcoming barriers that hold you back, which as someone who sometimes suffers with a block of not being able to write, it was refreshing to know that there are things I can do to overcome this.

Particularly the “three things that i cannot change but should worry less about” section. It ends with an exercise reflecting on what you have learnt throughout the book and of course ends with the ten commandments of critical thinking.

What else is there?

There is a reading guide with a list of books that covers topics throughout the book, so if there is a particular section you enjoyed or wanted to learn more about you have a great place to start! There is a very detailed glossary too spanning over ten pages, as well as a synopsis of five valid forms of arguments.

So, what do I really think ?

In all honesty I wasn’t sure how useful critical thinking was going to be to me in my studies or daily life but it is now something I want to look into more. What I particularly like about this book is the way it includes the reader. Each chapter has pages with dedicated exercises and writing space for the reader to interact with the content they have just read. I find this useful as it prevents the common feeling of understanding something because you’ve read it then not being able to understand it and apply it to real examples.

The book itself is easy to read and provides you with highlighted and bold sections leading you to the relevant information. This makes it particularly useful when skimming a chapter to see what it is about.

One of my main focuses when choosing a textbook is the layout and how easy it is to navigate. This book has a brilliantly clear layout, with just the right amount of content on the page and spaced out enough it doesn’t all merge into one big block of text. The pops of colour and the “hand written” notes make it all the more authentic and useful. It also has all the important stuff highlighted and commented on for you, saving other people writing all over the book.

I would definitely recommend this book to other students and would like to see it incorporated into my studies by lecturers.

Back of the book: “beyond the book… there’s more to discover #criticalthinking”

The book is continued as such, on its own website and contains quizzes and videos, including a video by the author. This is useful for students who don’t have the time or the patiences to sit and read. The same easy to use feel is continued online too! For more information on critical thinking use the hashtag #criticalthinking to find out more! 

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