Flowers for Algernon


A retarded guy Charlie gets an intelligence-increasing operation that makes him a genius. He becomes smarter than the scientists that operated on him and during his own research he finds out that the procedure yields only temporary results. As he spirals down back to retardation he gets to live with the love of his life, but his decreasing intelligence makes him depressed and eventually he becomes a loner. By the end of his cognitive decline he goes back to full retardation and becomes basically unaware of what has happened to him.

“I bet Im the frist dumb persen in the world who found out some thing inportent for sience. I did somthing but I dont remembir what. So I gess its like I did it for all the dumb pepul like me in Warren and all over the world”

My Main Takeaway(s)

  • Being dumb and happy is better than smart and sad
  • With intelligence comes the painful realization of how harsh life can be
  • Dumb & genuine people are happier than smart & inquisitive people
  • Intelligence is a double-edge sword - you also become aware of all that’s wrong with you and the world
  • Having friends and emotional intelligence is more important for a happy fulfilling life than just pure intelligence


Looking at my main takeaways, I feel like I needed to read this book because I often put my intellectual work ahead of my interpersonal life. I value learning and intelligence to a great degree and I often forgo social occasions for my personal learning. However, I also believe that to achieve something great, one must devote an above average amount of time to their goal, which might seem out of balance for the, quote-on-quote, normal person. So, more or less I still stand behind my deep-focus work-hard philosophy but the book was a good reminder to occasionally let go of the rigidity of my schedule and enjoy some time with friends, girlfriend, family etc.. I don’t seek balance but I do want to keep working on the few good relationships I have because they are as valuable (if not more) as the bottomless pit of knowledge.