When I first took sculling lessons a year ago, this book and Essential Sculling were recommended by the instructor. I ordered both, and though I read both, I didn't really appreciate the wisdom contained in The Art of Sculling until I fell out of the shell a couple of weeks ago.
I had done a capsize recovery drill in the beginner shell, but not in the sleeker boat to which I'd graduated. Fifteen minutes of flinging myself at the edge of the shell sent me back to the book, and a 2 week hiatus while my sore side recovered gave me much-needed time to reflect. I realized that, like trying harder and harder to recover but with improper technique, I was trying to improve my sculling by working harder, not smarter. I realized that if I really wanted to improve, I would need to learn everything I could about exactly how to scull properly.
I had a new appreciation for so many of the points in this book, like "Good sculling is made up of two very basic ideas; using your energy efficiently and allowing the boat to work for you." Nowhere does he say to just strap yourself in and pull like mad. And he's right! The scullers who invoke envy are pulling smoothly and gracefully and efficiently.
The real value of this book is its' exactness. Everything he says is correct and detailed, and though the importance of a seemingly basic sentence like the one above may not sink it at first, with repeated attempts at learning to scull one does eventually relate, and 'get it'.
The Art of Sculling covers buying and rigging a boat, but the real gold is in the Advanced Technique chapter. Paduda tells you not only what you should be doing, but the how and the why, and exactly how you should feel when you are doing it. He explains how memory works, and modeling and visualization in exacting detail. These are not things that most of us can absorb with one reading. I am finding it helpful to row, then read, then row, then read, and I suspect I will for a long time.
If you are serious about sculling properly, this book is a huge help. - I would say indispensable. I also found that learning to erg properly let me get muscle memory for body movement that transferred to the boat, allowing me to concentrate on bladework, boat movement, etc. when I am in the boat. In that regard a Concept 2 erg, and their DVD on the subject, were extremely helpful. I also used the erg to build up the strength and stamina to row on the water with proper technique, to the extent that I am able, for an hour or so.
Good luck, happy rowing, and may you always have flat water.