Me, Myself, and Why

March 24, 2014 non-fiction, Science 12

18079745Title: Me, Myself, and Why
Author: Jennifer Ouellette
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: I love the author’s sense of humor and the unique fun facts she shared, but was bothered by some oversimplifications and inaccuracies in her coverage of the material I already knew.

“As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology—enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor—to explore the mysteries of human identity and behavior. Readers follow her own surprising journey of self-discovery as she has her genome sequenced, her brain mapped, her personality typed, and even samples a popular hallucinogen. Bringing together everything from Mendel’s famous pea plant experiments and mutations in The X-Men to our taste for cilantro and our relationships with virtual avatars, Ouellette takes us on an endlessly thrilling and illuminating trip into the science of ourselves.” (description from goodreads)

Many books claim that the author will be funny but until you start reading, it’s hard to know if that author’s sense of humor will work for you. As soon as I started this, I could tell that Ouellette was an author whose writing style appeals to my sense of humor. Although I’m still working on my ability to describe humor well, I think the humor in this book could be described as dry, intelligent, and surprising. I also immediately liked her inclusion of personal stories. The relationship between her research and her life made the material she covered even more interesting. I occasionally felt like she was oversharing about her life, but this wasn’t too much of a problem.The material she chose to cover surprised me, including sections on genetic components of alcoholism and the impact of drugs on our brain. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked being surprised. I ended up loving it though, since I’ve read many books on the science of the mind and this is one of the first  I’ve read in a while which included much research I hadn’t heard about before.

One of my favorite parts of this book was learning lots of fascinating and surprising fun facts. However, the author started with material I knew very well and I didn’t love her explanations. I often felt she was cramming too much information into too little space, at the expense of clarity and accuracy. The fact that she explained the material I knew poorly makes me mistrust her explanation of the new-to-me material as well. I also disliked the organization. Although the subsections of each chapter connected to the theme of the chapter, transitions between subsections and transitions between chapters felt abrupt, almost random. Despite the occasionally cramped explanations and less than ideal organization, the material this book covered was fascinating and it made for an easy read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the science of the mind or non-fiction with lots of fun facts.

Amazon|Goodreads

12 Responses to “Me, Myself, and Why”

    • DoingDewey

      I really like books on this topic too! There is some overlap with Michio Kaku’s Future of the Mind which I would definitely recommend over this book.

    • DoingDewey

      The fact that I could spot inaccuracies in the material I knew did make me worry about learning new information from this book! I love learning by reading but like you, I’d hate to learn something wrong!

    • DoingDewey

      How cool! My work involves some of the basic genetics concepts she discusses at the beginning but I haven’t ever had a class that covers this particular topic. This book included a surprising number of studies I hadn’t heard of before in other books on the topic, so I thought it was a very interesting read.

    • DoingDewey

      Yeah, the fact that I could see some small inaccuracies in the stuff I knew did make me worry a bit about the stuff that was new to me. The problems I spotted weren’t terrible, but it does bother me when a pop science book is getting things wrong. This book might be all many people know about this topic, so I think it’s important for the author to get it right.

    • DoingDewey

      I thought it made for an enjoyable read. Often the human side of a subject is what makes me like non-fiction 🙂