Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Irrationally Yours -

My review of Dan Ariely's Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pick-up Lines and Other Existential Puzzles first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. Hope you enjoy!

First line (of the introduction): "Here is a possible rationalization: My ability to observe and reflect on human nature is rooted in my injury and its continuing effects thanks to being ripped out of my teenage life, sustaining third degree burns on about 70% of my body, being hospitalized for almost three years, experiencing substantial daily pain, experiencing over and over the dysfunction of the medical system, and having extensive scars that make me feel out of place in most social circumstances."

In this astute collection of insights into the human condition, behavioral economist Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) shares questions originating from his Wall Street Journal advice column, "Ask Ariely." Using a scientific approach, Ariely offers up suggestions to societal inquiries such as "What's the best way to get people to stop smoking?" He provides logical, dispassionate opinions about emotional situations, like "My wife and I are... debating whether or not to have kids. Any advice?" And he even attempts to tackle issues as lofty as does free will exist.

Ariely often adds a humorous or sarcastic spin to his responses. When explaining how society could get Americans to die younger, he suggested, "By allowing citizens to smoke, subsidizing sugary and fatty foods, and limiting access to preventative health care. So... it seems like we're already doing the most we can on this front." But his shrewd advice and observations can also be delivered with genuine earnestness. Spelling out the lesson he hopes readers take away from a response, Ariely says, "Direct contact with other people.... causes us to feel, empathize, and act with more care and compassion. And the big question is how to get our politicians, bankers, CEOs...to feel the consequences of their decisions and actions."

Because of its format, Irrationally Yours lends itself perfectly to small reading sessions. However, the wide spectrum of topics and Ariely's unpredictable responses make each page an alluring gem so readers may have difficulty stopping, but they certainly won't have trouble finding nuggets of wisdom to take away.

Note: It's also worth mentioning here that this book is illustrated by William Haefeli (The New Yorker). My review copy did not contain any of the illustrations, which is rather disappointing because Ariely mentions in the introduction, "Perhaps most important, this book also includes some wonderful cartoons by the talented William Haefeli that, in my opinion, deepens, improves, and expands my answers." I'll have to see a finished copy to know for sure, but my review is probably not the best representation having missed that element of the book.

Irrationally Yours is available in trade paperback from Harper Perennial (9780062379993) and as an unabridged audio (9781504612050), narrated by Simon Jones, from Harper and Blackstone Audio.

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Malcolm Avenue Review June 9, 2015 at 9:56 AM  

This sounds fascinating and I've never heard of this gentleman or his column. Nice find, thanks for sharing, Jen!

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