Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book Review: Irrationally Yours by Dan Ariely

From Goodreads:
Three-time New York Times bestselling author Dan Ariely teams up with legendary The New Yorker cartoonist William Haefeli to present an expanded, illustrated collection of his immensely popularWall Street Journal advice column, “Ask Ariely”. 
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely revolutionized the way we think about ourselves, our minds, and our actions in his books Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth about Dishonesty. Ariely applies this scientific analysis of the human condition in his “Ask Ariely” Q & A column in the Wall Street Journal, in which he responds to readers who write in with personal conundrums ranging from the serious to the curious: What can you do to stay calm when you’re playing the volatile stock market? What’s the best way to get someone to stop smoking? How can you maximize the return on your investment at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Is it possible to put a price on the human soul? Can you ever rationally justify spending thousands of dollars on a Rolex? 
Writing
I was introduced to Ariely when I took his course on irrationality offered through Coursera several years ago.  I loved his brand of social psychology and its practical effects on our behavior and purchased his first three books for the course.  This one is a bit different because it's formatted as a collection of questions and answers from Ariely's advice column.  As in his course, I think the information he presents is fascinating and fun to read.  I loved that, having seen his videos during the course, I could picture him and hear his tone of voice as I read.  His personality and sense of humor translate well to the page, which only adds to the reader's enjoyment.

Entertainment Value
This certainly makes for a fun and easy read, although you'll find yourself learning more than you expect.  The concepts are simple once they're pointed out, but things that most of us would never think of without prompting.  Ariely includes lots of humor and the articles themselves are a page and a half at most, so they fly by.  I wasn't a huge fan of the comics included - I just didn't think they added anything humorous to the book and the style looked dated to me.

Overall
Even though I wasn't a huge fan of the included comics, I have absolutely nothing but raves about the actual content of Ariely's latest book and his abilities as an author.  He takes an interesting subject and illuminates it for the everyday reader by teaching it using relatable examples.  If you don't find something to learn here, you're probably already a professional social psychologist.  And his sense of humor makes it a pleasure to read as well.  I'd recommend grabbing a copy and keeping it on your bedside table (or back of the toilet), as each entry is the perfect length for a quick read on the fly.

Thanks to Harper Perennial for providing me with a copy to review.

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