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Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  471 ratings  ·  55 reviews
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 hu ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 26th 2014 by Penguin (first published January 28th 2014)
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3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  471 ratings  ·  55 reviews


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Daniel
I received an electronic copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. I usually don't have that hard a time assigning stars for a review. Personally, I considered this a three star reading 'experience', but would easily recommend this book highly for other readers not familiar with the topic, so am giving it four stars.

Enjoying following Jennifer Ouellette on social media, I jumped at the chance to read her new book, an explorative overview into 'the self'. Overall the book is a success as a s
...more
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book, internet
Something between a paid commercial of 23andme.com, promoting LTGB rights and taking LSD....probably at the same time or in a sequence.

Nevertheless is well written book, with a bit of background study and is doing an excellent work popularizing our current understanding of genetics and neuroscience.

As for the LSD and Ecstasy, just wait until your kid will provide this book as an excuse, so avoid giving this book to under 21 years old.

Peter Mcloughlin
A short book which explores the self. Ouellette starts with Genetics and proceeds into personality, Sexual Orientation and Gender, Psychedelics, consciousness and neuroanatomy, finally memory and construction of a life narrative. It is a fun book with some nice nuggets to pick out on the nature of our biology and psychology. You will learn a thing or two about the self in this short book.
Isil Arican
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I had really high expectations regarding this book, but while it was somehow entertaining it lacked the depth I was hoping to read. I like Jennifer Oullette on social media and other venues, and really like her wit and knowledge on many topics. However this book felt like it is written in a rush, and not fulfilled my expectation from her and her style.

If this is the first time you are reading a book on genes and personality, it might still be a fun read. However if you have some background in th
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Rob Slaven
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
As usual I received this book for the sum of nothing in exchange for a review. This time from NetGalley. Also as usual I give my scrupulously honest opinions below.

The best summary I can give of this book is that it's broad but not necessarily deep. It starts with Mendel and his peas, makes its way through LSD experiments and brain chemistry, stops for a while in virtual reality and ends up in philosophy. It is all over the place and doesn't spend much time in any one area. This is a book best t
...more
Allison
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The book deserves at least 3.5 stars for the research put into it.

I love a good science read, and when it's all about our genetics, I love it even more. So, I don't know what quite went wrong with this one for me. It started out really strong, and by mid-point, I began skimming. I never quite made it to the end. Ouellette's writing is good, and the research is great and well suited to a layman's level of understanding (literally a review of high school biology class and upward), but I made the
...more
Rama
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Discovering the self

Self is a process and not a thing and the process is present at all times when we are presumed to be conscious. It is not located in any particular part of the body but it is an emergent phenomenon. If there is no matter (or energy), the mind doesn't exist. Soul is uniquely generated by the causal interaction with myriads of elements of the self. The Self-as-Object (the material "me") and Self-as-Knower (the subjective, self-aware "I") are linked. The former is the fundament
...more
Charlene
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book exceeded my expectations. I wasn't sure if it would be a good fit. So many books that tackle the subject of personality have very little balance. Some take a self-help angle and largely ignore or misinterpret scientific data. Others focus heavily on scientific data but make crazy assumptions. For example, an author might include some great studies but make assumptions about the results of the study that are not at all warranted. The book Social by Lieberman falls into this category. Th ...more
Chrisy
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Easy to read and thought provoking, this book took me all of a weekend to finish. The subject material is extremely broad, but I think the author did a good job representing a variety of fields.

Only problem I had was that it didn't delve too deep into any of the claims it made and I think the representation of our virtual selves deserved more focus.
Caren
May 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I found this on the new books shelf at the library and decided to give it a whirl. It was moderately interesting, but not as entertaining as Mary Roach's science-themed books are. She did seem to be willing to go the mile, all for science, even recording her own LSD trip. The book looks at a lot of current research into the brain and consciousness and into what makes you 'you'.
Robert
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to read a very accessible book about personality and who we really are this is it.

The author does a great job of breaking down what makes US a person. The physical and chemical properties as well as that more ephemeral portion of who we are when we think of the word ME.

Allison
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author did a good job of explaining the science behind determining personality and the sense of self. I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It made me more conscience of myself. The big message I took from this book was the plasticity of personality.
Jim Robles
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Overall one of the most disappointing books I have read in a long time. I ordered it based on a snippet of conversation on NPR: my bad!

An easy read that is far more accessible than many sources on questions of the "self." It is perhaps a little "easier" than I would have preferred, and never meaningfully grapples with the advertised questions. The pages of psychedelic drug advocacy do not have a discernible relation to the advertised subject. There is far to much personal chitchat. On the other
...more
Rene
May 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Well unfortunately this book was under my expectations. It was a gossip magazine like string of science fact, making relations to TV series and the authors personal life. Although this gave the book a very individual note as a popular science book, but it lacked depth at the same time. I found myself skimming and skipping whole chapters, mostly because it felt like a TV documentary you have seen before. Some stories were entertaining but overall this book was not a highlight for me.
Desirae
3.5 stars

I wish I could rate it higher but it really dragged badly in a few places, I had to resist the urge to quit reading the book during the part when the author went on and on and on about her virtual personality/avatar.

I am glad that I stuck with it though since a large part of the book was really interesting.
Borax
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it


This is an interesting science book about identity that already...in a world dominated by talks of genetic manipulation (via CRSPR) seems quaintly out of date even though it was published in 2014.

The title takes on the structure of the book. ME deals with gene research, the neural network of the brain, and psychological personality profiles. In all three cases the story stays the same: there are no simple answers. Things and complicated, vague, and tend to shift around. Any effort you make to ha
...more
Bob Price
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it

Jennifer Ouellette has found quite the niche for herself writing books about complicated subjects and making them accessible for the average reader. She started with the Calculus Diaries and continued on with a book on physics. I have come to expect a very entertaining and very educational read.

Me, Myself, and Why does not disappoint.

In this little book, Ouellette tackles the broad subject of Psychology and focuses (among other things) on genetic dispensations, personality theory, grief and mea
...more
Carlie George
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
First non-fiction book of the year. (I will read more non-fiction in 2015, dammit. The last two years have been sorry indeed.) Overall, I really enjoyed this. It might be a 3.5 for me, but leans closer to 4 than 3, I think.

The subject of self is so very broad. You could probably write a book three times as long and still leave out all sorts of things. There's not really any sort of cohesive thesis to this book, no argument its building, no greater theme reiterated throughout. I did feel like I w
...more
Jewelianne
Feb 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I have kind of mixed feelings about this book. Part of that might be because I read about half of it, then got distracted. I did finish the book (I never had any intention NOT to finish it), but there was a gap of at least about three weeks between my beginning the book and finishing it. This makes for a slightly strange reading experience.

Overall, I think this was a case of me having really high expectations and ideas about a book before I read it, and then being disappointed by what the book
...more
Beth Barnett
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting topics and clear, easy to read writing style with a sense of humor thrown in here and there. Ouellette is a good writer and puts a personal spin on the tone of the book which makes the book feel personable and friendly, like we're discovering things about the subject matter along with her. This is definitely a popular science book with a broad overview of many topics, so nothing goes too deep, but then again the writing is accessible and one could pick up on topics of interest and re ...more
Andie Balza
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
It gets a little heavy with the science facts but I especially enjoyed the part about homosexuality and where it comes from. This book tries to explain why we are how we are and the science behind it. Not an easy read but I would recommend it.
Christie
When I was five years old, I held my baby sister for the very first time--not in the sterile environs of a hospital maternity ward, but in the slightly musty waiting room of a Midwestern adoption agency, when she was already several weeks old.

What began as Jennifer Ouellette's quest for what of herself she inherited from her biological parents and what came from her adoptive environment grew into a book about what makes us,us from our genes to our brains to our behaviors. Why do we do the thin
...more
David Teachout
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately for science, there is a giant absence of good well-written press coverage, with "reporters" often even more ignorant than their readers, dashing off poorly constructed analyses of research findings that only fuel the misunderstandings of the public. Granted, there is some seriously confusing items out there, many of them completely contrary to felt deep truths that most people hold. When such truths concern identity and the nature of the self, there is a great deal of room for erro ...more
Tim
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was not what I expected. Why? Well... the book jacket advertises itself as "cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology." Actually, the book consists of three parts: part one is, in fact, mostly on genetics; the second part is mostly about gender issues; the third part is mostly advocating for psychedelic drugs. If that's the book you wanted to read, okay, but even so, this book is pretty lame. Virtually all the "science" in this book is the same pop science stuff t ...more
Mary
Mar 31, 2014 rated it did not like it
A tour through Ouelette's beliefs about what influences are important to the construction of the self. Not much "argument" here, but just a journey through DNA analysis, adoption research, alcoholism, facebook and other random variables that might or might not impact how we construct who we are.

Ouelette says that what's important in her story is not the destination but what is learnt along the way . . . so as long as you don't read the book with any destination in mind. . .

(A note for those thi
...more
Prooost Davis
Oct 04, 2016 rated it liked it
The subtitle of this book is Searching for the Science of Self, and somewhere in that subtitle should be the word haphazardly. Even though Me, Myself, and Why has an ostensible structure (three parts, and titled chapters with in the parts), it seemed to me to be a jumble of names, studies, and personal anecdotes. I think that would be appealing to a lot of people, but I like a little more organization, as well as a higher ratio of science to entertainment.

This was an impulse buy, and because Oue
...more
Sara
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended if you're interested in the different aspects of interpreting and hypothesizing how one's self works!
a very fast paced book. kicks off with the genetics basis, merge into the behavioral science/psychology aspect, indulge deep into that along with philosophical views. packed with scientific evidence and sayings from research papers. It covers everything, from your food preferneces and height aspect, negotiates the LGBT community, and whether its science based, environmental steered or
...more
Tesa Fiona
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's true, perhaps, that this book is too general, where Jen can expand her topics into broader discussions. I found the parts she included are barely enough to understand one self. And I wish she included one unifying chapter at the end of the book.

It is a collection of scientific findings of self; from your gene, brain, traits, memories to your life stories. Though I can also said that it's also the author's journey on how she percieves life and what's important about it for her. Me, myself an
...more
Ariel
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really hate giving lower reviews to books. I did enjoy reading this book and I feel she did a good job presenting information in an understandable way. She obviously did a lot of research and it was all very interesting. I enjoyed how she broke the book up into clear-cut sections. But the more I knew about something she was talking about, the less I felt she knew what she was talking about. Which made it a jarring experience because most of what I was reading was new. For instance she seemed t ...more
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Jennifer Ouellette is the author of The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, due out August 31, 2010. She is also the author of The Physics of the Buffyverse (2007) and Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics (2006), both published by Penguin. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Discover, New Scientist ...more
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