Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

Title: You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself
Author: David McRaney

Genre: Non-Fiction (Psychology / Pop Culture / Americana / Personality / Popular Science)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gotham (10/27/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Forty-eight essays on human behavior and the fascinating, necessary, and amazing way we really don't understand how our brains work.

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it's quirky and punchy, like the book.

First line: You hold in your hands a compendium of information about self-delusion and the wonderful ways we all succumb to it.

Did... I torture everyone around me with non-stop trivia gleaned from this book?: YES. Sorry co-workers and friends! I couldn't help myself -- this stuff is fascinating!

Did... I start reading McRaney's blog upon finishing this book?: YES. It's horrifying/awesome what I've learned, and this post on The Sunk Cost Fallacy -- and Farmville -- is a fabu example of how his posts hit close to home!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- you'll never know you knew so little about yourself! -- or buy for the budding psychologist or behaviorist in your life.

Why did I get this book?: I'm a trivia geek plus, as an anthropology student, I'm fascinated by human behavior.

Review: The basis of this immensely entertaining book is McRaney's blog (which is, unsurprisingly, immensely entertaining).  A journalist who was inspired by an intro to psychology course, McRaney cogently explains the various ways we delude ourselves and act irrationally.  Each essay opens with a 'Misconception' followed by 'The Truth', and then a thorough explanation. As a result, each chapter is a self-contained gem packed with nerdy trivia and fascinating science. They don't necessarily build off each other, so you can browse the essays at your leisure, picking what grabs you the most.  Topics range from procrastination, brand loyalty, cult indoctrination, to the illusion of control, the bystander effect, and the straw man fallacy. 

McRaney's writing is smart but funny, loaded with tons of fascinating psychological studies and pop culture references.  I found myself missing the illustrations that can be found on McRaney's blog posts but otherwise, I can't complain about this collection.  I'm running out of adjectives to express the joy I felt with each revelation (not to mention the horror, bafflement, and shock).  This is a wildly fun book that promises to surprise, amaze, and educate you!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of You Are Not So Smart to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this short form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 11/11.


  1. I shall have to have sounds like so much FUN!!

  2. This one does sound like a lot of fun! I bet my husband would find it interesting too!

  3. Oh, that's really cool. I hadn't heard of his blog before.

  4. I really am desperate to read this book! I love stuff like this!

    empty. chords @

  5. Oh, this does indeed sound like an amazing book that is just chock full of trivia that I could use to pester people, so I need to read it. This was a wonderfully enticing review, and I would love to be entered in your giveaway!


  6. @All: Fun is exactly it for this book -- seriously, I'm gleeful about it!

  7. Oh, this one sounds so fun! I'm off to read his blog now. Thanks for bringing him to my attention. I'm a trivia buff too, and I love amazing my students with new facts!

  8. Sometimes I need something fun :D I never have time for it these days

  9. I am so glad that this turned out to be good- I've been waiting for your review of this because it looked fascinating but I was afraid it would turn out to be so much pablum and silliness. But your enthusiasm overcomes my doubts. Well that and the Loss/Farmville post- which should be posted all over facebook. :)

    BTW, since I'm out of the US for a few months am I allowed to enter the giveaway? I don't want to disobey the giveaway rules!

  10. Wow this sounds awesome!!! I'm definitely going to check out his blog. This book sounds so interesting.

  11. @Kelly: If you have a US address you can use for the book to be shipped to, then you can totally enter! I think you'd really dig this book -- it's funny and erudite and very wry!

  12. I'm not a non-fiction reader, really, but this book sounds very readable. Not only that, you pitched it so well. Not only that, the book seems to have used me as its primary subject. Not only that, but my husband often says I'm full of useless facts. Oh, the look on his face when I actually get to use it! I would not say no to more trivia.

  13. I must find out how I am deluding myself.

  14. I've been all about this sort of thing, lately! Definitely getting it for my husband for Christmas!

  15. I had no idea what this book was about and didn't pay much attention to it. Then, as I read your wonderful review, I became more and more annoyed with myself for not reviewing this book! So how thrilled was I when I saw that you were hosting a giveaway?! Very Thrilled! Thank you!

    Are you a speed reader?! Seriously! I am so impressed by how many books you review every wekk. I have visions of you locked into a chair from 9 to 5 reading, reading, reading....! lol Oh yes, and then writing these wonderfully enjoyable reviews!

  16. @Steph: This is such a book for you, then! It's brilliant and funny (I know I keep repeating that but really, it's humorous and nerdy-smart in a delicious way!).

    @Serena: It's awesome/horrifying!

    @Amy: I am lucky that my wife tolerates me reading in bed until ungodly hours of the morning, and I have a nice commute to work that allows for reading. If I'm particularly into a book, then I'll read at lunch, too, so that's a solid five or six hours a day of reading I can do -- and thankfully, I do read fast. I'm getting in all these luxurious late nights of reads before my wife and I have a family and I need to be responsible!

  17. I drive my husband crazy with bits of trivia when I read books like this ... he would NOT be thrilled to see me pick this one up! LOL

    It sounds like a fascinating read for sure. Thanks for being on the tour Audra!

  18. This sounds like a very fun book/ Glad to have read about it here:)