"Irrationally Yours" (HarperCollins), by Dan Ariely
In his compilation of articles from his Wall Street Journal column, "Ask Ariely," Dan Ariely wraps in a clever bow all the questions we've ever wanted answered concerning the behavioral intricacies that dictate the decisions we make.
He offers extremely practical advice, like babysitting friends' children for an entire week to better estimate the costs and benefits of having children, in addition to brain-stretching teasers like how to choose the least used bathroom stall (it's the one furthest from the door).
As always, Ariely's intelligence is swathed in humility and charm. Bolstering his already likable writing style are cartoons by the talented William Haefeli, which help to humorously drive home Ariely's points.
While "Irrationally Yours" offers some tangible steps on how one can stick to a diet or have a better time vacationing, it also offers something more. For example, in one piece we learn exactly why long commutes are so hard on us (in a word, unpredictability). In another, we learn how to feel better about ourselves in the midst of that traffic (in another word, altruism). On one page he offers concrete solutions, and on another, a different way to think about the problem in the first place, therefore minimizing our dissatisfaction.
Some answers are very insightful, with an added dose of humor. A few land solidly on the witty side and offer little sound advice. However, it's this mix of academics and laughs that makes the book not only useful, but also enjoyable. Without the drawings and one-off jokey answers, "Irrationally Yours" could prove an information overload for someone seeking real decision-making help. But combine Ariely's obvious intellect with funny quips and whip-smart cartoons, and you have a read that could lightheartedly change your life.
So for those less interested in a detailed write-up of lengthy experiments conducted using the scientific method and more interested in the conclusions those experiments deliver, Ariely's words will offer high quality rationality with a quick pace. There is even a section providing insight about the best way to recommend a book. Taking a cue from Ariely himself, let's just say heightened expectations are a safe bet this time.