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In Annoying, NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca and Science Friday's Flora Lichtman dig through the scientific literature in search of explanations for what gets under our skin.
In this widely ranging scientific tour, you'll meet researchers who have made strides in understanding why some things tick us off. You'll find out why people blabbing on cell phones is so irritating and why you can't help but tune in. You will learn the secrets of trash talk and how athletes overcome it, or don't. You'll hear about an illness that makes people annoyed to the point of dysfunction and visit a tiny island where no one seems to be annoyed. You'll discover why chili peppers stand on the cusp between pleasant and painful, why odor is so powerful and how skunks have taken advantage, why raw onion fumes make us cry, and why some chemicals have been irritating life on Earth for half a billion years. The science is there. You just have to know where to look.
And yes, there is a recipe for annoying others. Although most of us know how to do this intuitively, Palca and Lichtman provide a clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step process for annoying almost anyone. One: find something that your victim finds unpleasant and distracting. Two: make it hard to predict when the unpleasantness and distraction will end. Three: make it impossible to ignore. While you may have been born knowing the recipe, the conclusions scientists are able to draw from it will surprise you.
It turns out that your inability to ignore that cell phone call is a good thing, tearing out your hair in a traffic jam could just be a positive personality trait, and understanding what annoys you gives you the tools to overcome your annoyance—sort of. It also gives you some insight into how to become less annoying yourself, and wouldn't that be a blessing?
So, the next time you're ready to strangle that coworker who keeps tapping his pen against his teeth, don't lose your cool. Pull out your copy of Annoying, place it on his desk, and tell him what an interesting book it is. When he puts his pen down to pick up the book, swipe the pen.
"Remarkable: a charming and insightful book that explains how studying what annoys you can make you both less annoyed and less annoying. I feel better already!"—Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Free
"Who would have thought that one of the most charming, graceful, and informative books to come around in a long while is Annoying? You might have been told you are what you eat, but it is your annoyances that really define you. With cutting-edge science, wit, and an eye for a good story, Palca and Lichtman reveal the recent discoveries that tell us of the age-old problem of annoyance. Their book will forever change your view of the restaurant patron who loudly recounts his colonoscopy results over a cell phone."—Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
"The science of the annoying? I was skeptical. But this book really delivers. In many chapters I saw myself and thought, 'Yeah, I understand, that is exactly how I feel.' Trouble is, now, with understanding, my tolerance for the annoying has plummeted."—Carol Greider, Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009
"Annoying is smart, funny, insightful, and downright wonderful to read. Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman not only illuminate the science of annoyance itself but the often lunatic nature of daily life in the twenty-first century. Read it—the only annoying thing about it is that it's too short."—Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook
"It's rare to encounter a book that could launch a new scientific subdiscipline. Annoying may do just that. Palca and Lichtman survey thinking in psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience, intermixing research with anecdotes, insights, and theories, to examine the scientifically neglected subject of annoyances. This book is a fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered why minor irritations can drive us to distraction. Ironically, this book about fingernails on chalkboards is a pleasure to read."—Daniel Simons, coauthor of The Invisible Gorilla
"Unlike the stuff we do on NPR, Joe Palca's reporting is based on insight, knowledge, intellectual curiosity, research, and facts. But don't let that turn you off!"—Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers
It's ironic that the authors of a book whose entire focus is about things that are annoying, and that starts out looking at things that are auditorially annoying, never stopped to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by A reader
I found this book very fascinating. I can see how it might fall a little flat if you were reading. I have so much to talk about with people because of this. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Allison
I miss hearing Flora report on Science Friday and was pleased to find that she had coauthored this book. I would prefer to listen to her on Science Friday.Published 3 months ago by Coug
Ever wonder why you are so bugged by other people's cellphone calls but not by the people's conversation at the next table? This book is full of insight about that kind of stuff. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Cheryl
Three criteria for something being annoying, according to the book, are that it's unpleasant, unpredictable and temporary. Read morePublished on August 9, 2012 by Scott Douglas
Why are you annoyed? Perhaps the person sitting next to you at the movies is snapping his gum, a driver on the expressway is hogging the passing lane or the lady in the supermarket... Read morePublished on April 24, 2012 by Rolf Dobelli
I'm not sure how scientifically accurate this book is, but I'd like to know. I liked how much of a starting point this book was in prompting my own research on a variety of... Read morePublished on February 4, 2012 by Runa
Very interesting premise with lots of credentialed reviewers. But the best part was the anticipation of a good read as a result of a creative cover. Read morePublished on October 15, 2011 by K. Barber
The fact that Amazon did away with the ability to rate it's books. The book was good, but I only wrote this review so I could give it some stars. Read morePublished on September 19, 2011 by muj0