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Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness (Kodansha Globe) Paperback – October 15, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

This book summarizes findings from the first systematic study of "eccentrics": highly talented and unusual people who are somewhere between "normal" and "nuts". This is a domain occupied by genuine geniuses and charming crackpots whose common feature is that they refuse to hold commonly held beliefs or refuse to act in accordance with the norms of society. Although the book would have been a more compelling read if it treated each individual in more depth, and its conclusions more convincing if there were more tables of data, it is nonetheless a delightful book that will give you either more respect for the eccentric (if you believe that you are "normal") or greater confidence in yourself (if you suspect--or know--that you are eccentric). Recommended. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this entertaining, if insubstantial, book, Weeks, a neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and freelance writer James set out to examine the lives of those who, while not mentally ill, nevertheless veer significantly from conventional behavior. Weeks discusses the well-known eccentricities of figures such as the poet William Blake and pianist Glenn Gould, as well as eccentrics who, though famous or notorious in their own time, are largely forgotten in ours, such as Ignatius T.T. Donnelly, whose 19th-century book arguing that the Lost Continent of Atlantis was the source of all civilization was a bestseller. Weeks also presents a wide range of contemporary eccentrics, who seem to relish the opportunity to talk about themselves. While the book's anecdotes are charming, Weeks tends to generalize, and his attempt to present an argument that eccentrics are fundamentally happier and healthier than "normal" people is too weakly supported to be convincing.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Kodansha Globe
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA (October 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568361564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568361567
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
Are you eccentric? Do you know someone who is? What is it about truly strange behavior that is so fascinating? This book answers none of these questions. It's a synopsis of a Scottish historical and psychological study of English-speaking eccentrics on both sides of the Atlantic. Several psychological tests were administered to the subjects -- who were self-selected -- and statistical tables are included. And the authors' conclusions -- namely, that eccentrics are not insane and tend to be happier than most of us -- are interesting.

What makes the book good, though, are the illustrative anecdotes. The authors include stories of living and dead eccentrics, attempting to classify types of eccentricity. Unfortunately, there are no full-scale profiles of these interesting people; we leave the book with little idea of how eccentrics conduct themselves outside their area of eccentricity. The reader is left unsatisfied, having devoured plates full of appetizers and not a real meal among them
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on May 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
As someone who could be politely described as marching to my own drummer, or more brutally as a social cripple, I was drawn to this book about eccentrics. Them's my people. According to David Weeks, eccentrics have never been studied scientifically before the research described here, because psychiatrists only ever study people with real illnesses or pathologies. Eccentrics also usually don't see themselves as being in need of help or as being eligible for study, so therefore they are mostly unknown to science. Another challenge is that the very term "eccentric" has been used inconsistently in different locations and time periods, with the oddballs being treated in every fashion from supportive reverence to outright persecution. Weeks thus embarked on a systematic study of people who called themselves eccentric, or folks who were deemed eccentric by the newly-derived criteria of the study.

However, this is not a very scientific book and the results of the study turn out to be conjectural conclusions and rhetorical questions. We do learn that eccentrics are healthier, both mentally and physically, than the general population; while Weeks provides some pretty good philosophical arguments on how those who flout social conventions have always kept society from getting moribund and inflexible, especially in the arts and sciences. But even though this is all good food for thought, this book (and probably Weeks' study in itself) doesn't reach any real conclusions about what makes eccentrics eccentric. Instead we mostly learn about what makes them just a little different, in healthy and not pathological ways.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joel Brown on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
At last I can begin to understand my weirdness. Now I know that there is a word to describe my pyschological condition: eccentric. But the authors go at lengths to point out that this is much different from a mental illness. In fact, eccentrics are healthier than normal and show less schizophrenic signs. I would go as far as saying that we are extra sane. (Though my personal theory of pyschology is that *everyone is 'insane') It's not negative at all, in fact (pp.19) "Human evolution needs human eccentricity." Eccentrics, besides being nonconforming, are also commonly scientists or artists--and either or neither are very creative. The researchers let us know that true eccentrics are never acting. They are strong individuals with strange inclinations of their own, which they are not afraid to express. With the study of eccentricity we may finally gain a better understanding of all the revolutionary figures in all walks of history from Jesus Christ to Albert Einstein. However, "for all practical purposes, as far as modern medicine is concerned eccentricity does not exist." Dr. David Weeks and Jamie James have take the first scientific approach to the mutations of social evolution. {i.e., eccentrics} Accordingly I give them a full rating of five stars and recommend this book to every human being.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DarnHeather on April 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
I absolutely loved this book. Then again I met the qualifications of being an eccentric on 13 out of 15 requirements.

This book is based on the first psychological study of the eccentric personality type. I have a degree in psychology and was glad that this book didn't go in too deeply with scientific terms (that is what journal articles are for). Instead it is written for the general public. The reviews of historical eccentrics is very interesting as are the interviews with living eccentrics.

Yes, he started out with an hypothesis that eccentrics are generally happier than the average person and yes his research confirmed it, but that is why its call research. Some of his hypotheses are disproved. He never claims, as one reviewer suggested, that strange unhapy people are neurotic. He just states that in this study many more of the participants were happy than were sad.

If you want to read and learn about something different pick up this book.
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