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You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 10, 2016
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“[A] lively, wide-ranging study… The footnotes have a David Foster Wallace-like wit as Vanderbilt calls our attention to such issues as whether people find donuts less yummy if they taste them in a salmon cannery and whether rats enjoy grape Kool-Aid more if it is infused directly into their stomachs… Convincing… Quite funny… Clear and engaging… He is to be commended for the sheer range of material he makes accessible.”
— Lisa Zeidner, The Washington Post
“To answer an age-old question – ‘Why do we like the things we like?’ – Vanderbilt navigates philosophy, economics, psychology, neurology and data science… As Vanderbilt explores the enigmatic forces driving these decisions, he paints an engaging, multilayered… picture of taste.”
— Benjamin Leszcz, The Globe and Mail
“A brave and timely investigation… engulfed as we are by an ocean of science and punditry that presents human behaviour as something that can be codified, predicted and even synthesized. Swimming cheerfully against that tide, Vanderbilt makes a compelling case that most of our choice-making defies those attempts. The nature of taste in fact remains stubbornly mysterious, despite our compulsion to exercise it – and despite how that compulsion increasingly shapes modern life… Clever… Persuasive and personal. There’s no judgment here. The author leaves that job to us.”
— Bruce Philp, National Post
“Bounces the insights of modern data scientists off the work of generations of critics, economists, neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists. Taste, we learn, is an extremely relative phenomenon currently swerving through an age of extreme relativity… [Vanderbilt’s] key takeaway is that taste remains a complex and erratic phenomenon that’s endlessly shifting according to environmental, physical, and social pressures… Vanderbilt is a skillful synthesizer, and You May Also Like is full of unexpected connections.”
— Felix Gillette, Bloomberg
“A tour through the world of human preferences and the companies that try to divine them… [Vanderbilt is an] amiable and thorough guide to a subject that can get either fussy or murky fairly quickly, and he has an obsessive determination to get to the bottom of something we exercise so often and unthinkingly we tend to take it for granted.”
— Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review
“Vanderbilt is an intelligent writer, and there is a lot of interesting material in “You May Also Like”… Intrepid…Vanderbilt is able to identify two factors that have repeatedly been shown to have a significant influence on taste. One is social consensus; the other is familiarity. We get attracted to things that we see other people are attracted to, and we like things more the longer we like them.”
— Louis Menand, The New Yorker
“You May Also Like sets out to understand this mysterious phenomenon of how our preferences change and come to be…the book moves on a whirlwind tour of taste across its many domains, from food and music to color and even cats… [Assembles] a constellation of insights that resonate with one another, each serving to reveal another joint or detail of the bigger picture… Passionate… Enormously refreshing.”
— Sheena Iyengar, Science Magazine
“Essential for readers who are interested in getting a glimpse of the decision-making process at influential online media companies, as well as those who are interested in the processes that govern individual preferences and taste making.”
— Library Journal
“Entertaining… Extremely convincing… There’s much to behold in this exhaustively researched, intellectual assessment of human preference.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“An intensive investigation of what we like, why we like it and why sometimes it’s so hard to decide… Vanderbilt delivers the explanations with ample documentation and enough humorous asides to make his book deliciously palatable the whole way through.”
—Sheila M. Trask, BookPage
"The danger in reading You May Also Like is that when you finally put Tom Vanderbilt’s book down, you probably think he's just made you the most interesting person in the room."
— Faith Salie, author Approval Junkie and panelist of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!
“We live in an age of bewildering choice, yet we are the sum total of our decisions. You May Also Like is my favorite kind of book— surprising, smart, and superbly researched. It tackles that most mysterious of subjects: what make us tick.”
— Terry O’Reilly, author of The Age of Persuasion and host of CBC radio show Under the Influence
“A fascinating romp through the mysteries of taste.”
— Susan Pinker, author of The Sexual Paradox and The Village Effect
“You May Also Like is the best kind of science writing — deeply reported and researched, a witty investigation that’s precisely to my taste.”
— Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think
"Vanderbilt's fascinating foray into the world of tastes and why they exist makes for a book that's well worth reading...a light, informative read, and one that's thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended."
— Sandy Clark, The Star
About the Author
TOM VANDERBILT has written for many publications and is a contributing editor of Wired (U.K.), Outside, and Artforum. He is the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) and Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America. He has been a visiting scholar at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a fellow at the Design Trust for Public Space, and a winner of the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, among other honors. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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"Deadly dull" is the most I can say for this noble effort by the author of "Traffic" which I think was terrific.
The book so totally bored me, I quit reading it. But then I returned because I so liked "Traffic." Then I discovered a statement about "...Bach versus a fictitious composer named Buxtehude." The latter, I was compelled to study in my final semester as an undergraduate in the required 'music appreciation' course I needed to graduate. If nothing else, this is a mark of terrible research.
Another zinger: "...how unconsciously many people reason and cannot indeed give the real reason when they try." Freud published his work more than 100 years ago but Vanderbilt seems not to have heard about it.
Does this catch your attention: "Renoir's "La Loge," which sold then for a then paltry 220 francs at the 1875 auction, sold for $14.8 million in 2008." At least some mention should have been made of the impact of increasingly rich 1%ers looking desperately for higher returns on their excess funds and bidding up the prices of almost any kind of art. Which, has nothing at all to do with taste.
"If you had asked me, when I was ten, to forecast my life as a situated adult..." Vanderbilt offers some actual references but misses Daniel Gilbert (of TED renown) who has done so much of the work on how we cannot predict what we will like in five minutes, let alone in decades.
"We may instinctively realize we will tire of our favorite food if we eat too much of it..." Vanderbilt actually thinks this is instinct? Show me one first-world adult who did NOT actually eat too much of a favorite food as a child? This isn't instinct at all, it's cold hard experience.
"...wanting to avoid the appearance of being in a midlife crisis." Most of us realize that 'avoiding the appearance' has no actual impact on being or not being in a midlife crisis. And furthermore, if you are in one, the people close to you will know that no matter what appearance you try to create. But, arguably, this is too deep for what Vanderbilt set out to do.
"Fashion: a field of ugliness so absolutely unbearable that we have to alter it every six months." The best line in the book but, as Vanderbilt acknowledges, Oscar Wilde said it.
"We like to think our likes are authentic, but, but they may be covertly influenced by context..." In what way does this render our likes inauthentic? Vanderbilt does not tell us.
Bottom Line: skip this book, but do NOT skip this author. Let's just hope his next book is more in line with his considerable skills.
Tom Vanderbilt has provided 62 pages of endnotes and they correlate with his writing.
Vanderbilt has done an excellent job of approaching the issue of personal tastes and why and how we decide what we like and don’t like.
His writing is very clear and he incorporates much very serious academic and scientific work seamlessly in language a layperson can readily grasp.
The content itself never rises to the level of true research and it is not intended to. Rather Vanderbilt explores the mechanics of tastes, posited he says by his daughter asking him about his favorite color and number. He goes into current and past work on how and why people develop tastes and how they exercise them and how knowledge of taste formation is used as a marketing tool.
I thoroughly enjoyed Vanderbilt’s approach: he didn’t try to turn this into a contemporary “hidden persuaders” expose. Instead, he educates us – the lay public – on a very interesting and very complex scientific subject.
Excellent work on Mr. Vanderbilt’s part. As a matter of taste, I like his style.
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