Friday, October 21, 2011

Jeffrey Kluger's "The Sibling Effect"

This book is an interesting mix of science reporting and autobiography. His topic is birth order and the effects that siblings have on each other. He uses is own quite interesting family to spice up the story with personal details. I found that fascinating.

The book will acquaint you with the major results on the biological and sociological effects of siblings on each other. It looks at genetics, sex, gender, birth order, and a bit of cultural history. It nicely mixes this up with a survey that runs through Kluger's life but nicely separates out issues chapter by chapter.

Here is a bit where Kluger is being grandly philosophical:
I may have been lucky in the siblings I got, and all six of us may have been lucky in the way we were able to parlay the challenges we faced into greater closeness and loyalty, as opposed to greater distance. But if there's anything my research and my own history have taught me, it's that in the overwhelming share of cases, our relationships with our siblings -- whether easy and loving or fraught and factious -- deserve all the care, tending, and watering we can give them. Nature, after all, plays for keeps. Any human life will have more than its share of pains and grief -- and it will end in death no matter what. And yet the life of anyone with a sibling begins with a sidekick and traveling companion who can be with you the entire way. Wasting that relationship is folly of the first order. It's true when we're kids, it's true when we're adults, and it's surely true when we're aging and alone. To the extent that this book has a mission, it's to argue for the sibling ideal -- and for better understanding and preserving those bonds.
I would recommend this as a fun and educational read for everyone.

I've previously reviewed his book Simplexity which was a much more serious review of science. This book doesn't put the demands on you for any real interest in science. You can read this book as a light "biography" with some interesting scientific bits thrown in. It is very entertaining, not in a purely "ha ha" way, but as an insightful look into relationships and family dynamics that I find engrossing. The book will lead you to some "aha!" moments.

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