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The Other Side of Normal: Book summary and reviews of The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller

The Other Side of Normal

How Biology Is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior

by Jordan Smoller

The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller X
The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller
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Book Summary

Psychiatry has ignored the normal. The focus on defining abnormal behavior has obscured what turns out to be a more fundamental question - how does the biology of the brain give rise to the mind, which in turn gives rise to everything we care about: thoughts, feelings, desires, and relationships?

In The Other Side of Normal, Harvard psychiatrist Jordan Smoller shows us that understanding what the mind was designed to do in the first place demystifies mental illness and builds a new foundation for defining psychiatric disorders - from autism to depression. Smoller argues there are no bright lines between normal and abnormal. Psychiatric disorders are variations of the same brain systems that evolved to help us solve the challenges of everyday life.

How do we become who we are? Smoller explains where our personalities come from, and how the temperaments we had as infants actually stay with us into adulthood. Why do we choose to date, love, and marry the people we do? Why do some of us form healthy relationships while others form unstable ones? Our relationships are shaped by the biology that drives two imperatives: maternal-child bonding and child-parent attachment.

Along the way, Smoller tackles an even greater question - what do we mean by "normal"? - as he explores the puzzles behind the epidemics of multiple personalities and koro, the shocking phobia that one's penis is shrinking. He also looks at the controversial history of psychiatric classification and the explosive debates over how much early experiences influence our minds and to what degree genetics affect our temperaments, personalities, and emotional lives. Throughout this examination, Smoller explores the hidden sides of such questions as: How are trust and love rooted in biology? How much does sexual attraction stem from biology rather than culture? And what can the scientific study of normal behavior tell us about what it means to be human?

Based on the author's groundbreaking research and personal experiences treating psychological disorders, The Other Side of Normal changes the way we think about the human condition.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Exciting... provocative...Clearly and articulately, he ties evolutionary psychology, biological psychology, animal behavior, and related fields into a package of rare coherence" - Publishers Weekly

"An informative overview of research in neuroscience that provides a scientific foundation for understanding mental disorders." - Kirkus Reviews

"Psychiatry may be the study and treatment of mental illness, but Harvard Medical School professor Smoller goes one step further, examining abnormal behaviors to help us understand everyday behaviors - and vice versa." - Library Journal

"Move over Oliver Sacks - I couldn't put this fascinating book down! ...A brilliant mind and dazzling writer, Smoller has written a book that will change the way you look at every day life." - Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and New York Times bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

This information about The Other Side of Normal was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jordan Smoller

Jordan Smoller is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

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