Pleased to Meet Me by Bill Sullivan
Published by National Geographic Society on August 6, 2019
my rating: ★★★ ★
Goodreads avg: 4.35 (as of 2019-08-23)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
Why are you attracted to a certain “type?” Why are you a morning person? Why do you vote the way you do? From a witty new voice in popular science comes a life-changing look at what makes you.
“I can’t believe I just said that.” “What possessed me to do that?” “What’s wrong with me?” We’re constantly seeking answers to these fundamental human questions, and now, science has the answers. Clever, relatable, and revealing, this eye-opening narrative from Indiana University School of Medicine professor Bill Sullivan explores why we do the things we do through the lens of genetics, microbiology, psychology, neurology, and family history. From what we love (and hate) to eat and who we vote for in political elections to when we lose our virginity and why some people find drugs so addicting, this illuminating book uses the latest scientific research to unveil the secrets of what makes us tick. Filled with fascinating insights–including how experiences that haunted our grandparents echo in our DNA, why the bacteria in our guts mess with our minds, and whether there really is a “murder gene”–this revolutionary book explains the hidden forces shaping who we are, pointing us on a path to how we might become our best selves.
In Pleased to Meet Me, Bill Sullivan sets out to explain what makes us, well, us. Conversationally written, this is absolutely geared toward the lay reader. While going in with a solid foundation of biology wouldn’t hurt, Sullivan lays each topic out carefully and provides sufficient background for readers to understand the more advanced topics being discussed. There is truly just enough information for us to glean what we need from each section and although I occasionally wanted more, I knew it wasn’t feasible to go more into depth while covering such a wide variety of topics.
This was an incredibly insightful read. I ended up bookmarking what felt like almost every page in the book and marked up countless passages. There are constant gems of information that are either fascinating all on their own or feel highly applicable to day-to-day life. My only complaint really is that Sullivan is a little too conversational at times, although that could just be my personal preference. He made endless cheesy jokes and had constant commentary that began to wear on me. But honestly, it’s a small price to pay for the amount that I learned reading this, especially considering what an easy read it was.
I really can’t recommend Pleased to Meet Me enough to those interested. While scholars on the topic may find this a bit too surface-level for their interests, this is certainly a wonderful primer for those who want to understand the interactions between genetics, environment, and family history. I’ll probably find myself leafing through it again in the future and am excited to see whether Sullivan puts out something similar again eventually.