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In the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Scott Stossel's My Age of Anxiety, Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan reclaims the concept of "weird" and turns it into a badge of honor rather than a slur, showing how being different -- culturally, socially, physically, or mentally -- can actually be a person's greatest strength. Most of us have at some point in our lives felt lik In the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Scott Stossel's My Age of Anxiety, Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan reclaims the concept of "weird" and turns it into a badge of honor rather than a slur, showing how being different -- culturally, socially, physically, or mentally -- can actually be a person's greatest strength. Most of us have at some point in our lives felt like an outsider, sometimes considering ourselves "too weird" to fit in. Growing up as a Russian immigrant in West Texas, Olga Khazan always felt there was something different about her. This feeling has permeated her life, and as she embarked on a science writing career, she realized there were psychological connections between this feeling of being an outsider and both her struggles and successes later in life. She decided to reach out to other people who were unique in their environments to see if they had experienced similar feelings of alienation, and if so, to learn how they overcame them. Weird is based on in-person interviews with many of these individuals, such as a woman who is professionally surrounded by men, a liberal in a conservative area, and a Muslim in a predominantly Christian town. In addition, it provides actionable insights based on interviews with dozens of experts and a review of hundreds of scientific studies. Weird explores why it is that we crave conformity, how that affects people who are different, and what they can do about it. First, the book dives into the history of social norms and why some people hew to them more strictly than others. Next, Khazan explores the causes behind-and the consequences of-social rejection. She then reveals the hidden upsides to being "weird," as well as the strategies that people who are different might use in order to achieve success in a society that values normalcy. Finally, the book follows the trajectories of unique individuals who either decided to be among others just like them; to stay weird; or to dwell somewhere in between. Combining Khazan's own story with those of others and with fascinating takeaways from cutting-edge psychology research, Weird reveals how successful individuals learned to embrace their weirdness, using it to their advantage.


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In the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Scott Stossel's My Age of Anxiety, Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan reclaims the concept of "weird" and turns it into a badge of honor rather than a slur, showing how being different -- culturally, socially, physically, or mentally -- can actually be a person's greatest strength. Most of us have at some point in our lives felt lik In the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Scott Stossel's My Age of Anxiety, Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan reclaims the concept of "weird" and turns it into a badge of honor rather than a slur, showing how being different -- culturally, socially, physically, or mentally -- can actually be a person's greatest strength. Most of us have at some point in our lives felt like an outsider, sometimes considering ourselves "too weird" to fit in. Growing up as a Russian immigrant in West Texas, Olga Khazan always felt there was something different about her. This feeling has permeated her life, and as she embarked on a science writing career, she realized there were psychological connections between this feeling of being an outsider and both her struggles and successes later in life. She decided to reach out to other people who were unique in their environments to see if they had experienced similar feelings of alienation, and if so, to learn how they overcame them. Weird is based on in-person interviews with many of these individuals, such as a woman who is professionally surrounded by men, a liberal in a conservative area, and a Muslim in a predominantly Christian town. In addition, it provides actionable insights based on interviews with dozens of experts and a review of hundreds of scientific studies. Weird explores why it is that we crave conformity, how that affects people who are different, and what they can do about it. First, the book dives into the history of social norms and why some people hew to them more strictly than others. Next, Khazan explores the causes behind-and the consequences of-social rejection. She then reveals the hidden upsides to being "weird," as well as the strategies that people who are different might use in order to achieve success in a society that values normalcy. Finally, the book follows the trajectories of unique individuals who either decided to be among others just like them; to stay weird; or to dwell somewhere in between. Combining Khazan's own story with those of others and with fascinating takeaways from cutting-edge psychology research, Weird reveals how successful individuals learned to embrace their weirdness, using it to their advantage.

30 review for Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Interesting read. The problem is that no one in this book is really that weird, which is to say everyone feels weird. Everyone. To paraphrase Sarah Manguso: Outsiders pretend to be insiders and are disliked as a result. Insiders pretend to be outsiders and everyone cheers along. I wish Kazan had dealt more with the contradictions in social dynamics and the internal mechanics of alienation rather than obvious markers of difference. That’s my fault for not reading the description more carefully.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Witch-at-Heart

    This book wasn't what I expected. It was not really about the weirdness referred to in the title but about more obvious physical traits, upbringings, or careers that leaves one socially unable to fully relate and make friends. Somehow standing in the authors mind on the fringe of social acceptance. But some categorize as weird are simply people from other cultures or with health concerns and I see nothing weird about that beyond the fact I don't think it is weird but just cruel. Having a differen This book wasn't what I expected. It was not really about the weirdness referred to in the title but about more obvious physical traits, upbringings, or careers that leaves one socially unable to fully relate and make friends. Somehow standing in the authors mind on the fringe of social acceptance. But some categorize as weird are simply people from other cultures or with health concerns and I see nothing weird about that beyond the fact I don't think it is weird but just cruel. Having a different cultural upbringing or unconventional career is also not necessarily weird. Nor are physical disabilities. I found this book lacking in what I expected and is more a portrayal of how to be more accepting of social differences. However, I don't think that was the authors intent. I am, I guess disappointed and somewhat confused as to what the actual point of the book is. What is the benefit or the intended theme of the book? I am left unsure and find it sits uncomfortably with me. I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ell

    What does it mean to be socially different ("weird")? How does this label and the social experiences that go along with it shape us? Which lens should we look at it through? These are some of the questions Khazan explores in her book, Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World. The pivotal question of course is this: Is being weird such a bad thing? Certainly, it can lead to feelings of discomfort, alienation and being misunderstood or marginalized. However, when we embrace “weird” What does it mean to be socially different ("weird")? How does this label and the social experiences that go along with it shape us? Which lens should we look at it through? These are some of the questions Khazan explores in her book, Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World. The pivotal question of course is this: Is being weird such a bad thing? Certainly, it can lead to feelings of discomfort, alienation and being misunderstood or marginalized. However, when we embrace “weird” with certain mindsets, we become empowered and garner the benefits of being unconventional. We blaze out authentic trails with an independent self-concept. In fact, the many advantages of being “weird” might just surprise you! Whether you have felt the stresses and strains of being nonconforming or are blessed to have effortlessly fit in wherever you go, Weird, is worth a read. It reminds us of our humanity. It reminds us that unconventional never has and never will equate to inferior. It reminds us that conformity, despite all the benefits it confers, also confines. Weird is written wonderfully. It flows, it connects with the reader, it educates, and best of all, it inspires.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    "But believing that your weirdness is your superpower can also be hugely beneficial. There is evidence that thinking about your circumstances in a different way—a process called cognitive reappraisal—can help you cope with challenges better. Perceiving what makes you weird as being what gives you strength can, ultimately, make you happier. If you already possess the lemons of social rejection, you might as well make a really odd lemonade." I've had a mixed relationship with this book. From the ge "But believing that your weirdness is your superpower can also be hugely beneficial. There is evidence that thinking about your circumstances in a different way—a process called cognitive reappraisal—can help you cope with challenges better. Perceiving what makes you weird as being what gives you strength can, ultimately, make you happier. If you already possess the lemons of social rejection, you might as well make a really odd lemonade." I've had a mixed relationship with this book. From the get-go, I should have realized that maybe I was putting too much pressure and had too high expectations. I have always, always felt weird and lacked a sense of belonging regardless of where I was and how I got there. It didn't matter if I passed exams, if I got promoted, if I made it through an interview, or if I was invited. I have constantly had a voice in my head that repeated that I just didn't belong there. Regardless of where "there" was. And that I was different, weird, and would never just be like others. So when I came upon this book, I was like: I will finally have all the answers. I assume you can see why it might not be possible for this book to meet my expectations. And, alas, while it did not, it was quite a good book to read. "When we hear a dissenting view, we think more critically about what we’re hearing." The book is full of stories. Many of the people in the book are different because of an outwardly visible trait. There are a handful of examples where it's an invisible difference but many of those are also things like religion or cultural background, etc. and even though I am also outside of my country and culture, I felt this way when I was back home, too. The closest, maybe, example for me was the author herself and I appreciated her honest account of her own life and her own journey with feeling weird and the anxiety this has created for her. There were some really wonderful bits in the book, ideas for me to try, ways in which for me to feel less alone about who I am and how I feel (which is where the comparisons to the book "Quiet" come from, I assume.) Seeing the ways in which others have found their ways around has been tangibly helpful to me. But, of course, there wasn't the one true answer to how I could either feel differently or suddenly just be ok with who I am. No such answer exists. 'I told Chloe that my boyfriend naturally takes criticism in the Joyable-approved way. “When you criticize him, he seems to say, ‘That’s interesting! I’ll assess your viewpoint along with all the other evidence,’” I said.' I loved this because it's a similar experience to how I feel with my husband. I think there's a fundamental sense of belonging that many have which makes taking this type of feedback more palatable but if you don't have that grounding sense of belonging, well everything is up for grabs. There are two things I wish this book had more of. One is stories of people more like me. People who feel weird and different but not for any obvious reasons. That might be too much to ask and I understand that. The second thing that I missed was the author's summary of her findings, the book ends with a story and I found myself craving for the author's distillation of all she learned, all she'd recommend, just one more reiteration for me. Many non-fiction books have this and sometimes it does get on my nerves but alas this time I found myself looking for it. with gratitude to netgalley and Hachette Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    In Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World, Olga Khazan explores that subtle feeling of alienation or oddness or exclusion. Although people can be weird, it was difficult to read this work and not conclude that these feelings are, paradoxically, all but universal. Even the popular kid that bullied or just passively excluded you in school probably also felt isolated. Or, to borrow from Foucault, it is very difficult to escape that sense that we are all both guards and prisoners i In Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World, Olga Khazan explores that subtle feeling of alienation or oddness or exclusion. Although people can be weird, it was difficult to read this work and not conclude that these feelings are, paradoxically, all but universal. Even the popular kid that bullied or just passively excluded you in school probably also felt isolated. Or, to borrow from Foucault, it is very difficult to escape that sense that we are all both guards and prisoners in our panopticon. How do people solve this puzzle? Perhaps we're all looking for our own form of optimal distinctiveness theory. ODT tries to identify a sort of sweet spot of inclusion/ exclusion, like that moment when my friends and I loved Funeral just before the Arcade Fire blew up. Liking that band was never the same after that. I often think of Hemingway, especially in the 1920s, as searching for places that are great but that others have not yet discovered. In them, he hopes to find fellow travelers who live the way he lives and appreciate the things he appreciates before it all becomes a "thing." Although optimal distinctiveness is given barely more than a paragraph, I suspect it is one form of belonging that all of us long for and which maybe also explains why we're attracted to the internet even though we all sort of also sense that social media often sucks. Here are some complaints about Weird. First, Weird is marketed too much as following Susan Cain's template in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. The title is obviously the same, and Cain's blurb is prominently displayed. Is this really the best marketing strategy for a book about idiosyncrasy? Second, what is "weird" and what do we do with it? To some extent, it's a subjective feeling of otherness. But if that feeling is universal, how do we explore "weirdness" without either descending into rhetorical comparisons of exclusion or else cancelling out the understanding of weirdness as distinctive? Truckers can feel weird. Transgender people can feel weird. The Latinos Khazan profiles in the midwest who are ostracized by their white neighbours when the Latino population crosses a nebulous threshold feel weird. People who are conventionally attractive sometimes report that they feel trapped by their beauty. Most of our awareness campaigns are centered around raising awareness of one group, which has boundaries and which often requires not universal compassion but some sort of targeted understanding. Sometimes, being weird is advantageous, and in fact Khazan interviews a plus sized model whose brand is based on the "weird" acceptance of her weight. (The first thing this model says when she meets Khazan is that the latter is an othering statement: "you're thin as a pencil.") Third, the profiles, though fine, are not "great material." These "weird" people don't come across as outliers, as unique, or, worst of all, as interesting. I suspect that some readers will take that as "the point." Maybe. But it didn't make for very good reading. Finally, writing as someone who often probably seems quite "normal" but who nevertheless finds fitting in very hard, I wanted to get a lot out of Weird and didn't. Inclusion / exclusion is important, but I am not sure we really understand group identity very well beyond Durkheim's idea that there are social ties that knit a group together but when those ties are weakened to be inclusive the group's identity also weakens. When I think of Gelfand's "tight" and "loose" cultures idea, for example, it breaks down as quickly as I try to apply it to anything more than punctuality. Or what should we do with the idea that cultures that experienced outbreaks over a hundred years ago become more cautious in all aspects of life, so much so that they produce fewer Nobel laureates? I suspect the power of these studies is overstated because they seem provocative. Churches that are restrictive seem to expand more than churches that are inclusive. And of course immigration. Beyond the questions of what is weirdness and how does it manifest lie the murky woods of the ethics around inclusion and exclusion. I finished Weird with a sense of gratitude that Khazan had tackled this subject but also a hope that other writers will follow. 3.5.

  6. 4 out of 5

    St Fu

    Imagine finding social distancing comfortable. Since I could easily imagine it, I became interested in the author of an article to this effect by Olga Khazan that led me to this book. Who reads a book titled Weird anyway? The blurb says that most of us have felt that way at times, which suggests to me that the publisher had high hopes for this book--a readership of "most of us." It turns out that this book is about successful people whose differences did not hold them back. I can see that as an a Imagine finding social distancing comfortable. Since I could easily imagine it, I became interested in the author of an article to this effect by Olga Khazan that led me to this book. Who reads a book titled Weird anyway? The blurb says that most of us have felt that way at times, which suggests to me that the publisher had high hopes for this book--a readership of "most of us." It turns out that this book is about successful people whose differences did not hold them back. I can see that as an appealing topic but, weirdly, it does not appeal to me. The supposedly weird Russian Jewish immigrant growing up in Texas was, for my tastes, even too successful as a child. She may have wanted to fit in (and what child does not!) and felt bad in her failures to do so, but either she didn't feel bad enough, or she didn't convey to me how painful her struggle was. And now, writing with such confidence on this topic makes her distinctly un-weird. Her ideas in this book are mostly mainstream, which, as a weirdo, I find offensive. In the end, lacking what it must take to finish it, I gave up reading this book. More to my taste was Hello Cruel World whose author reaches out to the weird offering alternatives to suicide. This was written by an author who clearly suffered for her weirdness and is reaching out to other sufferers to let us know how we might survive the cruelty which is the fate of the non-conforming. Thus, not how to succeed, but how to survive.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Jess

    Disappointed with this book. This was a summer 2020 selection for my book club, The Next Big Idea book club, which is a virtual club with thousands of members. Why did this one not measure up? Because it left me without hope that so-called "weird" people could have a happy or even satisfying life. I have a favorite quote--why fit in when you were born to stand out? The author never seemed comfortable in her own skin--a Russian native, who never seems to integrate into the American culture. The p Disappointed with this book. This was a summer 2020 selection for my book club, The Next Big Idea book club, which is a virtual club with thousands of members. Why did this one not measure up? Because it left me without hope that so-called "weird" people could have a happy or even satisfying life. I have a favorite quote--why fit in when you were born to stand out? The author never seemed comfortable in her own skin--a Russian native, who never seems to integrate into the American culture. The people she interviewed for the book, while honest, all seem unhappy in some respect. Many of them live in places where their "weirdness" isn't accepted, much less embraced. And they really aren't weird. Maybe the title should have been Genius--because those labeled weird often are--they just aren't recognized as such by average folk.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I really enjoyed this combination memoir, collection of short profiles, and summary of social science research. It was fun getting to know the author and her interview subjects while learning some of the science behind group dynamics.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    I really wish that I would've looked at reviews for Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan before making the impulse buy on this Audible Deal of the Day. I've never been afraid to be "weird" and have always danced to the beat of my own drum. When I read the synopsis of Weird, I thought this book was going to be right up my alley. I was wrong. I went into this book expecting something empowering and, in a way, uplifting. I got either of these things. I don't even I really wish that I would've looked at reviews for Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan before making the impulse buy on this Audible Deal of the Day. I've never been afraid to be "weird" and have always danced to the beat of my own drum. When I read the synopsis of Weird, I thought this book was going to be right up my alley. I was wrong. I went into this book expecting something empowering and, in a way, uplifting. I got either of these things. I don't even know how to articulate my feelings about this book. To start, there were individual stories that focused on certain people. During these sections, Khazan talked solely about this person. The problem I had was there were a handful of people, each person's story was broken into several parts and the different parts were told throughout the book. I had a tough time remembering who each person was (but usually after a minute or two I was able to connect the dots). The other thing I didn't love was the classification on what was "weird." This was a flop for me, really disappointed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Part memoir, part social science study, Weird is a worthy, must read for anyone who's felt like no matter what crowd in which they find themselves, it's never quite their crowd. As someone who's read a lot of Khazan's journalism in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how funny she is, too! Something that doesn't come across as much in her shorter pieces by shines through in the long form. Part memoir, part social science study, Weird is a worthy, must read for anyone who's felt like no matter what crowd in which they find themselves, it's never quite their crowd. As someone who's read a lot of Khazan's journalism in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how funny she is, too! Something that doesn't come across as much in her shorter pieces by shines through in the long form.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bari Dzomba

    DNF at 20% and returned to amazon for a refund. Not worth $16 for this crappy book. Shameful that some other authors recommended this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I picked this up as an Audible daily deal because the premise sounded interesting, but got a pretty delightful shock when about two hours in, I found that it heavily features my hometown. It started with all the classics about it sucking -- placement on the Texas Monthly Bad Jobs List of 1978, being in TX-13, which at R+33* is the most conservative district in the U.S., etc. Being a full-time resident of Wichita Falls, I guess gives me a slightly different take on this book. It was fun to see a I picked this up as an Audible daily deal because the premise sounded interesting, but got a pretty delightful shock when about two hours in, I found that it heavily features my hometown. It started with all the classics about it sucking -- placement on the Texas Monthly Bad Jobs List of 1978, being in TX-13, which at R+33* is the most conservative district in the U.S., etc. Being a full-time resident of Wichita Falls, I guess gives me a slightly different take on this book. It was fun to see a few people I know written up, she actually covers two people from WF, and interviews a third (Hi, Carson!). I think the worst is when the author wanders around interviewing random people about feminism and is surprised when someone knows about #MeToo – like, y’all, we still have the internet and social media here. She is also startled by a conversation with her Taco Bell cashier. This is funny for two reasons. First, she’s not used to having cashier conversations; this is an art, and we all love it and do it. Second, she’s incredulous when her cashier casually mentions Russian history. To which I quote Stardust (2007): “I'm not a shop boy. I was just working in a shop.” Anyway, the inclusion of all that sort of derailed the book for me. If I’m going to talk about it, the WF bits will automatically be the first thing I think of, and the rest pales in comparison. I’m going to guess that won’t be an issue for the other people that read it. I would note that a good portion of it is memoir, and the focus tends to fish out of water scenarios with her subjects demonstrating different ways of figuring out how to get by. *Really feel that I have to add here that the current population of Wichita County is approximately 132,000. Of that, 45,230 voted in the 2020 presidential election, 32,069 Trump, 13,161 Biden. Hard to complain about how alone you are when you're hanging out with 13K people. Majority? Nope. Only one? Also nope. I do not think Dr. Stiles was implying this, but I got the impression that the author was, intentionally or not.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenn McKee

    Read this because of The Next Big Idea book group, which has been a mixed bag, overall. Most of the books I've read for NBI (so far) I'd actually give about 3.5 stars (were that an option). They tend to blend together, honestly, in that almost all of them use a lot of anecdotes to demonstrate their points - which is fine, but is beginning to feel formulaic and rote. (And there's never much sense of momentum pushing you forward.) Plus, there's the matter of, "wait, who is that guy again?" when it Read this because of The Next Big Idea book group, which has been a mixed bag, overall. Most of the books I've read for NBI (so far) I'd actually give about 3.5 stars (were that an option). They tend to blend together, honestly, in that almost all of them use a lot of anecdotes to demonstrate their points - which is fine, but is beginning to feel formulaic and rote. (And there's never much sense of momentum pushing you forward.) Plus, there's the matter of, "wait, who is that guy again?" when it comes to these anecdotes, particularly when you're not a fast reader, blowing through the book in a couple of sittings, but rather, you're someone reading it for a half hour before bed each night. Khazan relates some interesting, relevant stories, integrated with research on her topic, but it sometimes strains to straddle the line between memoir and behavioral psychology book. It's appealing to aim for this kind of hybrid, as the data is easier to digest by way of personal narratives. But to name just one example, the book's end was rather subtle and (perhaps too?) understated, leaving me with a weaker sense of the book's overall impact.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    Way back a few lives ago I was an academic Psychologist, researching social psychology and personality, so it was a joy to read this book that focused on difference and its positive and negative consequences through a social science (and mostly social psychology!) lens. It's a very interesting narrative, looking at the reasons why differences noticed and often punished, the positives of difference (such as creativity), the negatives of difference (such as feeling like an outsider leading to anxi Way back a few lives ago I was an academic Psychologist, researching social psychology and personality, so it was a joy to read this book that focused on difference and its positive and negative consequences through a social science (and mostly social psychology!) lens. It's a very interesting narrative, looking at the reasons why differences noticed and often punished, the positives of difference (such as creativity), the negatives of difference (such as feeling like an outsider leading to anxiety and depression), and ways to cope when you're different (leave and find your tribe, stay and develop resiliency). The author did a ton of reporting in both the published literature and to find individuals that demonstrate many, many, many kinds of differences. At times the sheer number of people profiled can make it hard to keep track, but it does make the point that there are lots of ways to be outside the norm. I especially liked how she was upfront about her life being the genesis of her interest in those who are different. Growing up in Midland, TX as an immigrant atheist Russian Jew gave her a strong sense of her difference and the consequences it had for her and it was interesting to her make sense of her life through the larger research literature and the experiences of others. Fun, interesting, informative. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for on honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    patricia

    we are all weird, most get to be weird by being considered 'normal'. can go on and on. this book does not do this, she defined what weird parameters she was using and stuck to it. refreshing. she did keep reverting back to her own story over and over. we see the world and those in it thru our own experiences... so really critiquing the fact that the author weaved her own story throughout the book is taking away from the point. so fascinated on the concept that people CAN change... thinking I should pr we are all weird, most get to be weird by being considered 'normal'. can go on and on. this book does not do this, she defined what weird parameters she was using and stuck to it. refreshing. she did keep reverting back to her own story over and over. we see the world and those in it thru our own experiences... so really critiquing the fact that the author weaved her own story throughout the book is taking away from the point. so fascinated on the concept that people CAN change... thinking I should print out those passages and shove them on the face of those who say they just can't change. (a literal 'in your face')

  16. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    Being an immigrant (and Russian Jewish American), I could relate to this book on so many levels. Olga brings her personal story but also weaves in a lot of stories about different kinds of outsiders (a surgeon with dwarfism, a liberal lady teaching in a conservative college, a transgender mayor, etc). She also shares many interesting insights from social psychology about norms, group dynamics and how outsiders interplay with those. I highly recommend to anyone who ever felt like the odd one out.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    The question at the heart of Olga Khazan's book is this: "how can people who are different embrace whatever it is that makes them unusual... and use it to power them?" Examining the ways we all sometimes feel like outsiders, why we want, so much, not to be outsiders, and what we can learn from those who have overcome rigid boundaries like race, location, political party, class, and sexual orientation, Khazan surveys just what it means to be weird (and there's a spectrum). If you've ever felt lik The question at the heart of Olga Khazan's book is this: "how can people who are different embrace whatever it is that makes them unusual... and use it to power them?" Examining the ways we all sometimes feel like outsiders, why we want, so much, not to be outsiders, and what we can learn from those who have overcome rigid boundaries like race, location, political party, class, and sexual orientation, Khazan surveys just what it means to be weird (and there's a spectrum). If you've ever felt like the round peg in a square hole, I'm happy to report that Khazan has good news from the front lines of weird where she has interviewed all of those who don't match a typical mold: it's good to be weird... it just doesn't always feel that way. I enjoyed Khazan's case studies, but my only complaint is that Khazan's personal quest to fit in (or accept not fitting in) takes over the narrative.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Mikulsky

    Editor errors: page 156 (paragraph 1), 199 (3), 235 (5), 237 (1), and 246 (4). #Weird Intentional? Some interesting notes to share: “We are a nation of accidental outsiders.” Nearly 1 in 8 Americans experience social anxiety. Most Americans report feeling lonely and misunderstood. 47% of Americans sometimes or always feel “left out.” Loneliness is not simply introversion; “it’s a gap between the amount of social interaction a person would like to have and the amount they experience.” Lonely humans Editor errors: page 156 (paragraph 1), 199 (3), 235 (5), 237 (1), and 246 (4). #Weird Intentional? Some interesting notes to share: “We are a nation of accidental outsiders.” Nearly 1 in 8 Americans experience social anxiety. Most Americans report feeling lonely and misunderstood. 47% of Americans sometimes or always feel “left out.” Loneliness is not simply introversion; “it’s a gap between the amount of social interaction a person would like to have and the amount they experience.” Lonely humans have an overactive sense of social threat. “Lonely people want to be around others, but they are afraid that if they try, they will be rejected.” Loneliness is deadlier than obesity, and it increases the risk of dementia. Your body treats loneliness much like it would any other kind of bodily damage, springing into action to try to fend off the millions of bacteria that might be pouring in every second. The immune system pivots to preparing to fight bacteria when it senses a threat to loneliness. “We like to fit in with the group; we like people who fit in with the group; we dislike those who don’t. These norms, or unwritten rules about what we ‘ought’ to be doing, determine what’s weird or isn’t.” “In psychology, ‘wanting things to be the way they’ve always been’ is called ‘system justification.’” “Norms trap us in the status quo, even when the status quo is irrational.” “Social norms are the first book we all learn to read. Norms though, are fickle friends. Norms are inherently conservative. We tend to persist is doing what the people before us did.” “Social norms are as strong as they are arbitrary.” The degree to which we uphold cultural norms is related to the type of variation we have on one gene, the dopamine D4 receptor gene. Psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiments in the 1960s found that 65% of his subjects would be willing to administer a shock of 450 volts despite the protestations of their supposed victim (the victims were actors and the shocks were not real). 14 of Milgram’s 40 subjects defied orders and refused to deliver the stronger shocks (“Principled Deviants”). People with strong virtues are often able to resist following social norms. For some people, it is more important to stand up for their beliefs than it is to fit in. Another example is the sad and infamous Peoples Temple Jim Jone’s cult in Jonestown, Guyana where 918 people died in 1978. The need to belong and the human desire for love and kinship is strong. Misunderstood people who have lost their place in society seek to restore it. Lonely-looking teens who are in search for belonging are prime targets for bullying, gangs, cults, terrorist groups, etc. Social exclusion can become so perverse that it can insert ideas into your head that you don’t even possess. The process of deradicalization helps extremists find new groups of people who are not violent or hateful, yet still provide them with an identity. Research supports the idea that helping others can mitigate feelings of social anxiety (e.g. performing random acts of kindness). Finding a mission larger than yourself and focusing on your goals rather than your insecurities reduces anxious feelings. Barrett and Martin write, “Hardiness” is a commitment to seeing life as meaningful and interesting. The kinds of stories you tell yourself matter – the narratives about yourself. “Telling a better story about yourself, both to yourself and others, can change the way you view your circumstances.” “The past is something you can not change; but, what you do now, you have control over.” According to University of Kansas professor, Chris Crandall, friends are similar on about 86% of hundreds of different variables, including personality, beliefs, and behaviors. “Dunbar’s number” is the amount of individuals (150) that can realistically make up a social group, according to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. One’s innermost circle or sympathy group is about 12-15 formed after over 200 hours together; Real friends 80-100 hours; Casual friends 40-60 hours. Creativity is defined scientifically as the process that results in a “new and useful” product. “Integrative complexity” is the ability to recognize and tie together several competing points of view at once. People with this gift tend to handle uncertainty well and are better at reconciling conflicting information; they can see a problem simultaneously from multiple perspectives. People who don’t fit neatly within any specific identity have been found to perform better at innovative thinking. Freud believed that creative people have a “looseness of repression.” While friendship is about encouragement, innovation requires pushback. There is value of having a diverse array of people. Studies show that minorities stimulate more originality. Groups with a nonconformist member came up with more – and more creative – ideas than groups in which everyone agreed. Note Solomon Asch’s famous 1951 ‘comparing a line with 3 other lines experiment’ that revealed the ludicrousness of conformity and following the crowd. Read Brown University psychiatrist Arnold Ludwig’s book The Price of Greatness. Social-anxiety app Joyable – involves goal-setting and doing experiments that would be likely to provoke anxiety. It includes weekly calls with a non-licensed therapist. It uses the 3 C’s: catch the thought that’s making you anxious, check that thought, and change the thought to something that’s more accurate, which is likely to be something less anxiety-inducing. It’s really just a process of filing your anxious thoughts into different thought folders. Editor errors: page 156 (paragraph 1), 199 (3), 235 (5), 237 (1), and 246 (4). “We are a nation of accidental outsiders.” Nearly 1 in 8 Americans experience social anxiety. Most Americans report feeling lonely and misunderstood. 47% of Americans sometimes or always feel “left out.” Loneliness is not simply introversion; “it’s a gap between the amount of social interaction a person would like to have and the amount they experience.” Lonely humans have an overactive sense of social threat. “Lonely people want to be around others, but they are afraid that if they try, they will be rejected.” Loneliness is deadlier than obesity, and it increases the risk of dementia. Your body treats loneliness much like it would any other kind of bodily damage, springing into action to try to fend off the millions of bacteria that might be pouring in every second. The immune system pivots to preparing to fight bacteria when it senses a threat to loneliness. “We like to fit in with the group; we like people who fit in with the group; we dislike those who don’t. These norms, or unwritten rules about what we ‘ought’ to be doing, determine what’s weird or isn’t.” “In psychology, ‘wanting things to be the way they’ve always been’ is called ‘system justification.’” “Norms trap us in the status quo, even when the status quo is irrational.” “Social norms are the first book we all learn to read. Norms though, are fickle friends. Norms are inherently conservative. We tend to persist is doing what the people before us did.” “Social norms are as strong as they are arbitrary.” The degree to which we uphold cultural norms is related to the type of variation we have on one gene, the dopamine D4 receptor gene. Psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiments in the 1960s found that 65% of his subjects would be willing to administer a shock of 450 volts despite the protestations of their supposed victim (the victims were actors and the shocks were not real). 14 of Milgram’s 40 subjects defied orders and refused to deliver the stronger shocks (“Principled Deviants”). People with strong virtues are often able to resist following social norms. For some people, it is more important to stand up for their beliefs than it is to fit in. Another example is the sad and infamous Peoples Temple Jim Jone’s cult in Jonestown, Guyana where 918 people died in 1978. The need to belong and the human desire for love and kinship is strong. Misunderstood people who have lost their place in society seek to restore it. Lonely-looking teens who are in search for belonging are prime targets for bullying, gangs, cults, terrorist groups, etc. Social exclusion can become so perverse that it can insert ideas into your head that you don’t even possess. The process of deradicalization helps extremists find new groups of people who are not violent or hateful, yet still provide them with an identity. Research supports the idea that helping others can mitigate feelings of social anxiety (e.g. performing random acts of kindness). Finding a mission larger than yourself and focusing on your goals rather than your insecurities reduces anxious feelings. Barrett and Martin write, “Hardiness” is a commitment to seeing life as meaningful and interesting. The kinds of stories you tell yourself matter – the narratives about yourself. “Telling a better story about yourself, both to yourself and others, can change the way you view your circumstances.” “The past is something you can not change; but, what you do now, you have control over.” According to University of Kansas professor, Chris Crandall, friends are similar on about 86% of hundreds of different variables, including personality, beliefs, and behaviors. “Dunbar’s number” is the amount of individuals (150) that can realistically make up a social group, according to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. One’s innermost circle or sympathy group is about 12-15 formed after over 200 hours together; Real friends 80-100 hours; Casual friends 40-60 hours. Creativity is defined scientifically as the process that results in a “new and useful” product. “Integrative complexity” is the ability to recognize and tie together several competing points of view at once. People with this gift tend to handle uncertainty well and are better at reconciling conflicting information; they can see a problem simultaneously from multiple perspectives. People who don’t fit neatly within any specific identity have been found to perform better at innovative thinking. Freud believed that creative people have a “looseness of repression.” While friendship is about encouragement, innovation requires pushback. There is value of having a diverse array of people. Studies show that minorities stimulate more originality. Groups with a nonconformist member came up with more – and more creative – ideas than groups in which everyone agreed. Note Solomon Asch’s famous 1951 ‘comparing a line with 3 other lines experiment’ that revealed the ludicrousness of conformity and following the crowd. Read Brown University psychiatrist Arnold Ludwig’s book The Price of Greatness. Social-anxiety app Joyable – involves goal-setting and doing experiments that would be likely to provoke anxiety. It includes weekly calls with a non-licensed therapist. It uses the 3 C’s: catch the thought that’s making you anxious, check that thought, and change the thought to something that’s more accurate, which is likely to be something less anxiety-inducing. It’s really just a process of filing your anxious thoughts into different thought folders. To Stay Different, Or To Find Your Own Kind? “Mattel made Barbie and God made the rest of us.” “This is the way God blessed you, and you need to make the most of it.” “Do you just go along with the crowd or teach people difference is okay?”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lona

    I have some problems with this one, starting with the title and the claim that it's about weird people/weirdness, while it's definitely not. It's just a collection of many very different stories, so different that the author didn't manage to get deep enough into any of these topics. Some examples: 1. The stories about a female NASCAR driver and a guy who is working with children, they both experience sexism. This doesn't make them weird, it just shows that there's sexism! But Khazan's comment is: I have some problems with this one, starting with the title and the claim that it's about weird people/weirdness, while it's definitely not. It's just a collection of many very different stories, so different that the author didn't manage to get deep enough into any of these topics. Some examples: 1. The stories about a female NASCAR driver and a guy who is working with children, they both experience sexism. This doesn't make them weird, it just shows that there's sexism! But Khazan's comment is: "What made her so resilient in the face of so many setbacks? [...] It probably helps that she isn't easily "tiggered", to use modern parlance, by low-level sexism, or even by the kinds of outright insults hurled her way" So if you're a female NASCAR driver that makes you weird and if you get sexist comments you just don't have to get triggered easily. Thank's a lot for this brilliant piece of advice. 2. "[...] people became the extroverts they hoped to be. Therapy can help with this process." So inttroversion makes you weird too. I know that one, because I am an introvert and yes, extraverts sometimes think you're either weird or arrogant or shy. The good news is, that you don't need to make a therapy, because... it's completely ok to be introverted! Many people are introverted. It's neither better nor worse than extraversion and it's not weird. 3. The stories about the woman of colour. PoC have to hear so often, that they're not „the norm“ because of their skin. It's important to thematize racism but... there's nothing weird with PoC. So what has this do to with being „weird“? We have to change our popculture and the whole system that is privileging white people, PoC often feel alienated and maybe „weird“ in this society. But that doesn't make them weird and I don't get the point of thematizing this in a book that's supposedly about weird people. Same goes for the Trans Woman and transphobia in general. 4. "There are, of course, some people who feel untroubled by their societal exclusion. In my reporting I found, for instance, that polyamorous people tend to recognize that their lifestyle is considered strange by society, but they will nevertheless defend it vociferously." I can tell you: Polyamorous people are not „untroubled by their social exclusion“. Nonmonogamous people can lose their jobs, lose child custody, they often lose their monogamous friends because there are still so much prejudices about nonmonogamy and that's very sad. So yeah, we defend nonmonogamy but no, we're not untroubled by the fact that people think of it as weird and attack it all the time. Ethical nonmonogamy is not weirder than monogamy, both relationship models are valid. So these are some examples that stuck me as... weird. What was the point of the book? It's okay to be weird, but fake it till you make it or stick with your own kind because safe spaces can help and sometimes weird gets mainstream and then it's not weird anymore? Thanks a lot. My advice: Read books about racism, LGBTQ+, immigrants, polyamory, sexism/intersectional feminism, disabilities & different body types if you're interested in the lifes on the supposedly “weird“ people, mentioned in this book and you will see that they are not really „weird“ and maybe learn something interesting. This book is just a pointless mashup of mini biographies, there's nothing to gain from it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff McMullen

    I wish I could say I enjoyed this book as I found it well written, but the author was so judgmental against everything and everyone that isn't liberal that it made me wish I hadn't read it. It became crystal clear throughout the book that the ostracism the author feels has more to do with her own attitude than the attitude of others. She generalizes attitudes to populations worse than any bigot I've ever met. I would wager that her alienation has far less to do with nationality or religion than I wish I could say I enjoyed this book as I found it well written, but the author was so judgmental against everything and everyone that isn't liberal that it made me wish I hadn't read it. It became crystal clear throughout the book that the ostracism the author feels has more to do with her own attitude than the attitude of others. She generalizes attitudes to populations worse than any bigot I've ever met. I would wager that her alienation has far less to do with nationality or religion than the author would think. Perhaps, the reason she feels like a weird outsider all the time is because it is easier to sit in judgment of the world than to join it and figure out how to live in it as yourself. As the Christian adage goes, "Be in the world, but not of the world." That is true "weirdness". It is not weird to be a Democrat surrounded by Republicans or a Russian immigrant in America. How is it "woke", "enlightened", or "liberal" to view yourself as open-minded and everyone around you as closed-minded? True liberalism is to escape your own dogma and focus on accepting people's differences, and this author is far, far from doing that. I would encourage the author to give more thought to her interview of Robert the social psychologist and Trump supporter a bit more. Is he closed-minded racist? Everyone has insecurities. Everyone feels left out sometimes. Everyone feels apart from others at times. It is not always someone else's fault. Social anxiety is not the fault of Republicans, Christians, Texans, or people from Wichita Falls or McKenny. I applaud the author for tackling her social anxiety and having the courage to go to American University and later to journalism school, but that's nothing extraordinary. Stop trying to make it so by creating some enemy out of everyone else that you somehow had to rise above. That's just narcissism dressed up as narrative. Your demons are inside, not outside. Want to exhibit real courage? Slay those and show some compassion for those with whom you disagree.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Simon Hohenadl

    This book promises to show what the advantages of being an outsider are. After the hours in, it still is a loose collection of rather depressing stories about discriminated individuals without any strengths they could draw from this.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Enjoy books like Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon or have ever felt out of place. This is a fascinating look at those who, for various reasons, are non-mainstream--from a doctor born with a form of dwarfism, a transgender woman who became the mayor of a small town, a female NASCAR driver, a former Amish woman and former Mormon man, a conservative social psychologist, and more. Drawing from her own feelings of "otherness" stemming from growing up Russian-American in a small Texas Read if you: Enjoy books like Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon or have ever felt out of place. This is a fascinating look at those who, for various reasons, are non-mainstream--from a doctor born with a form of dwarfism, a transgender woman who became the mayor of a small town, a female NASCAR driver, a former Amish woman and former Mormon man, a conservative social psychologist, and more. Drawing from her own feelings of "otherness" stemming from growing up Russian-American in a small Texas town, Olga Khazan offers insight, understanding, and support to those who have been "out of sync" with their core group or have arrived in a situation/community in which they are different. Librarians and booksellers: Buy this to expand your social psychology collections, for your patrons/customers who are different from mainstream society, and for everyone to gain more understanding and empathy of those who are different. Many thanks to Hachette Books and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maura McGrath

    I'd give this book 2.5. Even though I knew this book was written by a journalist, I realized what I was looking for was something written by a sociologist or psychologist. Through out the book the author jumps between different people who don't feel like they are part of a community and then sprinkles in various studies about outsiderness. I think the author needed a better understanding of weird beyond having different characteristics than a group. When I think of weird people, it's more about I'd give this book 2.5. Even though I knew this book was written by a journalist, I realized what I was looking for was something written by a sociologist or psychologist. Through out the book the author jumps between different people who don't feel like they are part of a community and then sprinkles in various studies about outsiderness. I think the author needed a better understanding of weird beyond having different characteristics than a group. When I think of weird people, it's more about people who don't care about expectations. Rather than people who don't have the same characteristics as the people around them. There also seems to be a lack of awareness that there really is no normal and most people struggle with that. Finally, I found the writing disjointed, with lots of asides of irrelevant information. And, not a criticism of the writing, but my copy had a ton of mistakes in it--random parts of words at ends of sentences, a few sentences with jibberish.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Josephine Olivier

    Weird by Olga Khazan is a book on how deviating from the norm can have its advantages. The book explains the psychology of why we don’t like those who deviate from the norm, and why social norms are a thing. It also explains how the isolation of certain groups of people can impact their mental health negatively. Weird tells the story of several people and their journey through not conforming to the norm and being what society would call outcasts. It tells the story of their struggles but also th Weird by Olga Khazan is a book on how deviating from the norm can have its advantages. The book explains the psychology of why we don’t like those who deviate from the norm, and why social norms are a thing. It also explains how the isolation of certain groups of people can impact their mental health negatively. Weird tells the story of several people and their journey through not conforming to the norm and being what society would call outcasts. It tells the story of their struggles but also their victories. A lot of the stories in the book are very emotional and powerful. The book talks about what it viewed to be controversial subjects and how people live because of it. There’s one story of a guy with dwarfism and how that affected him becoming a doctor. Many med schools rejected him solely because they thought someone with dwarfism wouldn’t be taken very seriously as a doctor. I wish people didn’t have to deal with the consequences of not fitting in the norm and could live their life without these weird societal ideals on what someone should be. The book explains why we tend to reject those who don’t fit in with certain norms. How our evolutionary instincts tend to reject differences due to us perceiving them as a threat. With this explanation, it gave me a sort of insight to understand why those I and a lot of people view to be bigoted thought the way they did. Yes, I will still dislike people who discriminate against people under circumstances they can and cannot really control that generally doesn’t harm the masses. It made me aware and understand their way of thinking in a sense and it answered the question I had as to why people disliked minorities. The book talked about people who were weird in fact were only really weird for one or two factors. Some had disabilities while others had unconventional jobs she didn’t really talk about the true social deviants. It made me wonder how their weirdness is perceived and they were rejected from society. How is thor mental health affected because of such societal rejection? It made me wonder how those people were doing and why do we reject them. The book has a fair amount of psychology involved something that I enjoy. It talked about how when people were put as outsiders among their groups they tend to be more creative. There was a study of a group of people in which the control group who weren’t given any form of rejection and the experimental group who were. Scientists found that the ones who were rejected tended to score higher on tests and were generally more creative than their peers in the control group. It made me see how a lot of creative people I and a lot of people admire tended to be outcasts of some sort. The book talks about how people who were “weird” could use their weirdness as an advantage. In the previous paragraph, there was a study on how those who were somewhat rejected tended to be more creative. When the author talked to the people in the book they all had one thing in common willpower. As cheesy as it seems rejection and isolation of some sort can cause a person to have enough willpower to achieve the things that they do. Although you can’t really do everything with just willpower it made me believe that with most things it can. The book at times was rather entertaining and funny while at others it was rather depressing. I know that the book is meant to be a hopeful one about how underdogs can achieve their goal of being successful. I felt rather sad after reading the book, the fact that people had to suffer so much just because of their differences the majority didn’t like. I was rather disappointed with how the book ended because there just wasn’t enough closure. So after reading the book I was rather sad and annoyed about how the book ended. There are many things that I hope for in the future and this book added something to the list. Yes, there are many things to wish for the future, I wish it to be a safe space for everyone. But I know it isn’t likely to happen so I can only hope for a future in which the world is a much better place. I hope that people realize that social norms and cues aren’t really all that necessary for a judge of character. I hope that the world will eventually be more understanding of all the people who live in it. Overall the book was a good and fun read, I do wish it was a couple of pages longer to give the book some more closure. It wasn’t really something I really expected when they mentioned weird but it was well written so I can give it a pass. The language used was quite simple and fairly easy to understand and the stories in the book were nice to read. I quite enjoyed reading the book even though it wasn’t what I quite expected. Overall I would recommend this book to people who want an informative, interesting, and easy read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mephistia

    I really enjoyed this book. It was packed with solid sociological and psychological research and excellent journalistic anecdotes. Part autobiography/ excavation of the author's psyche and part examination of the motivating factors driving social group dynamics and the behaviors of individuals within social groups, this text provides an excellent overview of the current research on what it means to be a social deviant (or outlier, or norm disrupter, or -- as her title puts it, "weird"). She talk I really enjoyed this book. It was packed with solid sociological and psychological research and excellent journalistic anecdotes. Part autobiography/ excavation of the author's psyche and part examination of the motivating factors driving social group dynamics and the behaviors of individuals within social groups, this text provides an excellent overview of the current research on what it means to be a social deviant (or outlier, or norm disrupter, or -- as her title puts it, "weird"). She talks about how societies determine what is "normal" and what is "weird," and how different societies and different conditions dictate how much deviance from the baseline is tolerated before violators are punished. She also looks at some cognitive behavioral studies on trauma narratives, positive psychology, reframing, and benefits of social bonds. She references a lot of really solid research and provides relatable real-world examples via a plethora of interviews to illustrate said research. These interview anecdotes are great and often funny. I have 3 very minor quibbles with the book; two within the author's control, and one less so. The first is how the interview anecdotes were structured and related in relation to the overall book. Basically, she structured the book like a main idea summary: 1. Who are these people and what is their problem? - Part one examines there concept of what weird is. At this point, Khazon introduces us to several weird people, existing somehow outside of social norms. 2. Why can't they just solve their problem (be normal?) - Khazan explains that it's harder than it sounds to just "be normal." Groups cohere into norm expectations and police against deviance. Not all forms of deviance are voluntary or intentional (neurodivergence, LGBTQ, racial, linguistic, gender, religious, immigration status, physical ability or disability). She supports these claims with research. In this section, Khazan revisits some of the weirdos we met in part 1 and examines challenges they have living in their communities. She also introduces (briefly) more social weirdos and dives right into part 2 (challenge) for the new guys, many of whom disappear after this section 3. What's the climactic moment of their narrative? - In Western literature, we're taught every story has a climatic moment. Khazan has structured the text so part 3: How to be Different acts as this moment in examining the cognitive reframing and positive behavioral psychology methods applied by some norm outliers when confronted with a moment of crystallizing (and sometimes even suicidal) self-doubt regarding their specific, individual role and value in society. Throughout part 3, many (but not all) of the interview subjects from parts 1 & 2 were revisited, and the pivotal self-defining moment of their life narratives related. As in part 2, a handful of new weirdos were interviewed -- their introduction and challenge skimmed to focus entirely on their self-defining climatic moment. 4. Part 4 (To stay different, or to find your own kind?) acts as the resolution to this narrative structure, then. Throughout part 4, Khazan resolves the narrative threads of the "touchstone" interviews she introduced during part 1 and continued to revisit during the book. As in parts 2 & 3, she also introduced new interviewees specifically for this segment -- once again skimming over non-relevant narrative details (intro, challenge, climax) to focus on the textual relevant narrative detail. If all this sounds confusing, then you've picked up on my minor quibble. She does a good job of illustrating the ideas and research, but I just was kind of overwhelmed by all the people/ interviews, and by the end of the book I was having a hard time keeping track of the different narratives. I'm pretty sure some just ended without closure. My second quibble is related to that. Basically, I liked the autobiographical bits about her own childhood and wanted more of them (a whole book more!) but they also occasionally felt almost shoehorned in, like the author didn't have the interview material to fill out, say, an illustrative anecdote for a section in part 3, so she used a personal anecdote instead, but since it's not one she usually polishes up and takes out for parties, she didn't quite know how to end it, so it just ... ends. Not on a punchline, not with a resolution -- just a bald observation and then it's done. As a reader you're like ... okay. More, please? Finally -- and this is not the author's fault, but the publishers -- there are some odd first-run printing error typos in my edition: for example, on page 199, the last sentence of the 3rd paragraph reads: "She understood how it's often the case that the root of prejudice is fear.whic" There are at least two similar typos (stray letters or half cut off words immediately following a punctuation mark) in the next 100 pages. I was honestly a little surprised they slid by a copy editing team at a publishing house and into a full print run. All that said, I thought it was overall a really enjoyable read and one I would definitely recommend. One of my sociology professors from an old undergrad course is interviewed in the book, which was a delightful surprise.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    When this book showed up in the Next Big Idea Club box I thought that I’d relate to this book, and I did. While I may not be “weird” in any obvious sense, but I’ve definitely experienced the not fitting in feeling for a variety of reasons. And as a book, Weird is a bit meta. It’s a weird book about the challenges and benefits of not fitting in. But it’s weird in all the wonderful, positive ways that the Khazan describes. It might not have imagined a book about the challenges of being different h When this book showed up in the Next Big Idea Club box I thought that I’d relate to this book, and I did. While I may not be “weird” in any obvious sense, but I’ve definitely experienced the not fitting in feeling for a variety of reasons. And as a book, Weird is a bit meta. It’s a weird book about the challenges and benefits of not fitting in. But it’s weird in all the wonderful, positive ways that the Khazan describes. It might not have imagined a book about the challenges of being different having laugh out loud passages, but this one does, and they pull you into the story. It’s not an autobiography, but it weaves autobiographical moments to help set the frame for the facts, history, and other people’s stories that are the core of the book. Khzan explains Weirdness isn’t a bad thing, in some ways it can be a superpower, as diversity of thought and approach can lead to better ideas in groups (the challenge is figuring out how to communicate them and being in a group that accepts a degree of “different” thinking. But not everyone assumes that, and as a rule, we like to fit in, and be around people who fit in -- though she also points out that humans gravitate to groups that are somewhat unique; it’s being the singleton that can make one lonely, awkward, and on edge. While race isn’t the main theme of the book, it runs throughout, in that the biases that people express towards people of different races and ethnic groups are in some ways just magnified versions of other forms of outsiderness. And this connection can be a way to find a deeper understanding of the challenges of racism. As Khazan states at the start of the book, the challenges of, say, a White immigrant are not equivalent to those faced as a BIPOC person or someone with a rare medical condition, but being aware of the extent to which social exclusion affects such a “broad swath of humanity” is useful for building empathy. In learning about weirdness, you have a chance to reflect on your differences and your biases, and perhaps considering these can help you find an empathy anchor when you see someone who is isn’t part of the group being challenged or feeling frustrated. And you may even learn to embrace the differences you and others bring to groups., and understand your reactions to being someone who brings a difference to a group. With a writing style that is engaging, and at times laugh at loud humorous, Weird will help you understand how you react to differences, how you are different, and perhaps guide you towards coping with the challenges and benefits of not quite fitting in, and also being more aware of your reaction to outsiders.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adysnewbox

    I liked the IDEA of "Weird," but finished the book oddly unsatisfied. The content that WAS in the book was good; I'd just hoped it would be a bit more in-depth and scientific (the fact that Olga Khazan is a science writer makes this feeling doubly ironic). The author does a good job framing her own feelings of "weirdness" and isolation (growing up as an atheist Russian immigrant in a West-Texas town could have that effect on you). Khazan also finds several other "weirdos" to interview who have f I liked the IDEA of "Weird," but finished the book oddly unsatisfied. The content that WAS in the book was good; I'd just hoped it would be a bit more in-depth and scientific (the fact that Olga Khazan is a science writer makes this feeling doubly ironic). The author does a good job framing her own feelings of "weirdness" and isolation (growing up as an atheist Russian immigrant in a West-Texas town could have that effect on you). Khazan also finds several other "weirdos" to interview who have fascinating life stories. I loved reading about how these people came to terms with their weirdness and how they made their weirdness work out in their favor (or not). So, as far as telling good stories, this book is all right (although did we need THREE DIFFERENT TRANSGENDER stories? I mean, they're definitely weird, but there are a WHOLE lot of other "weirdos" out there that may have been passed over...just saying!). What disappointed me was the relative lack of an overall theme (besides "People can be really weird sometimes." Duh.), or any deeper psychoanalysis. Feelings of "weirdness" or "otherness" are surprisingly common. It's true that each individual is going to have a different life journey, but I had hoped to find more common, unifying threads between all the stories; threads that would help other "weirdos" learn to cope. The book skips from one story to the next (sometimes revisiting stories midway through the book), and some of the conclusions drawn (weirdos do better with supportive friends/family; using their uniqueness to give them a career advantage) seem a bit obvious. So, it's a good book to read inspiring stories about weirdos, but not very helpful if the reader is hoping to find out what CAUSES people to be weird, and, more importantly, WHY people are weird, HOW we can maximize our weirdness, and HOW we can be weird and still be loved. There ARE answers sprinkled throughout the book, but they're not always easily found. One final complaint (as a former copy-editor): There are SEVERAL terrible typos/misspellings in this book that were very distracting. I couldn't believe they let the manuscript go to print in such sloppy condition!!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Clay

    Do you feel different from most people? Anxious about it? Feel like an imposter? Khazan shows how such feelings can be a burden and an opportunity. Building on her own experience as a Russian immigrant growing up in West Texas, she brings in stories of others: a woman race car driver, a survivor of the Jonestown massacre, a missionary in Bulgaria, and various norms breakers/trend setters including a trans local government official from a rural town, a single mother, a plus sized fashion designer Do you feel different from most people? Anxious about it? Feel like an imposter? Khazan shows how such feelings can be a burden and an opportunity. Building on her own experience as a Russian immigrant growing up in West Texas, she brings in stories of others: a woman race car driver, a survivor of the Jonestown massacre, a missionary in Bulgaria, and various norms breakers/trend setters including a trans local government official from a rural town, a single mother, a plus sized fashion designer, and many others. Weird ones use different strategies like: idiosyncrasy credits: following the norms initially to build up the credits, then gradually starting to spend the credits by breaking the norms (think of the Beatles: scrappy ruffians from Liverpool who cleaned up their act and and grooming, became an international sensation, and then let it all hang out with sitars and Lucy in the sky with diamonds); fighting for the less fortunate: by helping others in need, the weird one feels better about themselves and their place in society; snappy story telling: crafting narratives to explain or distract attention from ones "faults"; getting help and support from friends and families and making more friends; changing behavior: eg becoming more extraverted or conscientious or less neurotic; Reframing situations creating anxiety: eg maybe they don't hate you personally, but they are just having a bad day. Weaves in behavioral psychology research on the power of in groups, links of weirdness to creativity, and more. Ends with three options for the weird: blend in and join the insiders, champion the outsiders and their diversity, or find a place in between.   Highly relevant in today's world of highly insulated social/political bubbles, where everyone from the other bubble is weird.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cozy Cat Reviews

    Are you a non conformist ? A person who has been bullied all your life for not "conforming" to what others false ideal of normal is ? Have you been called "weird" as a slur throughout your life for having special gifts, being more intelligent then others and having talents that others are jealous of ? Then this book is for you , for all of us that have been abused in society for being true to ourselves and our gifts. Thank you to the author for this wonderful body of work. Thank you to the publis Are you a non conformist ? A person who has been bullied all your life for not "conforming" to what others false ideal of normal is ? Have you been called "weird" as a slur throughout your life for having special gifts, being more intelligent then others and having talents that others are jealous of ? Then this book is for you , for all of us that have been abused in society for being true to ourselves and our gifts. Thank you to the author for this wonderful body of work. Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley for the opportunity. My review opinion is my own., I was not familiar with the author's work prior to reading this book. I have to say that this is "exemplary" . The author writes of her own experiences and has included wonderful experiences of others that also were bullied and treated badly by society for not being "normal". Normal is narrow minded and ignorant. Being true to yourself and your talents, your own gifts is what the author wants us to embrace . I was very impressed with the depth of research here and how she included people's experiences from all backgrounds. She "includes a doctor that has dwarfism. a trans woman who rose to become mayor of her town, Amish women who rejected their narrow way of life and former Mormon men brave enough to leave their religion and be true to themselves. . All drawing upon their unique experiences that are so similar to all of us that were rejected by society and by people for being weird. I love that the author suggest we wear our slur as one of a badge of courage and embrace who we truly are. A very enjoyable, educational read that I highly recommend. A excellent book !

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This is an enjoyable book about people who are somehow outsiders or "other." The author presents some of her own life story, as a Russian immigrant who grows up in a small town in west Texas, and about how being "weird" has impacted her; additionally, she has several interviews (or case study-type stories) about a variety of people who have been viewed or perceived as weird because they are different. She presents a lot of positive spin on being weird: "It's good to be a weirdo. Being different This is an enjoyable book about people who are somehow outsiders or "other." The author presents some of her own life story, as a Russian immigrant who grows up in a small town in west Texas, and about how being "weird" has impacted her; additionally, she has several interviews (or case study-type stories) about a variety of people who have been viewed or perceived as weird because they are different. She presents a lot of positive spin on being weird: "It's good to be a weirdo. Being different from other people around you confers hidden advantages that can help you in life and in work," and "Weirdness [is] a strength rather than a hindrance--even if aspirationally," and " 'Weird,' then, is your potential." As someone who has often felt outside of the norm, and as someone who enjoys weird (unusual, atypical, strange, absurd, abnormal, etc.) things, I found myself asking as I read: is being weird the same thing as being other? And if not, is this book about weirdness or otherness? (Personally, I found it to be more about "otherness" -- maybe because my perception of "weird" is deeply tied in my psyche to high levels of creativity.) If you are an outsider does that automatically make you weird? Is the current connotation of weird that of being a nerd, or being a person of high intelligence? Note that the author doesn't actually discuss these questions, but reading this book prompted me to think about them -- and isn't that what all good books do, make you reflect and ask questions. Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with a digital version of this book.

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