Praise for Hannah Holmes’s The Well-Dressed Ape
“Fascinating . . . a feast of provocative science and engaging trivia.”—USA Today
“Smart and upbeat, [The Well-Dressed Ape] will leave you prouder of your links to wild things.”—People
“The Well-Dressed Ape is a hoot.”—St. Petersburg Times
“Amusing and illuminating.”—Outside
“Full of interesting facts.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Juicy and humorous.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"What an amazing book. I don't often use the term ‘life-changing,’ but Quirk is. I read this book and a light went on. Suddenly, I understand the people around me. To learn that we are motivated by the same basic brain chemicals and structures as mice is oddly, profoundly, liberating."
– Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars
"With her typical charm, curiosity, and ability to make complex science accessible and amusing, Hannah Holmes now turns her attention to the quirks of our personalities. What a wonderfully engaging way to navel-gaze."
– Joanne Manaster, joannelovesscience.com
"At long last! I expect Hannah Holmes' delightful new book to usher in – finally – a science-based approach to thinking about how and why individuals differ, and to usher out the widespread nonsense that has for far too long passed as a personality psychology."
– Sam Gosling, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You
"Hannah Holmes manages to look at the world through very unique lenses and what she comes up with is extraordinarily perceptive, completely unique and, moreover, makes for great reading. I loved The Well Dressed Ape. Her new book Quirk has topped even that marvelous book."
– Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
"For as long as we've had language, we've been asking one question over and over: ‘What makes me “me”?’ Hannah Holmes finds fascinating answers to that question in the world of brain science. A divine spark of a book, Quirk explains how chemicals and brain lobes conspire to make us everything from smart alecks to worry warts and ultimately, utterly human."
– Amy Sutherland, author of What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life, and Marriage
Holmes (The Well-Dressed Ape: A Natural History of Myself,2009, etc.) delves into the diversity of human personalities.
"[T]he key to personality is that there's no single solution that answers every risk," writes the author, who has shown a feisty, learned hand at decoding the brain's workings for a popular audience. Half of our personality is genetically knit into our DNA ("personality isn't personal. It's biological. It's a series of dials—Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness—each set to a different temperature"), while our environment calibrates the other half—nature and nurture. Holmes deploys the "Five Factor Model," which breaks down personality into openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, each with various facets. This model is far from a scientific tool—it describes but does not explain the function of a personality facet—but it is one of the best guides available to our natural inclinations and for identifying risks for personality disorders. The author uses a template to examine many of these facets—how they are manifested in mice, then humans, and the facets' evolutionary advantages. A relaxed, almost chummy, tone permeates the book ("Yeah, I was anxious from an early age"), which puts the reader at ease as Holmes describes neurotransmitters, brain regions and their role in personality formation. Less successful is the author's template. Too often the personality traits don't pertain to mice—"Mice are hard pressed to demonstrate every facet of Openness"; "mice don't demonstrate much in the way of intellectual style"—and because much of this material is in the realm of conjecture, anecdotes abound, which can be entertaining and illuminating—the author's scrutiny of addiction, for example—but can also be painfully obvious at times: "People with a strong imagination are able to stimulate their minds from within."
An intriguing but hardly groundbreaking consideration of the qualities that distinguish us.