Monday, January 15, 2018

You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt

I borrowed this book thinking it was going to be about the algorithms that recommend things to us (like YouTube videos and Amazon products). While that was mentioned, the book is actually about taste - why do we like what we do?

You May Also Like looks at the idea of taste and like by looking at specific areas. There are 6 chapters and each focuses on a different area, namely food, online reviews and recommendations, music playlists, art, beer and cats. There is some overlap between the chapters, but I managed to find different takeaways from each chapter.

From chapter 1 on food, the ideas that we think we want more choice than we do, and that the act of choosing something inclines us to liking it.

Chapter 2 on feedback in the internet age (aka algorithms) that fake reviews has less details about things like room size and location and more superlatives, not to mention more personal pronouns.

Also, the difference between a professional and amateur review is that the professional talks about reasons to like or dislike something while amateurs talk about why they like or dislike something (obviously my reviews fall into the amateur category)

Going on to chapter 3, I found the idea that as we get used to something difficult, we mistake perceptual fluency for liking something. In other words, the more you're exposed to something, the more you learn to like it.

Chapter 4 is on art and it suggests that we tend to see what we expect to see, rather than what is there.

In Chapter 5, one of the ideas introduced is that we don't expect our tastes to change as much as they do.

Finally, in chapter 6, the book considers the conundrum that a good beer (or cat or any other thing) is one that best represents the standard. But the standard is made out of criteria that people think make a beer good. So what makes a good beer? And the cycle goes on and on.

Even though this book wasn't quite what I expected, I found that I enjoyed it very much. I've never really thought about why I like the things I do, although looking back, I can see that my tastes have changed, especially when it comes to food. It was pretty interesting to read and think about why and how taste is defined.

If you're interested in non-fiction and the study of human behaviour, you may find this interesting. Through a wide variety of subjects, the book manages to explore different aspects of taste and likability, both personal and general.


  1. This sounds really interesting, Eustacia. Human behavior and perception has always fascinated me. I think I might like this one. (I fall into the amateur category too when it comes to review writing!)

    1. On the bright side, your reviews have helped me find a lot of new books!

      I hope you get to read this, I think you'd enjoy it too!


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