It is inescapable. You will be annoyed. As universal as it is (even animals get annoyed), there is a surprising lack of information on this unfortunate state of being.

“There is no Department of Annoying Studies or annoyingologists.”

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This book sets out to correct that oversight with an in-depth study of the what, why and how of being annoyed.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

As early as chapter two you find out about an amazing product available from ThinkGeek (or Amazon), called the Annoy-A-Tron. Need I say more?

Rating (4 stars)

Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman are no slouches in the science department. You may know of them from National Public Radio’s Science Friday. In this humorous, but serious attempt to explain the science behind what annoys us, they are quick to point out however, that there is no real category for this study.

Nonetheless, this book sets out to explain why certain things universally annoy everyone and why. There is real science behind much of it, but they had to dig around quite a bit to find it.

They found some real experts in a variety of places: a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, developing test models and rankings for annoying sounds (fingernails on a blackboard wins), two researchers that had to abandon their work with skunk spray because it so annoyed their colleagues, a grad student who purposely annoying his subjects while scanning their brains, and a psychologist that likens our annoyance with our spouses to allergies-worsening with repeated exposure.

With plenty of entertaining side stories and the occasional tangent, Palca and Lichtman wind through a litany of our daily annoyances, from sounds and smells, to the interruptions and behaviors of our fellows. Every annoyance has a reason to be so, whether part of our survival mechanism, chemistry or genetic leftovers. Don’t expect relief from annoyance here, but it’s at least nice to know there are reasons.

Although the whole book wasn’t nearly as funny as the beginning, it has a good deal of solid background and is a worthy read. I was only a little annoyed when it seemed to meander away from the subject at hand.