If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? - Is it Worth Reading?


Alan Alda’s 336-page book on science communication was an insightful and easy read. I breezed through the first third in one sitting, enthralled by Alda’s ideas. Then I put the book down and picked it up a few days later confused as to why it seemed like I was rereading what I had read a few days prior. The book focused on only one central idea – that people need to connect in order to communicate – and used a myriad of anecdotes to support that idea. Alda’s humor worked in his favor, and his many stories were vivid and entertaining (I particularly enjoyed his stories about awkward scientists coming out of their shells and children learning about fire). However, it appeared to me that there was a considerable amount of filler for the sake of making the book long enough to be published. To give Alda credit, it’s possible that he purposefully included multiple examples to drive home his point and give readers more chances to understand. If you're the type of person who enjoys this, you'll love If I Understood You. If you're not, then you might be like me and get bored of the repetition after the first hundred pages.

Something else that I noticed as I read If I Understood You was that it was at times disjointed. Alda did an incredible job of connecting some anecdotes but struggled to connect others. If I Understood You at times reads more like a collection of short stories than book with one storyline. Rarely, it even felt like listening to a young child tell you about their day: interesting but disconnected pieces of information. Again, for those who are a fan of this type of writing, you will love this book. For those who are not, I can say that it makes a great commuter read because it was easy to pick up and put down at a moment’s notice (particularly given its lighthearted tone).

Overall, If I Understood You is a decent read. It's funny, insightful, and easy to read. Despite all that, I don't think it's worth buying. It is, however, definitely worth checking out at the library. If you don’t finish it, you won’t feel guilty for having spent money on it and fans of e-books and audiobooks can have free and convenient commute entertainment.