Contrary to a review recently posted by GregJS, the "self-proclaimed central issue" of this book was not, to my read, a commentary on the socio-cultural aspects of defining normal. That sort of debate often centers on the idea that "normal" is a social construction; for instance, if we were all to decide tomorrow that walking on our hands was normal, then feet-walkers would suddenly be abnormal, and so normal is just what we decide it is. If you are looking for THAT commentary, GregJS is right, you'll be disappointed.
This book, instead, takes a good, hard look at "abnormal," as defined by psychology and psychiatry (think back to your "Abnormal Psychology" class in college), and makes the reader think hard about what abnormal actually is (and isn't). Jordan Smoller, the author of _The Other Side of Normal_ is a psychiatrist and epidemiologist, he is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, and he's published a lot of research on the genetics of psychiatric disorders. And the book is very much written from that perspective (except maybe it's written much more clearly, and speaks to the layperson a lot more easily than you might expect from a Harvard professor). It includes a very very broad review of what we know about how biology contributes to human behavior. And the author suggests that in understanding how the brain is wired to do "normal" things (e.g., like respond to a dangerous encounter in a dark alley with a fight or flight instinct), we can better understand what psychology/psychiatry identify as "abnormal" (e.g., like anxiety disorders whereby people have that 'fight or flight' feeling, even when they're not in a dark alley and there's no one dangerous around). Then he goes one step further, and says that because of this, the line between normal and abnormal is actually very blurry (he uses the metaphor that I loved: twilight, the blurry line between day and night... there's no one second where you can say that it's no longer day, and has turned to night... similarly, who's to say when a normal fear of snakes should be called a phobia, or a normal sexual desire should be called a fetish, or a normal problem maintaining relationships should be called an attachment disorder- all of these are covered nicely in the book).
GregJS misinterpreted the intention of the book, and was disappointed. So who WILL enjoy this book? I would say that this book is good for you if:
1) You're interested in human behavior and psychology either because it's a topic that you're naturally drawn to, or because you or someone you know has a mental health disorder; AND
2) You may not be a science whiz, but you have some understanding of basic human biology (mostly neurobiology and genetics)- either from high school or college human biology, or even a psychology class at some point (the book does go into the biology a little bit, and if you don't at least know that the brain has different areas with distinct functions, or that you get half your genes from your mother and half from your father... you might be lost); AND
3) You have a good sense of humor. The book is peppered with humorous stories and witty one-liners that will keep you on your toes.
Jordan Smoller had quite a challenge in writing this book- it seems like he was trying to present brain biology and psychology in a way that would be understandable -and even enjoyable- to the layperson. I think he rose to that challenge. I learned quite a bit reading the book, but it was the kind of easy learning that comes when you're enjoying the process. Remember that class you took, with the professor that was funny and likable and told great stories, and you learned so much just by sitting and listening? That's what this book is like.