Books

Am I Normal?

The 200-Year Search for Normal People (and Why They Don’t Exist)

The front cover of the book 'Am I Normal?' by Sarah Chaney

Excellent ... one of those rare pop-science books that make you look at the whole world differently.

The Daily Telegraph

‘Am I Normal?’ is a deep dive into the strange science of the ‘normal’, and the roots of an anxiety-ridden modern obsession.

Before the 19th century, the term ’normal’ was rarely ever associated with human behaviour. Normal was a term used in maths, for right angles. People weren’t normal; triangles were.

But from the 1830s, this branch of science really took off across Europe and North America, with a proliferation of IQ tests, sex studies, a census of hallucinations – even a UK beauty map (which concluded the women in Aberdeen were “the most repellent”). This book tells the surprising history of how the very notion of the normal came about, how it shaped us all, often while entrenching oppressive values.

Sarah Chaney looks at why we’re still asking the internet: Do I have a normal body? Is my sex life normal? Are my kids normal? And along the way, she challenges why we ever thought it might be a desirable thing to be.

Read an extract from ‘Am I Normal?’, and join Sarah Chaney at Wellcome Collection on 28 July for a discussion about her new book.

Date published
Format
Hardback
Extent
336 pages
ISBN
9781788162456
Buy the book

About the author

Black and white photo head shot of Sarah Chaney

Sarah Chaney

Sarah Chaney is a research fellow at the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions. She spent her teens and 20s furiously rebelling against the mainstream, while secretly longing to be normal. It wasn’t until she passed 30 that she (mostly) stopped worrying about this mythical ideal. Alongside her research work she runs the public exhibitions and events programme at the Royal College of Nursing, occasionally writes for The Conversation and Psychology Today, and reads far too much X-Men fanfic.