"The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us" (Riverhead Books), by Jeffrey Kluger: Siblings are underrated. They provide our earliest lessons on how to conduct friendships and how to resolve conflicts. They serve as both role models and as cautionary tales. And they're fixtures in our lives longer than our parents, spouses and children.
In "The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us," Time magazine science writer Jeffrey Kluger makes the convincing argument that this often overlooked relationship deserves better understanding and appreciation.
With an eminently readable and engaging style, Kluger delves into research on birth order, favoritism, squabbling, singletons, multiples and more. His attention to nuance and to pointing out weaknesses in various studies gives his credibility a boost over authors with a more evangelistic agenda.
On the hot topic of birth order, Kluger cites findings that firstborns taking personality tests tend to show a higher degree of responsibility and follow-through, while later-borns score higher on the ability to get along with people. A survey of CEOs showed that firstborns were disproportionately represented, while another study found that when later-borns become CEOs, they're more willing to take risks and be creative.
Kluger also gives room to critics of birth order who argue that factors like economics, education and gender are much more potent, and that trying to compare families — without taking into account their myriad differences — is "worse than comparing apples and oranges. It's more like comparing apples and shoes."
It's unusual for a book in this genre to be described as a page turner, but "The Sibling Effect" certainly qualifies as one. Peppered with illuminating anecdotes from famous siblings and from the author's own life, this book is both enjoyable and educational — a worthwhile read for anyone interested in human relationships.