There are many great books on the brain and the mind. Some are entertaining, some educational, others just plain beautiful. Here are a few recent favourites of the NSPN team – we hope you enjoy them!
Portraits of the Mind – Carl Schoonover
Amazon book description: Portraits of the Mind follows the fascinating history of our exploration of the brain through images, from medieval sketches and 19th-century drawings by the founder of modern neuroscience to images produced using state-of-the-art techniques, allowing us to see the fantastic networks in the brain as never before. These black-and-white and vibrantly colored images, many resembling abstract art, are employed daily by scientists around the world, but most have never before been seen by the general public. Each chapter addresses a different set of techniques for studying the brain as revealed through the images, and each is introduced by a leading scientist in that field of study. Author Carl Schoonover’s captions provide detailed explanations of each image as well as the major insights gained by scientists over the course of the past 20 years. Accessible to a wide audience, this book reveals the elegant methods applied to study the mind, giving readers a peek at its innermost workings, helping us to understand them, and offering clues about what may lie ahead.
The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and other Clinical Tales – Oliver Sacks
Amazon book description: In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.
If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility:”the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject”.
Mind Hacks: Tips and Tools for Using Your Brain – Tom Stafford and Matt Webb
Amazon book description: Mind Hacks is a collection of probes into the moment-by-moment works of the brain. Using cognitive neuroscience, these experiments, tricks, and tips related to vision, motor skills, attention, cognition, subliminal perception, and more throw light on how the human brain works. Each hack examines specific operations of the brain. By seeing how the brain responds, we pick up clues about the architecture and design of the brain, learning a little bit more about how the brain is put together. Among the 100 hacks in this book, you’ll find: Release Eye Fixations for Faster Reactions, Detect Sounds on the Margins of Certainty, Mold Your Body Schema, Test Your Handedness, See a Person in Moving Lights, Boost Memory by Using Context, and more…
Steven Johnson, author of “Mind Wide Open” writes in his foreword to the book, “These hacks amaze because they reveal the brain’s hidden logic; they shed light on the cheats and shortcuts and latent assumptions our brains make about the world.” If you want to know more about what’s going on in your head, then Mind Hacks is the key–let yourself play with the interface between you and the world.
Conversations on Consciousness – Susan Blackmore
Amazon book description: In Conversations on Consciousness, Susan Blackmore interviews some of the great minds of our time, a who’s who of eminent thinkers, all of whom have devoted much of their lives to understanding the concept of consciousness. The interviewees, ranging from major philosophers to renowned scientists, talk candidly with Blackmore about some of the key philosophical issues confronting us in a series of conversations that are revealing, insightful, and stimulating. They ruminate on the nature of consciousness (is it something apart from the brain?) and discuss if it is even possible to understand the human mind. Some of these thinkers say no, but most believe that we will pierce the mystery surrounding consciousness, and that neuroscience will provide the key. Blackmore goes beyond the issue of consciousness to ask other intriguing questions: Is there free will? (A question which yields many conflicted replies, with most saying yes and no.) If not, how does this effect the way you live your life; and more broadly, how has your work changed the way you live? Paired with an introduction and extensive glossary that provide helpful background information, these provocative conversations illuminate how some of the greatest minds tackle some of the most difficult questions about human nature.