25 Fascinating Brain Books Anyone Can Enjoy

originally posted at onlinecollegecourses.com. Enjoy!

Considering everyone has a brain (at least in a physical sense), it’s behooving of all people to at least put forth some modicum of effort to educate themselves on how the thing actually works. Unfortunately, the oft-frustrating tangle of neurological, psychological and cognitive jargon and science precludes many from exploring a subject they might otherwise find enlightening. Plenty of professionals, however, have dedicated their time to dispersing their knowledge to the masses, understanding that information is a right, not a privilege. From various disciplines concerned with the ol’ grey matter, they peel back some of the mysteries and shine the light on something both universal and frequently misunderstood.

  1. The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge: Explore neuroplasticity and the amazing ways in which the human brain can repair itself in an impressively accessible manner. Columbia and University of Toronto research psychoanalyst Norman Doidge offers up some thoroughly intriguing case studies to showcase the wonderful, essential organ’s surprising flexibility.
  2. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor: For the author, a neuroscientist at Harvard, suffering from a massive stroke provided her with some first-person insight into brain functioning and self-repair. In her incredible memoir, she shares the incredible process of turning a medical tragedy into an incredibly engaging study — and the valuable personal and professional lessons gleaned along the way.
  3. Phantoms in the Brain by Sandra Blakeslee and V.S. Ramachandran: For brain expert V.S. Ramachandran, studying disorders (most especially those dealing with perception and cognition) sheds light on normal functioning. Read some of his most compelling case studies for a startling look at the myriad ways in which the mind can trick the body.
  4. The Moral Animal by Robert Wright: The Moral Animal teaches some provocative lessons about evolutionary psychology — specifically, the relationship between biological functions and the personal development of individuals and societies. Darwinism plays far more of a role in determining moral and emotional concepts than most people realize.
  5. The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond: Although Jared Diamond peeks at the entirety of human evolution rather than just the elements associated with the brain, The Third Chimpanzee remains an engaging read all the same. He makes the undoubtedly controversial case that humans are merely a third species of chimp that just happen to be capable of advanced language.
  6. In Search of Memory by Eric R. Kandel: Eric R. Kandel earned a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in discovering the solid neurology behind human memory and cognition. Part memoir, part scientific treatise, In Search of Memorychronicles the times before, during and after the author’s groundbreaking research.
  7. Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang: As its title so succinctly states, this book takes readers of all proficiencies on a whirlwind tour of the body’s most essential cog. It mostly delves into phenomena of memory and emotion, but leaves room for some cognition and perception basics as well.
  8. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: For the brain science connoisseur looking for something a little more philosophical and psychological, this classic by one of the leading names in both fields is a required read. As both a memoir and a scientific inquiry, Man’s Search for Meaning questions a broad selection of existential subjects, making it a great supplement to some of the other books listed here.
  9. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks: Most of Oliver Sacks’ oeuvre will appeal to most readers looking for some great brain science literature, of course. This selection, however, deftly explains neurological disorders and dispels many of the myths unfortunately forcing sufferers to society’s margins — making it an absolutely necessary book.
  10. Big Brain by Richard Granger and Gary Lynch: Few outside the scientific community know of Boskops, creatures that may have lived in South Africa 10,000 years ago, but their biology shares some startling similarities with humans. This read fuses genetics, evolution, psychology and other disciplines to share some amazing research on the brains of both animals; however, it comes packaged with considerable anthropological controversy.
  11. How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker: Like Oliver Sacks, Steven Pinker’s books are almost all thoroughly engaging selections for brain science buffs. How the Mind Works is probably his most accessible, covering all the subject’s fundamentals for a broad audience.
  12. Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf: In Proust and the Squid, Tufts University child development expert Maryanne Wolf dissects the relationship between reading and the brain. Most of her work, as one can probably assume, revolves around how it manifests in the very young and impacts their growth in positive and negative manners.
  13. The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner: Irrational fear stands as a massive threat to human stability and harmony, and unsurprisingly science explains exactly how it bursts into existence. Daniel Gardner’s extraordinary work dissects the mind’s activity in these situations and challenges readers to find ways to overcome such dreadful, destructive emotions.
  14. The Way I See It by Temple Grandin: Autism spectrum disorders are completely misunderstood by the general public — and many scientists — but impassioned activist Temple Grandin pulled from her own personal experiences to expound upon the realities. Here, she peels back many of the mysteries surrounding the developmental disorders and offers up suggestions for maneuvering them as a patient, peer or parent.
  15. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen: This popular memoir looks at mental illness through the lens of a sufferer, not a medical professional, and takes audiences inside a modern psychiatric hospital. Borderline personality disorder – largely invisible (and misunderstood) by the general public – receives particular focus, though from a patient’s perspective.
  16. Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett: No one scientist (or even gaggle of scientists) has human consciousness fully figured out — or, more realistically, even a fraction of it. But that doesn’t stop Daniel C. Dennett from offering up his own proposed models, dismantling previous theories like the Cartesian theatre.
  17. Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt: Emotions are not only dictated by the brain, they also hold significant sway over its development and health. The early childhood years are especially vulnerable, so showing affection (without overdoing it, of course) is absolutely essential to raising a healthy human.
  18. Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson: Although it probably sounds counterintuitive at first, science does a right fair amount of lurking behind the spiritual. Buddha’s Brain makes neuroscience accessible to a broad audience, explaining its often unexpected role in day-to-day living — most especially in the way people perceive religion and consciousness.
  19. Mind: A Brief Introduction by John R. Searle: John R. Searle with University of California Berkeley takes a philosophical approach to the mind-body connection, though still acknowledging the scientific components. Neurology and psychology collide in a concise history of perception and how humanity understands and processes it.
  20. Best of the Brain by Scientific American edited by Floyd E. Bloon: Scientific American showcases its best articles on brain science, covering a nicely broad range of neurological, cognitive and psychological subjects. This anthology offers something for everyone interested in learning more about the human brain, and makes sure to keep things simple enough to engage a general audience.
  21. Kluge by Gary Marcus: This intriguing read perceives the human mind as a beautiful and bizarre mish-mash of logical and illogical characteristics. Gary Marcus attempts to tie them together as best he can, using biological and evolutionary models for illustration.
  22. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter: Three brilliant minds in three different fields share some incredible neurological overlap, which the book bearing their names plumbs in great depth. When developing artificial intelligence, scientists and technologists might want to explore such complexities and understand how they’d relate to their organic predecessors.
  23. Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter: Imaging the brain has made it possible for researchers to whittle away at previously mysterious phenomena, including emotions and mental illness, and better understand how it operates. Mapping the Mind contains both text and some breathtaking pictures to expose general audiences to the wonders residing within their craniums.
  24. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky: Stress kills mind, body and spirit alike, but its horrific — if not outright chronic – ravages begin upstairs in the wrinkly grey matter upstairs. Although diabetes, heart disease and other conditions worsened (though not always caused) by anxiety, there’s a few things humans can do to combat the science behind it.
  25. A User’s Guide to the Brain by John J. Ratey: A User’s Guide to the Brain can’t exactly be considered a practicum, but it does explain general neurological happenings in layman’s terms. John J. Ratey also uses this book to discuss his theories about the brain’s “four theaters” of function and influence.
picture courtesy of  www.digital-delight.ch
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