Summer Reading List: Brain Books

As someone who recently finished the latest Dan Brown book, I understand the entertainment value of a fluff read–particularly when on vacation. But as the Fourth approaches and many of you look forward to beach getaways or some down-time in the back yard, consider reading one of the brain-related books recently published by our Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) members. You’ll certainly learn something and your friends are sure to be impressed.

All DABI members are committed to advancing public awareness about the progress and promise of brain research, but their research areas vary widely. In this selection of books, topics include the discovery of DNA, mysteries of the mind, and the life of amnesic patient H.M. The descriptions below are taken directly from the publishers’ websites.

The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix, By James D. Watson, Alexander Gann, and Jan Witkowski , Simon & Schuster.

“Published to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize for Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA, an annotated and illustrated edition of this classic book gives new insights into the personal relationships between James Watson, Frances Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin, and the making of a scientific revolution.”

The book was recommended by Scientific American; read the review here.

Mind: The Big Questions, By Richard M. Restak, Quercus.

“In ‘The Big Questions: Mind’ the explanations behind the ‘mysteries’ of our unique minds–including how they differ from our brains and how they create our awareness–are explored. Among the questions discussed are: How do brains come to exist? Is the mind more than the brain? What does it mean to be conscious? What is knowledge? Does the mind play tricks? What is the ‘I’ in our brain?”

Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, H.M., By Suzanne Corkin, Basic Books.

“In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Gustave Molaison underwent an experimental “psychosurgical” procedure—a targeted lobotomy—in an effort to alleviate his debilitating epilepsy. The outcome was unexpected—when Henry awoke, he could no longer form new memories, and for the rest of his life would be trapped in the moment.

But Henry’s tragedy would prove a gift to humanity.  As renowned neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin explains in Permanent Present Tense, she and her colleagues brought to light the sharp contrast between Henry’s crippling memory impairment and his preserved intellect. This new insight that the capacity for remembering is housed in a specific brain area revolutionized the science of memory.”

Read reviews from the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and listen to a recent interview with Corkin on NPR.

For more books by Dana Alliance members, check out my previous summer reading blogs. And don’t forget that the Dana Foundation’s online journal Cerebrum publishes reviews on new brain books. The most recent looked at Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a story about the author’s descent into madness.

– Ann L. Whitman

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