Books on the Brain: Summer Reading List 2019

Summer’s arrival—time for outdoor gaiety, vacations, and unearthing the unfinished tube of sunblock from last year (it’s hiding by the one from two year’s prior, truly). It also heralds longer days … and that means more sunshine to read by! If you’re normally the type to have books on the brain, then venture forth, dear reader, and acquaint yourself with the following authors, a collection of neuroscientists and brain investigators across various disciplines, sure to entice all stripes of brain enthusiasts!

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Photo: Shutterstock

For introspective readers and dredgers of the deep:

The Science of Fate: Why Your Future is More Predictable Than You Think by European Dana Alliance for the Brain member Hannah Critchlow, Ph.D., Hodder & Stoughton, 2019.

Critchlow tells us about many more things — there’s a superb chapter on perception and how our brains are constantly taking short cuts, and a brilliant bit on how we form our beliefs. We’re not exactly pre-programmed machines, she tells us. But neither do we have as much free will as we’d like to think. We exist somewhere in the middle.
— William Leith, Evening Standard

The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tells Us About Ourselves by Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) Member Eric R. Kandel, M.D., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018

…Eric Kandel’s engaging new overview of contemporary thinking about the intersection of mental health and neuroscience. Kandel’s well-constructed narrative smoothly blends historical perspective and first-person accounts with explanations of recent experiments … [He] believes that biological studies of the mind “offer the possibility of a new humanism, one that merges the sciences, which are concerned with the natural world, and the humanities, which are concerned with the meaning of human experience.”
— Alan Jasanoff, Ph.D., The New York Times

The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience That Shatters The Myth Of The Female Brain by Gina Rippon, Ph.D., The Bodley Head, 2019

[Rippon] shows how we first arrived at the conviction that the female brain is “different” (and thus inferior), how this misperception persists into the 21st century, and how the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience can, and should, dispel such fallacies forever. Brick by brick, Rippon razes this history and, for the (non-scientist) reader, what she says is revolutionary to a glorious degree. Quite apart from how interesting the science contained within it is, it has the power … to do vastly more for gender equality than any number of feminist “manifestos.”
— Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are by Kevin J. Mitchell, Ph.D., Princeton University Press, 2018. (One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2018.)

… Mitchell’s study on human diversity, which probes with clarity and balance how variation in our genetic program causes variation in outcome … Examine[s] psychological domains such as perception, conditions including schizophrenia, and the dubious ethical and social implications of ‘designer babies’ and other trends. A powerful antidote to genetic determinism.
— Barbara Kiser, Nature

Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by DABI member Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, PublicAffairs, 2018.
(Made our summer list in 2018 and returns this year for being Awarded the 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize

Blakemore argues that we need to stop disparaging adolescence and instead recognize it as a critical time for building identity … explains how adolescents develop socially and neurologically, how that development shapes behavior, and how it impacts who young people will become.
Learning & the Brain

For readers seeking pharmacological tales and investigations:

Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction by Judith Grisel, Ph.D., Doubleday, 2019

Grisel writes clearly and unsparingly about both her experiences and the science of addiction … making plain that there is still much that remains unknown or mysterious about the brain’s workings. In the end, she notes, much of our present culture, which shuns pain and favors avoidance, is made up of “tools of addiction. Illuminating reading for those seeking to understand the whos, hows, and wherefores of getting hooked.
Kirkus Reviews

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy, Little Brown and Company, 2018

Beth Macy’s complex, moving account of America’s battle with opioid addiction rips along with the pace of a thriller. This often heartbreaking book advocates ground-level activism in the face of corporate power and celebrates those who tirelessly campaign for reform, often fired by the loss of a loved one. It may make you weep; it will almost certainly make you angry.
— Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian

Blue Dreams. The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds by Lauren Slater, Little Brown and Company, 2018

Slater takes us on a journey that captures the beauty, fear, mystery, dangers, and opportunities inherent in drug use … ideal for readers who are interested in the story and history of important drugs, the sociology of the pharmaceutical world, and the visceral experience of patients.
— Moran Cerf, Ph.D., Cerebrum

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan, Penguin Press, 2018. (One of New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018)

Exploring the history and science of psychedelics, he [Pollan] tells of the rise and fall and rise again of our societal interest in these drugs, which are now thought to have many benefits, from helping with addiction to easing the terror of the terminally ill. The book hits its high point when he examines the mysticism and spirituality of the psychedelic experience.
The New York Times

For the dreamer in you:

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep by J. Patrick McNamara, Ph.D., Simon & Schuster UK, 2019

Leschziner brings readers into the lab to learn about all manner of sleep disorders experienced by people he’s treated, his methods of treating them, and the role sleep plays in health. Readers will find Leschziner’s stories fascinating, and might even pick up a few tips for getting a more restorative night’s sleep in the process.
— George Lucas, Publishers Weekly

Have some brainy summertime reading suggestions? Leave a comment and excite some community neurons!

— Brandon Barrera

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