Recommendation #2 for this month.
I have been
thrilling entertaining delighting telling all my friends about this book by David Eagleman about the brain. (H particularly cannot hear enough about it.) It’s a popular science book written by someone who is a big deal in their field (and who studied with Francis Crick, the giant of 20th century science who, together with James Watson, stole the discovery of DNA from Rosalind Franklin).
Every once in a while a landmark book/TV series comes along with the intention of popularising a field of academic expertise: Kenneth Clarke’s Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. And everything that David Attenborough has ever done.
And I do really believe that The Brain: The Story of You is in that league. Simply because a lot of science is communicated in an extremely accessible way. The TV series is very glossy, and overblown, and Scientist-As-Rockstar-y. But I have no problem with that, because I think that’s because it puts Communication above Trying To Look Like You’re Cleverer Than Everyone Else.
Here’s a trailer:
In fact, come to think of it, I think I’m actually going to recommend the TV series over the book, because (i) I love TV and believe that a TV series is capable of the same greatness as a great book (even though they work in different ways) and (ii) the book describes experiments and interviews which the TV series shows you, and thus the TV series (I found) communicates more information.
I’m a documentary-junkie, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. (Meaning that I’m addicted to watching documentaries, not that I’m a junkie and they’re making a documentary about me.) And I saw this one and thought it would be just the sort of thing I love. But I wasn’t expecting to have my mind quite figuratively blown.
Looking back, I think that a lot of the information in the book/TV series I might have been told before. But, for me at least, The Brain: The Story of You managed to lay it all out in a way which joined together, that actually made me feel like I got a sense of how this machine works.
And this really has changed the way in which I see… pretty much everything, actually.
Here is a 20 minute taster of some of the themes of the book/series:
Current Favourite Part:
The genuinely life-changing realisation that the human brain has probably evolved to put survival above happiness, which is why humans like me tend to spend a lot of time worrying about unimportant things.