Designed as a companion to the TV series, David Eagleman’s The Brain (as the title goes a long way to suggest) is a book about the human brain, but a book more interested in the why of what we do than the biology (although the biology is here too, to a certain extent).
Across six chapters, each of which line up alongside one another in the form of the kind of questions a hippy might ask himself (Who am I? What is reality? Who’s in control? How do I decide? Do I need you? Who will we be?), Eagleman’s book fascinates and enthrals.
As he acknowledges in the introduction, he
“wanted to get away from a textbook model in favour of illuminating a deeper level of enquiry… This project attempts to bridge the gap between the academic literature and the lives we lead as brain owners.”
The Brain does what it sets out to do admirably. If you’ll pardon the almost pun, there is a lot of food for thought here. Yes, there are glimpses into research, things that we might see as the world changes around us in the coming years (not least the image of vacuum cleaners powered by our mind’s own Bluetooth), but it is the sense of Eagleman approaching answers to some of the biggest questions available to humanity that makes the book so damn compelling:
“The alchemy of thought, of feeling, of awareness – this emerges from quadrillions of interactions between brain cells every second: the release of chemicals, the changes in the shapes of proteins, the travelling waves of electrical activity down the axons of neurons.”
Although I’d heard about Eagleman before (we reviewed both Sum and Incognito before), this was the first book I’d read myself – but it won’t be the last. Such is the fluid, companionable way in which he writes, I’m left with the knowledge that here is a writer whose books I must add to my list. I’m not sure there is a greater gift to a reader than this.
Any Cop?: A quick read that still satisfies and will, we guarantee, linger in the old brain pan long after you’ve read it.