[28 November 2009]
PopMatters Senior Editor
This is perfect, just perfect, for that person in your life who’s read Oliver Sacks or for that someone who loves the Annals in Science articles in the New Yorker—and is especially attracted to those articles on neurology. This is for the amateur anatomist who went to Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds when it was in town and strolled through the exhibit in quiet reverence.
When it comes right down to it, what we are, and who we are, can be distilled down to that very delicate, highly complex, amazing mass of gray matter, which weighs in at an average of three and one-fourth pounds. The brain’s anatomy, its physical and perceptual growth, what happens to it as it learns, when it suffers illness or injury, what constitutes personality, how we perceive the world—all is presented within historical timelines (e.g., brain surgeries, past and present; brain development, from fetus to senior citizen). Our sense of self, our sense of others, our sense of things outside of ourselves and others, our comprehension of objects and ideas, our ability to be athletes and artists are all rendered in a digestible yet brain-engaging format for the perpetually curious layperson with an interest in anatomy, psychology, and identity.
In addition to the gorgeous graphics in these comprehensive 256 pages, (and occasional pop culture examples, not without humor), the book comes with a DVD-ROM with some cool graphics and summarizing features to complement the text. That might appeal to those who haven’t yet made it to a Body Worlds exhibit. The rest of us will be completely absorbed between the pages of this book. Don’t interrupt the reader—for all its problem solving and fantasy-generating might, the brain can’t process two similar tasks (e.g., processing speech and processing text) at the same time.