Book recommendations about the brain and neuroscience?
December 2, 2014 6:06 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite books about the brain or neuroscience? What have you enjoyed, or been recommended / heard is really good? No philosophy please, nor evolutionary biology. I'm looking for science of the brain or nervous system, or cognition.

I'm a neuroscientist, and I'm working with a donor who would like to read books that are meant for the lay person. Thanks!
posted by htid to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

I guess it may be getting a little old now, but Francis Crick's The Astonishing Hypothesis I think is sort of a classic for a purely materialistic explanation of consciousness. Plus, you know, Francis Crick.
posted by sevenless at 6:22 AM on December 2, 2014

I greatly enjoyed Proust and The Squid. The first two thirds (ish) describes what we know about how the brain handles reading, breaking the process down into different tasks (recognising letters, assembling words and sentences, assigning meaning, recalling associations, etc) and describing how various structures in the brain seem to coordinate and perform them. The rest of the book looks at disorders like dyslexia, what we can infer from the symptoms about their causes, and the relevant neuroscience. There's necessarily some stuff about the evolution of the relevant systems in the brain and the development of (written) languages, but the focus is definitely on the neuroscience.

I haven't read The Tell-Tale Brain yet, but I've heard very good things about it. Ramachandran has made several excellent and engaging documentaries about neuroscience, so I'd expect any of his books to be similarly good.
posted by metaBugs at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2014

I loved The Brain that Changes Itself.
posted by blub at 6:33 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons got good press when it came out. I haven't read this one, but I did read the author's other book, which is more in my field, and liked it.
posted by dorque at 6:55 AM on December 2, 2014

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness and Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran.
posted by Cygnet at 7:01 AM on December 2, 2014

My grad school program got into a bit of neuroscience, and these are a few of my favorites:
The New Executive Brain by Elkhonen Goldberg
Connected by Cristakis and Fowler
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky
posted by SamanthaK at 7:14 AM on December 2, 2014

The single best popular book I've read about neuroscience is The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation, by John Horgan. Don't be put off by the publication date (2000). It's still very much relevant. Horgan brings a much-needed dose of skepticism to the field of brain science.

I also liked, The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind, by Michael Gazzaniga. The book seems to be out of print now, but I don't think that the information contained in it is obsolete or disproven.
posted by alex1965 at 8:32 AM on December 2, 2014

I am partial to the old classic by Julian James, The Origin of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind
posted by Altomentis at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2014

Phantoms in the brain uses what happens when the brain goes wrong as a way to learn about the normal cognitive system.

This is a textbook, but by far the best book on Memory that I have read.

IQ and Human Intelligence is a book about the concept of intelligence, and what we know about it from cognitive psychology. It's written by one of the most brilliant men that I have been taught by, though he has been criticised for talking too much about sex differences in intelligence, which some people find offensive. I don't find his approach even slightly offensive, but I guess you might.

I would like to recommend a book on comparative psychology - what we can learn about cognition by comparing animal and human behaviour, but I can't find any of my old favourites! Maybe have a look around.

The Ascent of Babel is somewhere in between popular science and psycholinguistics. It's about language as a cognitive skill, and specifically about language development.
posted by kadia_a at 10:19 AM on December 2, 2014

One Hundred Names For Love is Diane Ackerman's memoir of her brilliant husband's stroke, which robbed him of language, and his path back to writing. The title refers to all the love nicknames he came up with for her when he had to think sideways to reach words. While it's not exactly hard science, she's a pretty astute writer, and this will spark an interest in language acquisition and other neurological issues in any curious layperson.
posted by janey47 at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2014

Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter is a superb book on the landscape of the brain...
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2014

The Brain Book seems to be an updated version of the book recommended above!
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 2:42 PM on December 2, 2014

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnermam. Its about how brains make decisions, the logic, not the biology.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2014

I just read Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan which is an excellent first hand account of what it's like to live through a terrifying neurological illness.
posted by ghostpony at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2014

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