Book Review: David Eagleman ~ The Brain: the story of you

I bought this as a make weight on the infamous ‘Buy one get one half price’ desk in Waterstones book shop. Unwanted, unloved and abandoned it was on my shelf for quite a few months before I picked it up for a long train journey. I took an instant dislike to it. The font size is large, the spacing is generous and there are amusing line drawings to illustrate the text. Additionally whole pages are designated as explanatory text in a nice box. I assumed that all of this was condescending and patronising. I also assumed that it was an ‘idiots guide’ and as I have virtually no knowledge of ‘The Brain’ and as it was a long journey I read it.

Eagleman’s book was ‘An acclaimed BBC TV series’ which somehow or another failed to register with me. Short snappy passages, which rarely go beyond five pages make for a pacey read. But I was worried at his use of case studies. Many of them appeared to deny free will- though he goes to great lengths to repudiate that. One example (pp 100-1) Ken Parks murdered both his wife’s parents because he had a sleeping disorder. He was found not guilty of murder. A more spectacular event happened in 1966 when Charles Whitman slaughtered 13 people and injured a further 33 in Texas (pp 20-22). He’d written a suicide note prior to the killing spree asking for an autopsy (as he was convinced, rightly, that he’d be shot dead at the scene) the autopsy revealed that a tumour pressing on the amygdala had changed his behaviour. There are other examples.

An interesting book written in a pacey way, which you might well find interesting

Why you should buy this book: It’s a quick fascinating read by very good author

Why you shouldn’t buy this book: It probably attempts too much

Buy it here


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