Friday, August 17, 2012

Selections from Our Brainy Table, Inspired by Our Upcoming Events with Jon Mukand and Giulio Tononi.

With not one but two book events on brain science coming up, it seemed to make sense (at least to my brain) to do a brainy stuff table. Included are of course The Man with the Bionic Brain: And Other Victories Over Paralysis (Chicago Review), by Dr. Jon Mukand, and Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul (Pantheon), by Dr. Giulio Tononi.

Mukand’s book is a collection of case studies about folks who have been paralyzed from strokes or spinal cord injuries, such as Matt Nagle, stabbed in the back with a hunting knife. Nagle got an experimental device called the BrainGate neural interface system. With it, he was able to do stuff. Mukand is the director of the Southern New England Rehabilitation Center. He’s speaking on Wednesday, August 22, at Noon at MCW (he’s an alum) and at 7 pm at Boswell.

On Wednesday, August 29, 7 pm, we’re hosting Giulio Tononi, neuroscientist and psychiatrist at University of Wisconsin Madison, whose book Phi defies categories. Is it fiction, philosophy, history, or science? The story is told through a series of conversations with Galileo and other scientists. And it didn’t defy categories too much—we put it in science.

One author who isn’t coming, but continues to sell well at Boswell, is Daniel Smith, whose memoir Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety (Simon and Schuster), seems appropriate for the display. Aaron Beck, an influential doctor in psychotherapy, compares Smith’s book to William Stryon’s Darkness Visible. That’s tall praise. But it’s funny too, which is why A.J. Jacobs gave it a quote. I don’t think Jacobs is allowed to quote somber books. Our Boswellian Mel also loves it.

I asked Amie for some suggestions from the kids’ section, and one that she offered was Seymour Simon’s The Brain: Our Nervous System (Smithsonian). “Oh, he taught at my junior high school”, which is one of my favorite worthless connections to pull out when implying that my knowing an author somehow makes me cool.

For those who thinks brains should be on coffee tables, there is always The Brain: Big Bangs, Behaviors, and Beliefs (Yale), by Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall. The authors, both curators at the American Museum of Natural History, look at “the development and uniqueness of human consciousness.” The book is not full color, but it’s gift shaped and has a number of line drawings, and is priced at a reasonable $29.95.

And finally for folks who need a emergency brain, we have Accoutrements inflatable brain. The brain comes in a nice gift tin, and can make a handy gift for someone who needs a little more grey matter. For folks who don’t need any more brains, we also restocked the handy geek pen.

This is not my last brainy post. Of course we’ll have more about our Mukand and Tononi on our next two Monday event posts, and closer to pub date, I can’t wait to tell you about an exciting fall memoir that both Jason and I read, Suzanne Cahalan’s Brain on Fire.

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