Important Books on the Brain: An Annotated Bibliography of Fiction and Non-Fiction

January, 2006

The following descriptions focus on widely praised books about the brain, both scientific and literary. The selections are excerpted from articles in Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science. 

Cerebrum is now a free Web publication, with monthly articles, regular book features, letters to the editor, and a complete searchable archive of all 27 print issues from 1998–2005. Authors of books who are members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives are indicated in boldface type.  

The book descriptions found in this section are organized in the following categories:

  1. The Great Brain Books, Voted by Scientists of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
  2. “Ourselves To Know,” Books from Scientists of the Dana Alliance
  3. Great Literary Portrayals of Brain Disorders
  4. The Inner Lives of Disordered Brains
  5. Four Fictional Odysseys Through Life With a Disordered Brain
  6. Brain Books for Budding Scientists—and All Children

1. The Great Brain Books

Voted by Scientists of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives

From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1999 © Dana Press.

A Vision of the Brain

BySemir Zeki.Blackwell Science Ltd. pb, 1993, $61.95. Non-fiction.

In this elegant and detailed analysis of how and why we see—particularly color and motion—in a constantly changing visual environment, Zeki first reviews the historical twists and turns in studying vision. He then lays out his understanding of functional specialization, integration, and how our conscious perception of what we see arises in the brain.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

ByKay Redfield Jamison.Vintage pb, 1997, $13.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Knopf, 1995.) Non-fiction.

Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, suffers from manic depression. Here, she reveals how this illness can woo its victims with exalted flights of mind so exhilarating that taking lithium to save their sanity can become an agonizing decision. Jamison makes that issue real for us—in personal, poetic, and scientific terms— as no other writer ever has.


By Oliver Sacks. Vintage pb, 1999, $15.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Doubleday, 1974.) $15.00. Non-fiction.

This Sacks classic is the account of victims of a decades-long sleeping sickness (encephalitis lethargica) who awaken to a new life after being treated with the drug L-dopa. Here, Sacks is able to enter into the world of someone with a neurological disease and help us understand both our common humanity and the medical science. 

Brain, Mind, and Behavior

ByFloyd Bloomand Arlyne Lazerson. Worth Publishers pb, 2000, $78.00. (Originally published in hardcover by

W.H. Freeman, 1984.) Non-fiction. Written to accompany a PBS-TV series, Brain, Mind, and Behavior systematically moves from monoamine transmitters to thinking and consciousness. The book is eminently readable, and it addresses subtle controversies and questions in research.

Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind

ByGerald M. Edelman.Basic Books pb, 1993, $22.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 1992.) Non-fiction.

A Nobel laureate presents his complex and revolutionary vision of how evolution has led from simple cells to the intricate biology of our brains—and, in Edelman’s view, our extraordinary minds and unique human consciousness.

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

ByAntonio R. Damasio.Penguin pb, 2005, $15.00. (Originally published in hardcover by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.) Non-fiction.

The first modern European philosopher, René Descartes, saw mind and body as fundamentally separate. The idea infected Western thought with the premise that rationality and feeling, the mental and the biological, don’t mix. Damasio challenges that dualism root and branch, marshaling evidence from basic and clinical research and interpreting it with rare philosophical acuity.

Drugs and the Brain

BySolomon H. Snyder.Scientific American Library pb, 1996, $24.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Scientific American Books, Inc., 1986.) Non-fiction.

Snyder tells the story of brain research from the viewpoint of brain chemistry and pharmacological agents (some known over thousands of years) and what they reveal about our brains. The 1996 paperback updates the story with molecular biology, gene cloning, and discovery of neurotransmitter receptors, as well as the practical story of new drugs such as Prozac for depression and clozapine for schizophrenia. 

Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior

Edited byEric Kandel,James Schwartz, and Thomas Jessell. McGraw-Hill/Appleton & Lange, 1995, $79.95. Non-fiction.

This is a textbook for undergraduates with some biology experience. Three primary authors, all at Columbia University, are joined by a dozen more to present the subject—from neuron to memory— with many illustrations, all technical, and appropriate mathematical formulas and models of compounds.

Evolving Brains

By John Morgan Allman. Scientific American Library pb, 2000, $22.95. (Originally published in hardcover by

W.H. Freeman, 1999.) Non-fiction.

A distinguished contributor in his own right to brain research on vision, Allman brings a rare combination of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and developmental biology to his work. Evolving Brains is a fascinating account of the uncanny, unconscious genius of evolution brilliantly improvising the brain in response to the needs of the gut, the blood, the hunt, and, always, the next generation.

Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing

By Richard L. Gregory. Princeton University Press pb, 1997, $22.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966.) Non-fiction.

Gregory has a special slant: approaching vision through the analysis and categorization of visual illusions. In this, he is a pioneer, making the book unique (not to mention fascinating), with visual illusions to illustrate each chapter and to make you realize that deep mysteries remain.

Eye, Brain, and Vision

ByDavid H. Hubel.Scientific American Library pb, 1995, $32.95. (Originally published in hardcover by

W.H. Freeman, 1988.) Non-fiction.

For their role in the knowledge revolution surrounding vision, Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel received a Nobel Prize in 1981. Here Hubel tells the story for readers, he says, with scientific training but not biology expertise. Trained or not, readers who like science—and how a great scientist thinks—will enjoy this book.


Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature

ByJerome Kagan.Westview Press pb, 1998, $38.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 1994.) Non-fiction.

Psychologist Jerome Kagan takes a perceptive look at what research into infant and child development can teach us about human nature, in particular the biological influences on temperament.

How the Mind Works

By Steven Pinker. W.W. Norton pb, 1999, $17.95. (Originally published in hardcover by W.W. Norton, 1997.) Non-fiction.

Pinker attempts to explain the brain’s natural ability to perform feats that even the most sophisticated computer hardware would find impossible. He also explores how the mind thinks, reasons, falls in love, and develops family bonds.

Images of Mind

ByMichael I. PosnerandMarcus Raichle.W.H. Freeman pb, 1997, $19.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Scientific American Library, 1994.) Non-fiction.

This volume—by a foremost cognitive psychologist (Posner) and a pioneer of positron emission tomography (Raichle)—is not just a book on imaging; it is also a general brain book. Chapters deal with mental images, interpreting words, mental operations, attention, brain development, and mental disorders. Visuals, including brain scans, are generous, but so is the lucid text.

Listening to Prozac: A Psychiatrist Explores Antidepressant Drugs and the Remaking of the Self

By Peter D. Kramer. Penguin pb, 1997, $16.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Viking Penguin, 1993.) Non-fiction.

If Prozac transforms personalities of relatively healthy patients, what does this mean for our view of psychiatry? Mental illness? Biology as destiny? In his book, Kramer raises and deliberatively deepens the issues.

Mapping Fate: A Memoir of Family, Risk, and Genetic Research

By Alice Wexler. University of California Press pb, 1996, $19.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Crown, 1995.) Non-fiction.

In Mapping Fate, Wexler skillfully interweaves the heartbreaking story of her family’s odyssey with Huntington’s disease—which killed her mother— and the dramatic, suspenseful, and eventually triumphant scientific search for the Huntington’s gene, spearheaded by her sister and her father.

Memory and Brain

ByLarry R. Squire.Oxford University Press pb, 1987, $31.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Oxford University Press, 1987.) Non-fiction.

Looking back at two decades of productive research on memory, Squire sets out to integrate the work of psychologists and neurobiologists into a coherent account of the nature of memory: synaptic changes, storage, learning, information processing, and types of memory. 

Molecules and Mental Illness

By Samuel H. Barondes. W.H. Freeman pb, 1999, $19.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Scientific American Library, 1993.) Non-fiction.

This book teaches molecular biology while telling the story of biological psychiatry. Barondes guides you through heredity, molecular genetics, cellular neuroscience, and psychopharmacology with fascinating sidelights and fine Scientific American Library illustrations while creating vivid portraits of manic-depressive illness, major depression, schizophrenia, and disabling fears and compulsions.

Mood Genes: Hunting for Origins of Mania and Depression

By Samuel H. Barondes. Oxford University Press pb, 1999, $22.00. (Originally published in hardcover by

W.H. Freeman, 1998.) Non-fiction.

The search is on for genes affecting complex mental disorders and, in particular, those underlying mania and depression using linkage studies of families in Costa Rica. Barondes, a gene hunter, tells this story in terms of sufferers and scientists, bringing out the excitement, complexity, and controversies.

Neuronal Man: The Biology of Mind

By Jean-Pierre Changeux. Princeton University Press pb, 1997, $24.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Fayard, 1983.) Non-fiction.

In this book, Changeux devotes more than the usual attention to history and to cross-species comparisons that probe why human brains are so relatively capable. Unlike some introductions to the brain, Neuronal Man has few illustrations. It does, however, have a glossary and an extensive bibliography.

Recollections of My Life

By Santiago Ramón y Cajal. MIT Press pb, 1989, $32.00. (Originally published 1901–1917 in Madrid.) Non-fiction.

One “founder” of neuroscience is Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish histologist born in 1852 whose massive writings and superb drawings are still the most cited sources on the nervous system. Recollections is the story not only of his methods and chief discoveries, but of the astonishing life that began with boyhood rebellions and rose to every triumph, including the Nobel Prize (with Camillo Golgi) in 1906.

Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

ByDaniel L. Schacter.Basic Books pb, 1997, $18.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 1996.) Non-fiction.

Schacter, chairman of psychology at Harvard, tells the story that brain research has found to explain the multiple, complex systems that underlie memory. We learn that with memory’s power comes fragility, limitations seen not only in disease and aging but also in explosive issues such as “recovered memories” of child abuse that have put innocent teachers in prison.

The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul

By Francis Crick. Scribner pb, 1995, $15.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Scribner, 1994.) Non-fiction.

The “astonishing hypothesis” is that “all aspects of the brain’s behavior are due to the activities of neurons” (that’s all, including lofty aspects once called “soul”). Confronting religious explanations head-on, Crick’s challenge is to make real to us what it would mean to provide a complete explanation of awareness solely in neural terms.

The Broken Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry

ByNancy Andreasen.HarperPerennial pb, 1985, $15.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Harper & Row, 1984.) Non-fiction.

Andreasen, a distinguished psychiatrist, introduces this book with chapters on the history of mental illness, the brain, the four major syndromes, diagnosis, treatment, and research. Many authors claim to write for laymen; Andreasen, a former English teacher, really does. Her subtext is that mental illness is a disease, no more shameful than cancer. 

The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life

ByJoseph LeDoux.Touchstone pb, 1998, $14.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster, 1996.) Non-fiction.

The Emotional Brain reasons its way through questions about the nature of emotions, conservation of emotional systems across species, conscious and unconscious emotional responses, and the relationship between feelings and emotions.

The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography, Vols. 1 and 2

Edited byLarry R. Squire.Society for Neuroscience, 1996 and 1998. Vol. I: $63.95; Vol. II: $65.95. Non-fiction.

As president of the Society for Neuroscience, Squire, a pioneer of memory research, conceived of this series and edited both volumes. Well-known neuroscientists from America and Europe contributed, with pieces running from fairly autobiographical (Herbert H. Jasper) to mostly scientific (Sir Bernard Katz). There are good photographs of each scientist.

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

By Steven Pinker. HarperPerennial pb, 1995, $15.00. (Originally published in hardcover by William Morrow, 1994.) Non-fiction.

Steven Pinker, a psychologist, turns a phenomenon that most of us take for granted—language— into a wonder and mystery that, he proposes, is at the heart of human development. Disputing the theory that language is a cultural construct, he argues that it is ingrained, an “instinct,” as hardwired in humans as making a web is in spiders. Includes notes and a brief glossary.

The Longevity Strategy: How to Live to 100 Using the Brain-Body Connection

ByDavid MahoneyandRichard Restak. Foreword byWilliam Safire.John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Dana Press pb, 1999, $14.95. (Originally published in hardcover by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Dana Press, 1998.) Non-fiction.

Mahoney, the business executive and philanthropist who was chairman of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, teamed up with the neurologist and neuropsychiatrist Restak for this road map to a healthy longevity. Includes 31 practical, research-based tactics for maintaining cognitive and emotional well-being, physical health, and financial stability through the life span.


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

By Oliver Sacks. Touchstone pb, 1998, $14.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster, 1970.) Non-fiction.

Patients with lesions and disorders have been a crucial window on the brain for neuroscientists. In this famous book. Sacks presents a series of such case studies, from Korsakov’s syndrome, with its devastation of memory, to Tourette’s syndrome, with its explosion of mental energy, in portraits that are profoundly revelatory and full of compassion for the afflicted individuals.

The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory

By Donald O. Hebb. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002, $45.00. (Originally published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1949.) Non-fiction.

Hebb, a pioneering psychologist at the University of Montreal, is remembered most of all for his statement of the principle that coactivation of neurons is required to strengthen the synaptic connection. This is cited in most accounts of learning theory and is called “Hebb’s Rule.” The Organization of Behavior was Hebb’s culminating report to the world on his work and is still a classic.

The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration

Edited by Anne Harrington. Harvard University Press pb, 1999, $24.50. (Originally published in hardcover by Harvard University Press, 1997.) Non-fiction.

An insightful collection of essays and dialogues that looks at placebos from viewpoints as diverse as neuropharmacology and anthropology, molecular biology and religion. Contributors place placebos at the intersection of biology and culture, with much to teach us about the interaction of our minds and bodies. 

The Principles of Psychology

By William James. Dover Publications pb, 2 vols., 1950, $16.95/volume. (Originally published in hardcover by Henry Holt, 1890.) Non-fiction.

Stream of thought, consciousness of self, attention, conception, perception of time, memory: James analyzed, categorized, and conceptualized each aspect of mental life. Much remains valid— and not infrequently used as the starting point of discussions today—because James knew and honored the difference between observation and interpretation.

The Rediscovery of the Mind

By John R. Searle. MIT Press pb, 1992, $25.00. (Originally published in hardcover by MIT Press, 1992.) Non-fiction.

Having rejected materialism and dualism, and having admitted consciousness to the natural world, Searle analyzes its nature. His arguments are cogent, as is his dissection of materialism, which irks cognitive scientists whose investigations avoid all reference to mental life. But to study the brain while dismissing consciousness, says Searle, is like studying biology while explaining away the inconvenient emergence of life.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress,
Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, Third Edition

By Robert M. Sapolsky. Owl Books pb, 2004, $16.00. (Originally published in hardcover by W.H. Freeman, 1993.) Non-fiction.

Evolution of the fight-or-flight mechanism that, in a burst of physiological fireworks, can save a zebra from a lion, is often turned on—and left on—by the psychological and social stressors in our lives. Then the sympathetic nervous system’s response to “danger” becomes the problem. Sapolsky explains all this, writing about glucocorticoids and insulin secretion with wit and charm. 

2. “Ourselves to Know”

Books from Scientists of the Dana Alliance

From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2004 © Dana Press.

A Passion for DNA: Genes, Genomes, and Society

ByJames D. Watson.Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press pb, 2001, $15.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2000.) Nonfiction.

A collection of Watson’s essays in which he commented on scientific advances that were taking place during his 30 years as director and later president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, one of the world’s foremost in molecular biology.

A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination

ByGerald Edelmanand Giulio Tononi. Basic Books pb, 2001, $18.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 2000.) Non-fiction.

Nobel laureate Edelman has not just pondered the problem of consciousness; for some 25 years, he has conducted scientific research on it, publishing a string of books. A Universe of Consciousness, co-authored with neurobiologist Tononi, sums up and interprets these investigations in “the main outlines of a solution to the problem of consciousness.”

Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill?

ByJonathan Pincus.W.W. Norton pb, 2002, $14.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Diane Publishing Co., 2001.) Non-fiction.

A 25-year study of 150 murderers on death row, in locked psychiatric wards, and in prisons, reveals “a strong tie between violent behavior and neurological abnormalities, paranoid thoughts, and the experience of severe, prolonged, physical abuse,” according to the author.

Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy

ByPatricia Smith Churchland.MIT Press pb, 2002, $28.00. (Originally published in hardcover by MIT Press, 2002.) Non-fiction.

Framed as philosophy, not neuroscience, Brain-Wise is organized around traditional domains of philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, free will, and religion. Its defining thesis is that if philosophers pose old philosophical problems (the nature of mind, the nature of self, the nature of learning) in light of discoveries in brain and cognitive science, they will at last make genuine progress.

Brave New Brain: Conquering Mental Illness in the Era of the Genome

ByNancy Andreasen. Oxford University Press pb, 2004, $17.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Oxford University Press, 2001.) Non-fiction.

Describes progress over a decade or more in understanding the chief categories of mental illness (schizophrenia, dementia, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders), how treatments have changed, especially in light of understanding the genetics of illness, and what lies ahead. Includes a mini-tutorial on neuroscience and molecular genetics, a review of mental illnesses, and comments on what it all means in social and economic terms. 


DNA: The Secret of Life

ByJames D. Watson,with Andrew Berry.Alfred A. Knopf pb, 2004, $24.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.) Non-fiction.

A big book with full-color illustrations that tells the story of DNA. Not just a coffee-table book, the consensus among scientists is that it is vintage Watson in style and intellectual level, giving him the opportunity to comment on the significance of molecular biology over half a century and where we might be going with it.

Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix

ByJames D. Watson.Vintage pb, 2003, $14.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.) Non-fiction.

Far and away his most personal book, Genes, Girls, and Gamow is the story of what Watson did following his co-discovery, with Francis Crick, of the structure of DNA. The book tells how, as a world-famous scientist at 25, Watson spent his time studying ribonucleic acid (RNA) to understand how genes encode proteins, and how he went about finding himself a wife.

I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self

ByRodolfo Llinas.MIT Press pb, 2002, $19.95. (Originally published in hardcover by MIT Press, 2001.) Non-fiction.

Described by the author as “a personal view of neuroscience” from the perspective of “a single-cell physiologist interested in neuronal integration and synaptic transmission.” What emerges in this book is a sweeping integration of this cell-level perspective with insights at levels from the molecular to the technologic-social. The result is a new theory of the nature of mind, which, according to Llinas, evolved to enable living creatures to succeed in their environment by being able to predict—the ultimate brain function. 

Intelligent Memory: Improve Your Memory No Matter What Your Age

ByBarry Gordonand Lisa Berger. Penguin, 2005, $14.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Viking Adult, 2003.) Non-fiction.

Outlines ways to develop the mental processes that direct what the authors term “intelligent memory,” the very engine which powers our intelligence. Sharpening this tool makes us able to think creatively, anticipate problems, and infer solutions rapidly. Includes an exploration of mental processes and a series of memory exercises and quizzes that are challenging and fun.

Keep Your Brain Young: The Complete Guide to Physical and Emotional Health and Longevity

ByGuy McKhannandMarilyn Albert. John Wiley & Sons, Inc./Dana Press pb, 2003, $15.95. (Originally published in hardcover by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and Dana Press, 2002.) Non-fiction.

A guide to what you can expect in every area of life that involves the brain as you move past 50: memory, nutrition, sleep, depression, alcohol, pain, sexual function, vision and other senses, and the serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease that affect the brain in older age. The book moves from the wisdom of the seasoned physician to the latest in research discoveries.

Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are

By Steven R. Quartz andTerrence Sejnowski.Harper pb, 2003, $14.95. (Originally published in hardcover by William Morrow, 2002.) Non-fiction.

Liars, Lovers, and Heroes calls on recent advances in brain imaging, computer modeling, and genetics as well as historical and contemporary theories of philosophy, psychology, politics, and sociology to answer questions like: Who are we? Why do we love and hate? Why do we sometimes lay down our lives for others? Why do we sometimes kill? On a range of topics, including sex, learning, violence, and happiness, the authors provide an accessible account of how our brains and world engage, excite, and alter each other.

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain

ByAntonio Damasio.Harvest Books pb, 2003, $15.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Harcourt, Inc., 2003.) Non-fiction.

Examines the role in human existence of feelings and the emotions that underlie feelings (an important distinction for Damasio). Damasio shares his rediscovery of the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Benedict Spinoza whose Ethics defied the life-anddeath power of religion in his era in postulating the inseparability of mind and body. Looking for Spinoza is a complete work of philosophy as well as science, rooting a modern-day philosophy of human nature, the good life, and the just society in the discoveries of brain science.

Matter of Mind: A Neurologist’s View of Brain-Behavior Relationships

ByKenneth M. Heilman. Oxford University Press, 2002, $39.95. Non-fiction.

By studying how mind and behavior are affected by brain injury, scientists since the Greek physician Hippocrates have mapped the brain. In this book, Heilman tells how lesions in the brain change— often in astonishing ways—language, emotion, attention, self-awareness, memory, cognitive-motor skills, sensory perception, and intention.

Memory and Emotion: The Making of Lasting Memories

ByJames McGaugh.Columbia University Press, 2003, $27.50. Non-fiction.

McGaugh, professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, and pioneer in memory research, discusses the history of memory research, recent major discoveries, the molecular biological processes underlying formation of long-term memories, new ideas about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more in an engaging and personable style.

Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential

ByRichard Restak.Three Rivers Press pb, 2002, $12.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Harmony Books, 2001.) Non-fiction.

Can we make ourselves smarter? Restak suggests in this book that a good grasp of how your brain works can even make you more intelligent. With more that 20 exercises intended to improve memory, creativity, and concentration by increasing neural linkages, this best-selling guide promises to enhance your cognitive capabilities now and into old age.

Mysteries of the Mind

ByRichard Restak.National Geographic, 2000, $35.00.Non-fiction.
Mysteries of the Mind takes readers on a tour of the brain, using drawings and illustrations to explore its structure and operation, particularly in sleep, memory, and emotion.

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

BySally Shaywitz.Vintage pb, 2005, $15.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.) Non-fiction.

A trusted authority on dyslexia for over 20 years, Shaywitz provides a comprehensive source of information and guidance, answering questions she has heard in years on the lecture circuit. All three sections of the book—on the nature of dyslexia, its diagnosis, and how to overcome it—are enlivened with personal stories from Shaywitz’s work with students, teachers, and parents.

Parkinson’s Disease: A Complete Guide for Patients and Families

By William J. Weiner, Lisa M. Shulman, andAnthony E. Lang.Johns Hopkins University Press pb, 2001, $20.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.) Non-fiction.

A straightforward, comprehensive guide to living with Parkinson’s disease as long and healthfully as possible. Treatments developed over the past three decades make prospects for the patient far better but also offer many options to be considered. Issues such as these and others are addressed by the authors in well-organized sections that are written in clear, unaffected prose.

Striking Back at Stroke: A Doctor-Patient Journal

By Cleo Hutton andLouis Caplan.Dana Press, 2003, $27.00. Non-fiction. In Striking Back at Stroke, Hutton’s personal narrative of her stroke and rehabilitation alternate with commentary by Caplan, a professor of neurology who is a leading clinical researcher on stroke. The result is a vivid yet informed account, immediate but thoughtful about how a patient and modern medical science together fought back against a “brain attack.”

Surprise, Uncertainty and Mental Structures

ByJerome Kagan.Harvard University Press, 2002, $37.50. Non-fiction.

In this book, Kagan asks whether any single type of mental operation (for example, behavioral conditioning, imagery, or concepts in words) can account for the wide diversity of human behavior, thought, and emotion. He argues for the existence of at least two basically different modes of mental operation, which he calls “schemata” (picturing things) and “semantic networks” (putting things in words), and shows how this distinction illuminates thinking about psychological development, creativity, and personality measurement and theory.

Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are

ByJoseph LeDoux. Penguin pb, 2003, $16.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Viking Adult, 2002.) Non-fiction.

LeDoux is interested here in examining how our brains—in particular the inconceivably complex “connectivity” of brain cells at many levels—make possible who we are. To this end, Synaptic Self turns to a vast array of brain science, including the research that LeDoux reported in The Emotional Brain (1996). His basic claim: “The bottom-line point of this book is, you are your synapses.”

The Dana Guide to Brain Health

Floyd E. Bloom, M. Flint Beal,andDavid J. Kupfer,Editors.Foreword byWilliam Safire.Free Press, 2003, $45.00. Non-fiction. (Paperback edition with CD-ROM coming Fall 2006.)

The first comprehensive home reference book about the brain, how it works when it is healthy, and what happens when things go wrong. Includes contributions from 104 top doctors and researchers and an extended section on brain and nervous system disorders that covers more than 70 neurological and emotional conditions and how they are diagnosed and treated.

The Dying of Enoch Wallace: Life, Death, and the Changing Brain

ByIra Black.McGraw-Hill, 2001, $24.95. Non-fiction.

This book presents a new model for explaining neuroscience to the lay reader. Black tells two stories simultaneously, the history of neuroscience in the 20th century and the story of an investment banker, Enoch Wallace, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and who suffers the inevitable cognitive decline.

The End of Stress as We Know It

ByBruce McEwenwith Elizabeth N. Lasley. Dana Press/Joseph Henry Press pb, 2004, $19.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Dana Press/Joseph Henry Press, 2002.) Non-fiction.

If the stress reaction, known as fight-or-flight, evolved to help us in emergencies, why does it also cause so much harm? Authors McEwen and Lasley address this paradox by mapping the relationship between brain function and stress responses and tell us how we can make ourselves more resilient to stress. (See excerpt, p. 40.)

The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind

ByRichard Restak.Rodale Press pb, 2004, $14.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Rodale Press, 2003.) Non-fiction.

In this book, Restak looks at the progress brain science has made in just the past two decades. In this era of The New Brain, we have available the latest imaging techniques to enable us to watch the brain as it thinks, decides, and acts. Restak contends that other new technologies will become important in shaping the further evolution of our brains. 

The Secret Life of the Brain

ByRichard Restak. Joseph Henry Press/Dana Press, 2001, $35.00. Non-fiction.

A companion volume to the Emmy-winning PBS series of the same name. Extending beyond the television series, Restak draws on interviews and clinical research to explore life’s five stages of brain development, emphasizing the brain’s remarkable resilience.

The Seven Sins of Memory (How the Mind Forgets and Remembers)

ByDaniel Schacter.Houghton Mifflin pb, 2002, $14.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 2001.) Non-fiction.

Schacter’s angle here is “the nature of memory’s imperfections” and how we can reduce or avoid the harm they do. He calls his schema for these imperfections the “seven sins of memory”: transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. These transgressions, he argues, are excesses of otherwise adaptive, useful features of our minds.

Understanding Depression: What We Know and What You Can Do About It

ByJ. Raymond DePaulo, Jr.and Lesley Alan Horvitz. Foreword byKay Redfield Jamison.John Wiley & Sons Inc., and Dana Press pb, 2003, $15.95. (Originally published in hardcover by John Wiley & Sons Inc., and Dana Press, 2002.) Non-fiction.

A leading authority on depression explains how people can recognize depression in themselves or in loved ones, presents the many factors that cause people to become depressed, and discusses the proliferating options for treatment. DePaulo also presents a similar analysis of the symptoms and causes of bipolar disorder (manic depressive illness). He calls on the latest brain research to explain what doctors and researchers really know about these debilitating diseases.

Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing

ByMargaret Livingstone.Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002, $45.00. Non-fiction.

In an easy-to-follow format, Livingstone, a neurobiologist at Harvard and vision researcher for over two decades, begins with basic reviews of the principles of light and the structure of the vertebrate eye. She then explains how we process color and luminance (lightness), the visual “what and where” system, and other aspects of how we see. She then applies this knowledge to well-known works of art. For example, how do acuity and spatial resolution explain why da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has such a mysterious smile?

Why We See What We Do: An Empirical Theory of Vision

ByDale Purvesand R. Beau Lotto. Sinauer Associates, Inc., pb, 2003, $49.95. Non-fiction.

Drawing on much of their own individual research, authors Purves and Lotto propose a new theory of vision according to which retinal stimuli trigger a reflex response in our brains. What we experience when we see is shaped by what this stimulus has come to signify in the past. Includes chapter introductions and summaries, a complete glossary, and over 100 diagrams.


3. Great Literary Portrayals of Brain Disorders

By Marcia Clendenen and Dick RileyOriginally published as “Madness in Good Company: Great Literary Portrayals of Brain Disorders.
From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 2000 © Dana Press.

To put these works in a current clinical context, the authors have compared the characteristics and behavior of the characters to the symptoms described in the 1994 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV, the standard descriptive and cataloging text for mental ailments.

“A Hunger Artist”

By Franz Kafka. Twisted Spoon Press, 1996, $13.50. (Originally published in 1924.) Fiction.

“During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished,” begins Franz Kafka in his short story “A Hunger Artist.” Those who willingly starve themselves are defined by the DSM-IV as having anorexia nervosa. Certainly the hunger artist exhibits behaviors mentioned in the DSM, including “depressive symptoms such as depressed mood, social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia.”

Flowers for Algernon

By Daniel Keyes. HarcourtBrace pb, 2004, $7.99. (Originally published in 1966.) Fiction.

Charlie Gordon is a 32-year-old mentally retarded man who becomes a genius, thanks to a sketchily described new treatment, only to have the process reverse itself. Charlie himself narrates his transformation from a bakery janitor with an intelligence quotient of 68 to a man with an “intelligence that can’t really be calculated.” The DSM-IV lists both biological and psychosocial factors as potential causes of mental retardation.


By William S. Burroughs. Penguin pb, 2003, $14.00. (Originally published in 1953.) Fiction.

“Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life,” says Burroughs in his “memoir of a life of addiction.” He omits few of the DSM-IV signs of the substance abuser, including “failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home,” and “continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent…problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.”

Mrs. Dalloway

By Virginia Woolf. Harvest Books, 1990, $12.00. (Originally published in 1925.) Fiction.Mrs. Dalloway takes us through one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class Englishwoman. Her life is contrasted with the tragic story of another major character, Septimus Warren Smith. The novel is set after the end of World War I. Smith had served in the war and suffers from “shell shock,” the term then applied to post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Silent Snow, Secret Snow”

By Conrad Aiken. Creative Company, 1983. (Originally published in 1934. Out of print. Used copies available in bookstores or online.) Fiction.

This short story portrays a 12-year-old boy slipping into an autistic state. Paul avoids the doctor’s eyes (“marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze” is one of the DSM’s criteria for autism) or else stares, preoccupied with the light in his pupils. Finally he smiles at the secret snow filling the corners of the room. 


By Kurt Vonnegut. Dial Press pb, 1999, $14.00. (Originally published in 1969.) Fiction.

This novel tells in a nonlinear narrative of the capture of a young soldier, Billy Pilgrim, and his survival in a meat locker deep below the place where the prisoners are billeted. “Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections,” a classic symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the DSM-IV, could well describe this novel.

Tender Is the Night

By F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scribner pb, 1995, $13.00.
(Originally published in 1934.) Fiction.
In Tender Is the Night, we observe the tumultuous relationship between Nicole, once diagnosed as schizophrenic, and Dick Diver, who undergoes an alcoholic, downward spiral and professional ruin. Fitzgerald suffered from alcoholism; his wife, Zelda, was diagnosed as schizophrenic and hospitalized. Tender Is the Night was the last novel Fitzgerald completed.

The Accidental Tourist

By Anne Tyler. Ballantine pb, 2002, $14.95. (Originally published in 1985.) Fiction.

Macon Levy’s son has been senselessly murdered. Macon’s reaction is to create a world of routines, rituals, and dependable habits that hold his grief at bay. The DSM-IV describes obsessive-compulsive disorder as manifesting repetitive behaviors that a person feels driven to perform, behaviors that are aimed—however unrealistically—at preventing or reducing distress or at forestalling some dreaded event or situation.

The Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath. HarperPerrenial pb, 2005, $13.95.
(Originally published in 1963.) Fiction.
Esther Greenwood fits many of the DSM-IV criteria for depressive personality disorder. She begins electroshock therapy, but her obsession with thoughts of death worsens. For all its grim subject matter, The Bell Jar is full of humor, particularly in its opening passages, and has been described as a female version of the male adolescent rite-of-passage novel A Catcher in the Rye. 

The Eden Express

By Mark Vonnegut. Seven Stories Press pb, 2004, $13.95. (Originally published in 1975.) Non-fiction.

This is an autobiographical account of Vonnegut’s descent into madness, diagnosed at the time (1970) as schizophrenia. His first psychotic break occurs on a trip and consists of episodes of uncontrolled crying, shaking, and social blunders. This combination of depressive and manic episodes would probably be attributed today to bipolar disorder rather than schizophrenia.

The Idiot

By Fyodor Dostoevsky. Vintage pb, 2003, $12.95. (Originally published in 1869.) Fiction.

Born in 1821, Dostoevsky became linked with the forces of political reform in Russia. He and a group of friends were arrested for political activity, tried, and sentenced to death. In a dreadful charade, with Dostoevsky already on the scaffold, the sentence was commuted and he was sent to prison in Siberia. There he experienced his first epileptic seizure. Dostoevsky’s own epilepsy was particularly acute as he was writing the novel.

The Pickwick Papers

By Charles Dickens. pb, 2003, $18.99. (Originally published in 1837.) Fiction.

Among the most memorable of the many comic characters Dickens introduces in The Pickwick Papers is Joe, the narcoleptic servant of Mr. Tupman. According to the DSM-IV, narcolepsy— particularly in the extreme form exhibited by Joe— is rare; it would have occurred in as few as 3,600 of the approximately 18 million people in England and Wales at the midpoint of the 19th century. 

4. The Inner Lives of Disordered Brains

By Anne Harrington, Ph.D.
From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 2005 © Dana Press.

Aphasia and Kindred Disorders of Speech

By Sir Henry Head. Now available as The Classics of Neurology & Neurosurgery, Special edition, 1987. (Originally published in 1926.) $100.00. Non-fiction.

Includes an extensive case history of a young staff officer injured in World War I. A milestone in writing about patients with neurological trauma because it captured a change in social attitudes toward neurological patients. World War I had the effect of changing the typical neurological patient profile, which in turn brought the doctor-patient relationship onto more intimate and egalitarian lines.

Imaginary Portraits

By Walter Pater., 2002, $22.99. (Originally published in 1887.) Fiction.

Rich interior descriptions of fictional characters, who functioned in part as psychological allegories. A favorite of teachers and students of literature, art history, and aesthetics.


Motherless Brooklyn

By Jonathan Lethem. Vintage pb, 2000, $13.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Doubleday, 1999.) Fiction.

Told in the voice of a character with Tourette syndrome. Set in modern-day Brooklyn, Lionel Essrog works to uncover who murdered his boss and learns that his tics actually make him a better detective.

Partial View: An Alzheimer’s Journal

By Cary Henderson. Southern Methodist University Press pb, 1998, $24.95. Non-fiction.

Describes the process of Alzheimer’s from the inside, what it feels like little by little to lose one’s memory and everyday moorings. Henderson recorded his increasingly disjointed thoughts onto a tape that was then edited by family members.

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

By V.S. Ramachandran. HarperPerennial pb, 1999, $16.00. (Originally published in hardcover by William Morris, 1998.) Non-fiction.

A description of the personal subjective experiences of Ramachandran’s patients. He posits insights into mysterious conditions like anosognosia, phantom limb pain, and blindsight.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

By Jean-Dominique Bauby. Vintage pb, 1998, $11.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Knopf, 1997.) Non-fiction.

Describes what it’s like to have one’s intact subjectivity suddenly locked inside a body that will no longer move and can no longer speak. Bauby had an ultimately fatal stroke that resulted in a rare condition called “locked-in syndrome,” leaving him able to move only his left eyelid.

The Man Who Tasted Shapes

By Richard Cytowic. MIT Press pb, 2003, $21.95. (Originally published in hardcover by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993.) Non-fiction.

An account of what it’s like to live with synesthesia, a condition, according to the author, characterized by the prioritization of emotional knowledge over reason.

The Man With a Shattered World

By A.R. Luria. Harvard University Press, 2004, $17.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 1972). Non-fiction.

The story of a soldier, Zasetsky, who suffers brain damage and begins writing a journal to help put his thoughts, memories, and life back together. Told as a narrative in two voices, that of the patient as it comes through in excerpts from his journal, and that of his doctor, Luria himself, commenting on the patient’s experiences and providing analytic context for making sense of them.

The Mind of a Mnemonist

By A.R. Luria. Harvard University Press pb, 2006, $18.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books, 1968.) Non-fiction.

A 30-year case history of a man who never forgot anything he experienced. This study of a man named Sherashevsky is Luria’s “romantic” portrait of a “lost soul” whose indiscriminate memory made him unable to connect to the world.

Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life With Autism

By Temple Grandin. Vintage pb, 2006, $12.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Doubleday, 1995.) Non-fiction.

A woman with high-functioning autism points to ways which her highly visual, rational, and concrete form of thinking enables her to do things—such as designing more humane mechanisms for handling livestock—that so-called normal people cannot. 

5. Four Fictional Odysseys Through Life With a Disordered Brain

By Todd E. Feinberg, M.D.
From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 7, No. 4, Fall 2005 © 2005 Dana Press.

Born Twice: A Novel of Fatherhood

By Giuseppe Pontiggia. Vintage pb, 2003, $13.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Knopf, 2002.) Fiction.

The story of how the members of a small family deal with each other, themselves, and the outside world in the face of their youngest child Paolo’s cerebral palsy. Narrated by the father, the aptly named Frigerio, whose greatest concern seems to be how to love his son, how to be a good, loving and caring father despite his true feelings about Paolo’s difficulties.


Lying Awake

By Mark Salzman. Vintage pb, 2001, $12.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Knopf, 2000.) Fiction.

Sister John of the Cross has a religious epiphany for the first time in her life. At age 40, she has spent 20 years serving God dutifully in a monastery in the heart of Los Angeles, and now, finally, she feels fulfilled. Unfortunately, the seizures which caused the religious experience now threaten her health and Sister John’s fellow nuns insist that she seek a neurological consultation.

Memory Book: A Benny Cooperman Mystery

By Howard Engel. Carroll & Graf pb, 2005, $13.95. (Originally published by Penguin Canada, 2005.) Fiction.

The victim of an attempted murder, private eye Benny Cooperman is found in a dumpster beside a dead woman. Having sustained massive head injuries and unable to remember the past, make new memories, or even read his own handwriting, Benny has to solve a mystery and clear his name from his bed in a Toronto rehabilitation facility.

The Speed of Dark

By Elizabeth Moon. Ballantine Books pb, 2004. $13.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Ballantine Books, 2003.) Fiction.

In a future America where science has all but eradicated autism, a stigma persists against those with even traces of the condition. Lou Arrendale’s mild autism makes him a genius at his job doing pattern analysis for a large pharmaceutical company but renders him otherwise socially paralyzed. When a new genetic procedure that promises to reverse his autism becomes available, Lou has to decide if the change is worth it. 

6. Brain Books for Budding Scientists—and All Children

By Carolyn Phelan
From Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 2002 © Dana Press.

101 Questions Your Brain Has Asked About Itself But Couldn’t Answer…Until Now

By Faith Hickman Brynie. Millbrook Press, 1998, $25.90. Non-fiction.

Students’ questions about the brain, paired with Brynie’s answers, appear in seven chapters covering basic information, neurons, learning and memory, chemicals and drugs in the brain, damage and illness, left- and right-brain functions, and speech and the senses. Each chapter includes a related feature article on a topic such as brain imaging.

Head and Brain Injuries

By Elaine Landau. Enslow Publishers, 2002, $26.60. Non-fiction.

Landau surveys the most common forms of traumatic brain injuries, their causes and treatments, and how they change lives. In addition, she offers a brief historical survey of brain science and medical treatment.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

By John Fleischman. Houghton Mifflin pb, 2002, $16.00. (Originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 2002.) Non-fiction.

Here is the story of the 19th-century railway worker who accidentally drove an iron tamping rod into his skull. This case study marked the beginning of a fuller understanding of the brain. Readers new to Gage’s tale will come away intrigued by the story, knowledgeable about the brain, and (even better) curious to find out more.

When the Brain Dies First

By Margaret O. Hyde and John F. Setaro. Franklin Watts, 2000, $24.00. Non-fiction.

The authors begin with a brief introduction to the healthy brain, then zero in on the many things that can go wrong. They discuss injuries to the head; encephalitis and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease; and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, among many other topics.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By Mark Haddon. Vintage pb, 2004, $12.95. (Originally published in hardcover by Doubleday, 2003.) Fiction.

Haddon, who once worked with autistic children and currently teaches creative writing, leads readers into the chaos of autism. He creates a character of such empathy that many readers will feel for the first time what it is like to live with no filters to eliminate or order the millions of pieces of information that stimulate our senses every moment. The protagonist, an autistic teen, investigates the murder of a neighbor’s dog, entering and coping with an overwhelming outside world.