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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Department of Book Reports: Incognito

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman (Pantheon, $) A recent discussion in Second life led us to this title. It sounded very intriguing and based on the author's website, we ordered in a copy in order to write this book report. I mentioned it when we received our copy on FB, and it sold immediately! So, I'll have to rely on that same material to tell you now.

"This book will shine light on some of the hard-to-reach places in the brain, showing the ways in which we are not the ones driving the boat. In the following chapters we will see why our brains are wired to think the way they do. Why does the conscious mind know so little? What do visual illusions unmask about the machinery running under the hood? How much of our lives are determined by choices and behaviors that are hard-wired, unconscious, and beyond our control? Do we have any management over who we find gorgeous or repugnant? How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly, is mad at whom? If the drunk Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite and the sober of Mel Gibson is authentically apologetic, is there a real Mel Gibson? Why did Supreme Court Justice William Douglas claim that he was able to play football and go hiking, when everyone could see that he was paralyzed after his stroke? Why do people willingly give up their money to banks for Christmas accounts (and why don't monkeys do this)? Why do patients on Parkinson's medications become compulsive gamblers? Why do athletes follow routines, like bouncing the ball three times before taking a free throw? Why did Charles Whitman suddenly kill his family and shoot forty six others from the UT Austin tower, and what did this have to do with his brain? How much of who we are is in the genes, and how much in the environment? Does free will exist or not, and how does that affect our view of blameworthiness and credit?"

Table of contents
1. There's someone in my head, but it's not me
2. The testimony of the senses: what is experience really like?
3. Mind: The Gap
4. The kinds of thoughts you can think
5. How the brain is like a team of rivals
6. Why blameworthiness is the wrong question
7. Life after the monarchy

The author makes some interesting points, re: criminal behaviors and our justice system. "The Brain on Trial" is posted at this month's Atlantic magazine. This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in how our brain functions to make us, us.

And I have found a special treat for the cooks in the audience. Yes, here is the book you have been waiting all summer for... On A Stick! by Matt Armendariz (Quirk Books, $16.95) As you know, everything is better On A Stick, and this book will enable you to re-create these time honored State Fair staples at your next dinner party.
These books and more are available at (Jackson Street) Books on 7th and fine Independent bookstores everywhere. Visit us on Facebook Jackson Street Books.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.