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The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  332 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Maximilian Ponder shut himself away for thirty years in an attempt to record every memory he ever had. Now he lies dead, surrounded by his magnum opus - The Catalogue - an exhaustive set of notebooks and journals that he hopes will form the map of one human mind. But before his friend Adam Last can call the police and inform them of Max's death, one rather gruesome task re ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published 2012)
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Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonLife! Death! Prizes! by Stephen MayKing Crow by Michael  StewartThe Canal by Lee RourkeTomas by James Palumbo
Not the Booker Prize Finalists
14th out of 35 books — 3 voters
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
104th out of 151 books — 267 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 933)
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May 05, 2016 0rkun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Çok keyifle okudum, bu kadar iyi çıkacağını tahmin etmiyordum.
May 04, 2015 Malda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-fiction
This book is the most unique story I’ve ever read. An entire concept made up, to make up a story that is both strange (in a fun, quirky way) and really entertaining to read. It’s one of those books where the author shifts back and forth in time and in character but it all comes together as the chapters go by. (Short chapters if I may add. I love short chapters.)

Maximilian Ponder is a clever and curious young man who comes up with an idea while contemplating life, human limitations, and memories.
Lucas Brown
Well-written, with a fascinating concept, this comes off as more of a thought experiment or series of essays than a novel.

The story of a man attempting to catalogue & document his entire brain is fascinating, and the chapters jump between his notes and the story of his friend who has assisted him all of his adult life.

It seemed to be just picking up, and then suddenly over, leaving me to believe the book was written solely for a one-page soliloquy in the third-to-last chapter (which is the
Feb 27, 2015 Runningrara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Properly British quirkiness. I wanted the big, dark twist (it was hinted) but it didn't come.
Stephanie Cox
Aug 20, 2015 Stephanie Cox rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that makes you think, “This is unique. There is nothing else out there quite like this.” And I think I’m right.
The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder is compelling, gripping, vivid, emotional, heartbreaking, funny, philosophical, and, quite frankly, genius. It was so much more than what I thought it was going to be when it first came through the post. It made me think and evaluate life, and brought back all the philosophical musings I had back in college when I was stu
Feb 08, 2015 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm left torn about my overall impression of The Notable Brain. After close to 300 pages, I think it was drawn out longer than it needed to be. Its content and originality were winners for me though. With a beginning that sees the eponymous character lying dead on a table and the narrator setting out to behead him, I wondered where the novel would go. Seeing someone set out to record everything brought up so many philosophical ideas and questions that I haven't encountered before. I likened Max ...more
Mar 10, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is rare that I read a book that throws up so many philosophical questions about life, as this little gem of a novel. J. W. Ironmonger has all the makings of a very accomplished writer, his unique voice adds weight to what is already an original idea. Though a relatively short read, coming in at 293 pages, some of life's greatest mysteries are explored here. What it is to Love those around us, dealing with loss and death are just some of the subjects tackled and despite the short length nothi ...more
Dec 26, 2015 Georgina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed The Coincidence Authority, so I was looking forward to this, but I am very sad to say I found it an 'uphill' read. None of the characters clicked. The eponymous Max was odd, self-centred in the extreme and not in any way likeable. His narrator chum was equally odd in that his role and motivations for that role were hard to fathom. There must me some deep and meaningful reason for the Alpha Omega aspect of his name, but I wasn't engaged enough to care. The main stumbling bloc ...more
Nandana Nallapu
Apr 27, 2015 Nandana Nallapu rated it really liked it
Shelves: brit-lib-lends
It is a really weird book, but not boring at all.

Max is a sensitive, emotional guy who chances upon the idea of cataloging his brain. When life happens, what starts of as a three-year period to catalogue extends into decades and the narrator takes up the onus of bringing us closer to the protagonist however crazy he might seem. The character Max grew on me, that when I closed the book, I felt a gaping emptiness similar to what Max might have felt, what a bubble a human's lifespan really is and
Feb 12, 2014 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited by the concept of this book, but I must say, I would have taken the idea in a different direction. I would have concentrated on the experience of Max's reclusion and writing of the catalogue, instead of telling so many of his memories. However, it was very random and great fun - I got really attached to all of the characters and their stories, which was a lovely (and pretty essential) touch.
I was also quite disappointed by the ending - I won't go into detail but I would have
Maya Panika
Apr 13, 2012 Maya Panika rated it it was amazing
Maximillian Ponder has locked himself away in the family seat for thirty years with no phone, radio or television. His personal clock stopped in 1975, his only link to the world beyond his walls is his childhood – and only - friend Adam Last and Adam is duty bound never to mention anything that is happening in the present, because that would pollute the state of Max’s brain on the day he began his grand project: the cataloguing of his memories; all the information in his brain, up to and includi ...more
Jan 09, 2014 Yasmeen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm pretty sure this is what you would get if you infused The Mysterious Benedict Society with some philosophy. I don't know if this book was actually really good, or if it just came at exactly the right time, but I enjoyed it a lot. The concept of trying to catalogue an entire brain is one that could have quickly turned dry and boring, but this just didn't. I don't know if there was one big underlying idea, but it definitely got me thinking about a lot of stuff; how brains work, why they work t ...more
Hazel Osmond
Aug 08, 2012 Hazel Osmond rated it it was amazing
Every now and again you read a book that leaves you viewing the world in a slightly different way and gnashing your teeth that you didn’t write it. Such a book is ‘The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder’ the debut novel by JW Ironmonger.

Now at this point I should state that I am a little biased having interviewed John at the Hexham Book Festival. I found him be as wise and funny as his book with, in addition, the kind of modesty that has you saying out loud to him, ‘John, this is a brilliant bo
Tim Roast
Apr 23, 2012 Tim Roast rated it it was amazing
This book is about Maximilian Ponder. He is pictured on the cover, lying dead and beheaded on a table. And that is where the book starts. His friend Adam Last then narrates the full story to fill in the gaps of what has happened before. This includes the telling of the life of Max and how he took to cataloguing his brain, writing a whole library-worth of volumes containing his memories, his conversations, etc. as he shuts himself off from the world to take part in this exercise.

So the premise i
Jasmine Wills
Apr 03, 2013 Jasmine Wills rated it it was amazing
This book was a complete breath of fresh air, an entirely unique concept which stands out entirely from the crowd. I have to commend Ironmonger a great deal, his first "fictional" novel (I invert fictional as some aspects of the novel, characters and events are based on fact) was incredibly enjoyable and appeared to be written very concisely for a first attempt. I adored the characters and the constant referral to "The Catalogue" of Max. I also found the allusions and referrals to philosophers a ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Triduana rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I read 'Not Forgetting the Whale' by this author a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it so thought I'd give one of his other books a go.

It's an unusual book, with a very interesting premise. I agree with other people's opinions that it seemed a little drawn out at times, there were extracts from Max's diaries that didn't really seem to have anything to do with anything, but they were still quite readable. The ending of the book was the best part as it dealt with something very real and it was wel
Mar 10, 2014 Kimberly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very endearing book. A man sets to record every memory he has in his brain, shutting himself out of the world for 30 years, aided by a friend he'd had since childhood. As much as there are the logistical constraints and excerpts from "The Catalogue", this is a book much more about the friendship between Max and Adam, and how people define themselves. I very much enjoyed it, and will seek out Mr. Ironmonger's other books in the near future. Highly recommend.
Johanna Breen
Aug 27, 2013 Johanna Breen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. On his 21st birthday Maximilian Ponder decides to record the contents of his brain. Thirty years later he is still at it.

To complete his grand project he locks himself away in his large country house and employs his best friend to look after him. At times this brings to mind the film German film 'Goodbye Lenin' as his acquaintances tiptoe around him trying desperately to keep him locked in 1975 free from any new information entering his brain. In spite of this there is a
Wilde Sky
A man, with a family history of brain disease, decides to record / catalogue all his memories.

The basic idea for this story was a bit bizarre (in my opinion) and most of the time I couldn’t see the real point of the story (a man wastes his life on an unattainable goal), but the last few chapters (dealing with the man’s decline and death) were really good.
Jul 13, 2014 MartinAndTheirBooks rated it really liked it
Amazing book, deeply philosophical. The speculation on the nature of memory is fascinating and, in a way, paradoxical at times. However, I do not agree with Ponder's interpretation of the Mae West quote "Keep a diary and one day it will keep you." According to Ponder (and perhaps Ironmonger himself, too) "she meant that one day you'll be able to sell the diary and live on the proceeds of all your scandalous stories. But maybe that isn't what she meant at all. Maybe she meant possess a diary and ...more
Mar 15, 2014 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable if at times annoying. Ultimately I don't understand why the crime was committed, in the end there was no need for it but the overall narrative is very good and a bit different from anything else I've ever read.
Jan 12, 2014 E.berre rated it liked it
İlk kitap olarak çok başarılı buldu arkadaşlarım. Ama ben de benzer bir sebepten sevmedim. Bir ilk kitap cüretkarlığı ya da enerjisi yoktu. Güzel bir hikayesi var, çok iyi kısa öykü olabilirdi. Ama 300 sayfa boyunca beni heyecanlandıracak bir yanı olmadı. Bazı yerlerde o kadar sıkıldım ki, bir cümle sonrasını merak etmedim.
Ama yazarın sonraki romanlarını da okumak isterim. En azından iyi bir özü olduğu hissini veriyor.
Mar 24, 2016 Cansu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hakkında çok şey söylemek isteyeceğiniz (ancak su an soyleyemeyecek gibi hissettiren), hayal gücünüzü zorlayan, dikkatle yazılmış, akıcı ve kesinlikle okunmaya değer bir kitap. Yaratıcılıkta ufuk açıyor.
Jan 23, 2016 Jess rated it really liked it
agree with all who say it is a fun read, super original, rather drawn out. I love this author.
Karen White
Jun 04, 2014 Karen White rated it really liked it
A good original story
Sep 02, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
Something a bit different! I loved the concept and very quickly warmed to the characters making this book almost 5 star material. My only slight critism was that some of the excerts from 'the catalogue' rambled a bit and although I think that was largely the intention, as the human mind does often jump from one idea to another, it did make parts difficult to read.

Overall though a very enjoyable and fairly unique read.
Nicky Foster
Jan 29, 2013 Nicky Foster rated it it was amazing
This is an unusual book but all the more refreshing and thought provoking for it. The narrative jumps around the notable events in the life of two friends, Max (who we know from the beginning of the book is dead) and his friend Adam (who is about to decapitate Max). The characters are flawed but likeable and very memorable; reminded me of 'Owen Meaney' in some ways. Definately an author to watch out for!
Maureen Medakovich
May 31, 2014 Maureen Medakovich rated it it was amazing
I thought this book had a very unique story. I really enjoyed it.
Katy Noyes
Dec 23, 2012 Katy Noyes rated it really liked it
Very good. Tried after seeing it in the Costa shortlist, couldn't resist based on the synopsis! Very clever idea, though it does seem pointless (what would the use be of the disgorged corners of one's entire brain?).
A sad and ironic ending, but a funny and very entertaining read on the nature of memory/memories. An author to look out for - and not just because of his name!
Sep 21, 2013 Cherie rated it liked it
it is a bit of a difficult read since there are a lot of complex ideas and words. but once you get the hang of it, you'll have fun reading. it's like reading Sheldon Cooper! but if you dig deeper to the message of the story, it is a story of how are past makes up our present self. plus, it is a good story of a loyal and understanding kind of friendship.
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I'm the author of 'Not Forgetting the Whale', 'The Coincidence Authority,' ('Coincidence' in the USA), and 'The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder.' Here are some things about me:
1) I'm a Cornishman who was born in Kenya, schooled in Kent, studied in Nottingham and Liverpool, and worked in Nigeria, Slough, Manchester, Edinburgh, Warrington, Warwick and Glasgow. Now I live just south of the village
More about John Ironmonger...

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“This, I think, is how the great decisions in our lives are made; not through perspiration and balanced reflection, but through sudden moments of insight.” 1 likes
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