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Head Case

3.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  81 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
For author Dennis Cass, the project (and thus the book) began with an epiphany. Mired in a writer's block, he suddenly confronted himself with a question: How can you expect to live by your wits if you don't know how your wits work? This back-to-basics challenge inspired him to begin an ambitious series of experiments on how the brain works. Serving as a human guinea pig, ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 11th 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published February 27th 2007)
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Books Ring Mah Bell
30 pages in, I say to myself, "damn. dude has some serious ADD."

55 pages in, the author is getting tested for it.

The story jumps around like Michael J. Fox after a shot of espresso. I still found the book entertaining.

If you are looking for a more clinical or scientific take on the brain, this is not the book for you. The author thinks amygdala is the most unpronounceable structure in the brain. (Just wait until you get to those pesky neurotransmitters, man!)

If you'd like an easy "Brain 098" bo
Adrianne Mathiowetz
This is one of those books that you really shouldn't read in public. Whether it's a loud "HAH" or a sudden inclination to share some newfound trivia tidbit with anyone within earshot, god dammit no one will rest until you have put that book down. Best to read this in a soundproof room, or with a tolerant significant other nearby.

An enjoyable science-for-the-people/autobiography, I almost feel like I know more about how the brain works after reading it, which brings us to my only qualm with the b
Jul 10, 2015 Hollowspine rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a bit different than the usual psychological non-fiction that I read, in that the author had little to no self-experience to relate to any psychological subject, and being a journalist rather than a scientist had no knowledge in that manner on the subject. However, it was interesting to go along with his journey, myself being more similar to his knowledge than any of the other books I've read, such as Oliver Sacks, to not be completely astounded and baffled and amazed at what I was read ...more
Jan 04, 2011 Carrie rated it liked it
Finished reading this. Finally. An entertaining voice that sometimes took me to places I didn't want to go. There's a level of discomfort here that can only be created through the expression of raw emotion. And, as much as I admire a writer who dares to express himself in such an honest way, at times, this book left me with...well...discomfort. A good read if you're looking to explore a very personal path but not so much if you're looking to learn a lot about the brain. Though, I did walk away l ...more
Dec 18, 2013 Xanthi rated it it was ok
A book about neuroscience mixed in with autobiographical information about the author's dysfunctional family. And by the way, the author does not have a science background. Kind of like Bill Bryson meets Augusten Burroughs, only not executed all that well. The humour in the writing is what saves this book from being a 1 star for me. Read Burrough's books on addiction ("Dry") and about growing up with a dysfunctional family ("Running With Scissors"), as they are both better than this book. And th ...more
Jan 29, 2009 Jacki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that this book would be this really informative thing but with a little bit of 'funny' it it- sort of like a Bill Bryson book.

Instead, it was mostly this guys journey of self-discovery (or something) with a smidge of science thrown in. I liked the science parts, and got annoyed when he tried to be a scientist even though he's really a journalist.

That being said, it was a short, semi-enjoyable read because of the sense of humor of the author, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone.
I didn't really learn anything from this book that I didn't already know. The first half was pretty funny and entertaining, but I had trouble staying interested towards the end.
He came to a conclusion about his stepfather that I have also come to regarding some of the people that I have had to deal with: "When I was feeling sorry for Bill, rather than angry at him, he became the sum of the neurological strikes against him. Of course he acted this way. How could he not?"
Aug 24, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique take on the memoir--as the author learns more about the human brain, he comes to understand his mentally ill, drug-addicted stepfather. At least, that was the premise. In actuality, I don't think the author learned much about the brain. Or, he learned it, but not well enough to explain it to readers with liberal arts degrees. I don't feel the science came through for me, but I was intrigued by the personal story (great job of leaving me wanting more there).
Oct 29, 2010 Laurel rated it liked it
I picked up this book because the author wrote a good article in Poets and Writers Magazine about writer's block, and I like that he has a web site called "Dennis Cass Wants you to be more Awesome." The book wasn't so awesome, though. Pretty well written but more about the brain and less about Cass's stepfather would have been better.
Carol Waters
Nov 03, 2013 Carol Waters rated it liked it
His dad isn't nearly as impaired as he presented. One cannot assume that addiction is not the predominant factor when mental illness is suspected. What kind of mood swings does one get when one is straight/high/craving/high/detoxing? Looks JUST like bipolar.
A really interesting mix of science and memoir.

(I actually happened upon this book thanks to this:
Yay for viral videos...)
Jun 12, 2009 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part science book for those who don't read science; part memoir for those who don't read memoir. My only complaint about this book was it was too short.
Jul 01, 2013 Jo rated it really liked it
Cass' childhood was horrific, and made for heart-wrenching reading...however, his warmth and wit provided a welcome balance. Interesting.
Caitlin Boyd
Meh... was due back at the library. Maybe I'll pick it up again later. But there are so many good books out there to read first...
Amusing autobiography but I didn't learn much about the brain. I still prefer the other book that I read.
Jun 20, 2010 Matt is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Typical "what's it like to..." writing in the George Plimpton tradition as dumbed down by A. J. Jacobs and confederates. Interesting enough, so far.
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