This entire book was just endlessly fascinating to me. It's all about how traumatic insults to the skull and brain, whether by physical f...moreFascinating!
This entire book was just endlessly fascinating to me. It's all about how traumatic insults to the skull and brain, whether by physical force or insidious viruses, affect our physical abilities and thoughts.
Kean expertly weaves storytelling about particular brain trauma patients with carefully explained science. I knew of a few of the conditions discussed, but certainly not in the detail Kean devotes. He explains the process of how damage occurs and then why that damage can cause conditions like kuru disease, phantom limbs, aphasia, hallucinations. He even touches on the history of scientists and doctors attempting to local the home of the soul in the brain.
Kean opens each section with the story of a particular person (or group of people) who has experienced an injury to the brain, and then explains how the doctors of the time attempted to help that victim with their contemporary knowledge. Each story is like a mini-mystery; you receive just enough information to understand the situation and then want to keep reading in order to solve/understand the process along with the doctors or scientists. I don't want to give them all away, but one example is how the cannibals in Papua, New Guinea were felled by kuru; (view spoiler)[in the end it wasn't because they cannibalized their dead ("eating brains isn't inherently deadly") but rather but rather "the bad luck of eating patient zero."(hide spoiler)]
Kean explains why even people born without limbs can experience phantoms, blind people will still respond to smiles or scowls or yawns without even understanding why, how reading changes our brain, why some victims of brain damage can write perfectly well but cannot read (not even the sentence they just wrote), that brains vary from person to person as much as faces do, and how a set of (still living) twins share a conjoined brain and so can do things like taste what's in one another's mouths and yet retain distinct individual thoughts and preferences.
Witty, informative, a bit scary. To consider how vulnerable and yet also how resilient our brains are, is just fascinating.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I’ve always been fascinated by the homing instinct, and particularly the history of science being unable to completely explain how it works. So I appr...moreI’ve always been fascinated by the homing instinct, and particularly the history of science being unable to completely explain how it works. So I appreciated the opportunity to read Heinrich’s new book all about the homing instinct.
And it is all about the homing instinct. Quite a lot, even for a reader so interested in the subject. Birds, animals, insects, amphibians, humans are all included. I appreciate and agree with his predicating his descriptions of the creatures with, “I realize that this smacks to some of anthropomorphism, a pejorative term that has been used for the purpose of separating us from the rest of life.” However, many of the homing instincts he attributes to humans feels a bit sentimentalized, more of the spiritual than the literal and physical. I’m perfectly accepting of attributing emotion and empathy to animals but then to attribute most of the whole of homing motivations in human to these sentiments feels too biased for me.
Heinrich Heinrich’s writing is comfortably both scientific and intimate. He writes of studies and scientific observations, but many of those observations are his own. I enjoyed Heinrich’s black and white sketches of the insects and animals he observed scattered throughout the book, which made it feel even more personal, like a journal. A reader more scientifically focused may not appreciate this, but this is why I like writers of Heinrich’s ilk. I’m attracted to these sorts of books because of the scientific elements but am often better engaged by autobiographical frosting. I never fully understand (especially when I kind of feel this way myself), when a reviewer writes that they feel that a book was too long; it is as long as it is because the author felt the included material was important. But sometimes maybe they feel longer when the subject is so throughly exhausted that it leaves the reader exhausted?
I’m thankful that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gave me the opportunity to explore this book. I’ve always wanted to read Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, because of my fascination with all things corvid, and now I’m even more anxious to do so (though I will when I’m ready to be fully immersed in the subject!)(less)
(I'm displaying the majority of the review without spoiler masking primarily because some of the theories are pretty much already hinted at in the syn...more(I'm displaying the majority of the review without spoiler masking primarily because some of the theories are pretty much already hinted at in the synopsis or addressed early in the narrative, even if you know nothing when you pick up the book, as I did.... but if you don't even want to know these things, don't read further...)
So I went in knowing almost nothing; just the synopsis for the book and a couple of very brief glances at reviews. But the honest truth is that I was rooting for a theory involving some sort of supernatural force being involved in the Dyatlov Incident and although that would have been interesting, I probably would have, at the same time, found the book easier to dismiss.
But while the ultimate theory (very convincingly) presented by Eichar may not be "supernatural" - at least in the surface, shallow way we often use the word today (view spoiler)[(the theory really could be considered supernatural in these traditional definitions of the word: "of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe" or "departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature") (hide spoiler)], the conclusion is more terrifying and compelling than any thought of aliens spotlighting the tent. Really. I'm serious.
For about the last thirty percent of the book, I was so fascinated that while reading, I drove (though I did limit myself to reading while at red lights, I did pray for those looong red lights), making dinner, and a Scrabble game which the other players insisted I join but which most certainly would've been more enjoyable and civil for them if I hadn't. Without a whole lot of detailed scientific data, Eichar still manages to convincingly debunk the primary theories about the incident, even going so far as to disregard the alien attack theory while also still explaining why the probable factual experiences by other hikers/skiiers/locals (lights in the sky) which contributed to the alien theories, weren't valid in the incident.
Those things which we still don't fully scientifically understand or, for a lay person who may know nothing whatsoever about a theory, can be just as frightening and mysterious as alien interference or KGB operative forces hunting the group in the night.
If you want to experience this book the same way I did (highly recommended, if you've the ability to completely disregard the rest of your life), I definitely admonish you not to give in to the temptation to Google stuff as you read - and don't audiobook it, if one even exists, because the photographs are easily the second best argument for reading the book.
Eichar does an excellent job of making the reader care about and know the ten hikers, and an equally excellent final section of positing what their final, terrifying hours must have felt like. I, for one, am thoroughly convinced of his conclusions. And never, ever, EVER want to embark on such an expedition (view spoiler)[(because I'd also like to point out that, within this theory, we're definitely not safe now, with all of our modern times and fancy equipment, and warm gear, and scientific explanations, unless we were to follow them to the letter and NOT DO THIS expedition! (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am particularly impressed by her suggestions and advice to introverts about how to move around in the wo...moreWow, incredible book.
Just... so... spot on.
I am particularly impressed by her suggestions and advice to introverts about how to move around in the world,including how to both improve their own intellectual and social lives, and their roles in the lives of the extroverts they love (or just those they want to get along with). So many self-helpish/psychology text present their concepts but with little concrete advice as to how to deal with differing responses to the world; Cain definitely follows through. I will be keeping my copy on the shelf for continued reference. (less)
I started this with some skepticism because it centers a lot around business habits, and I couldn't see how that cou...moreBoth fascinating and frightening.
I started this with some skepticism because it centers a lot around business habits, and I couldn't see how that could help me out with my personal habits. Although I still wish he'd included a bit more help with personal, I was was surprised at how much our business habits (both in our own worksphere and also how we interact with companies when we buy products) are both connected to and influence our personal habits. Being aware of how we respond to marketing illuminates how we can move through our days, blithely unaware of how our actions form and sustain both good and bad habits.
I am definitely walking away with some ideas and inspirations of how to alter my own personal daily habits. Although Duhigg focuses a lot on how to replace a bad habit with a good habit, I'm left a little bit uncertain as to how to simply form a good habit. He frequently illustrates how habits are formed but sometimes falls short of concrete ways to implement these ideas. Perhaps this this process is a bit less concrete than I hope for; perhaps I need to read the book again to better instill the concepts. I'm not saying I don't have at least one bad habit I'd like to change but I honestly have at least a couple more good habits I'd like to form. Thinking about it, I'm sure it's possible to do this transformation process of replacing a bad with a good, but sometimes these actions are disparate or incompatible with one another (or there's an unequal number with which to work).
In any case, Duhigg's examination of our psychological process while forming or discarding habits is illuminating and helpful.
I wanted so badly to like this more than I did. I pre-ordered this book on my Kindle long before it seemed anyone else - let alone Oprah - knew about...moreI wanted so badly to like this more than I did. I pre-ordered this book on my Kindle long before it seemed anyone else - let alone Oprah - knew about it. For the first several months after the release, however, I didn't get to it because I was in my final months of finishing school.
But after that it took me several months to read it primarily because I just felt so disengaged and cold towards Strayed. I thought it was all here for me - a grieving woman (been there) traveling alone (been there), and using the opportunity to face down her demons and help herself recover? Sounded absolutely like my type of narrative.
My primary hesitation throughout the story was just simply that I could not empathize with Strayed's responses to her circumstances. Although throughout the book she states that she blamed herself and took responsibility for all of the destructive things that she did, to both herself and the people around her, ultimately, the core of the message was that she excused her behavior as a response to her mother's death. I'm just not sure I can can fully buy this. I am inclined to believe she might have done these things anyway, and just scapegoated her mother's death.
I know Strayed was young when her mother died young, but she wasn't that young; she was in her mid-twenties, and that also felt strange. She blamed her stepfather for becoming distant after her mother's death, and also blamed him for an incident for which she, as an adult woman who was raised by her mother to be strong, could have taken responsibility but apparently believed that he should have. Early in the book, she essentially says that her stepfather abandoned her to the life of an orphan, and at first I felt for her, and then I realized she was an adult, not a minor, and what was her stepfather supposed to do? Set up a shrine to her mother and never have a relationship again? I do agree that (view spoiler)[moving his new wife into the home apparently still shared with the (adult) children of his deceased wife was asking for a lot from them. (hide spoiler)]
And, to address a running theme throughout the book that just made my skin crawl every time it happened, I could not relate to the concept of wanting to have sex with a man within the first few minutes of meeting him. Wait. Scratch that. I can, actually, relate to wanting to have sex with a man shortly after meeting him. A man. Not almost every single damn man I meet. She did refrain from wanting to have sex with (view spoiler)[the man intent on raping her, but not with the creepy stranger who groped her in the back seat of the car in which she was hitchhiking... instead, she wanted him to do it again. (hide spoiler)] I really, really don't think I'm being prudish here. Really. My response to these scenes had less to do with sexual concerns and more to do with a claim to be trying to be less self-destructive and not seeing these actions as exactly that.
So, yes, the indiscretions of youth, and the sometimes insanity of grief. Still not enough for me to relate to so much of this journey. I would still recommend this book, with some hesitation, as perhaps her experiences can be more easily sympathetic to the right person, and some of her insights are beautiful, the writing eloquent. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Except that I couldn't manage to finish it as she did.
huh. I listened to a couple NPR interviews with Davis and they made me very excited to read this book. This information he provides is really quite interesting but it still draaaaaaags. I was listening to it on audiobook and got through three discs, of which I had to keep reminding myself, "Oh, yes, I'm listening to an audiobook" and actively tuning back in.
Giving up for now. Perhaps I just need to be in a different mindset; I may return and try it again another time.
Despite the size of this book (a smaller hardback just brushing 300 pages) and despite my earnest attempt to devote time to it (as necessitated by rea...moreDespite the size of this book (a smaller hardback just brushing 300 pages) and despite my earnest attempt to devote time to it (as necessitated by reading it for a final project for math class), it seemed to take forever to get through it. And I cheated.
I found this a frustrating narrative. I was enthralled by the personal and professional details regarding Leonardo but skimmed through pages of math far beyond my comprehension. I don't pretend to be anywhere near competent in math but I've discovered in this class that, given time and a good teacher, I can understand concepts pretty well. This book seems to market itself (and is categorized in the library) primarily as biographical, then art, then science. This made me approach it feeling like, sure, there's going to be some math in here and I'm going to have to deal with that but sort of assumed (to my fault) that given the apparent mainstream targeting that it would be at least comprehensible. About a quarter of the way through, despite reading examples multiples times in an attempt to understand them, I began to believe that even my mathematically and scientifically minded friends would have some difficulty following it. This made it more difficult to understand the general concept of the golden ratio and at about page 200, I put the book down, went to Wikipedia, and understood the whole concept better just by reading the first paragraph on that page.
Also, it feels really cobbled together. For the second half, I skimmed through it, looking for the pertinent parts I needed for my project and details about Leonardo, which I always find fascinating. I get the sense that the author is a great artist and a great scientist and probably even a very good writer but the book seemed like he worked on different parts of the whole - concepts and historical aspects linked to both Leonardo and the golden ratio - but then just kind of them threw them together instead of forming a more comprehensive narrative. I found myself reading things towards the end about which I kept thinking, "Well, why didn't he explain that earlier?"
I think dumbed down a bit for a more general audience and with a better editor for the general map of the book, this book would have found a wider audience. If I had picked it up for the Leonardo aspect alone as pleasure reading and not for primarily a school project, I would have abandoned it far earlier. As it was, I still couldn't bring myself to read the whole second half. I'm glad the book was written; I love reading books that combine two of my pleasures - art and science - it just feels like it could have been better executed. (less)