The best books on brain, mind, and consciousness

Who am I?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.


I wrote...

Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

Book cover of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

What is my book about?

In this thoroughly-researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development. He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to truly engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind.

Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through life-long brain development within a supportive culture–drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner–and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.

The books I picked & why

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Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness (Nota Bene)

By Gerald M. Edelman,

Book cover of Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness (Nota Bene)

Why this book?

Nobel prize winner Gerald Edelman sums up in this book a model of human consciousness that has greatly informed my understanding. The framework he constructs involves intricate interconnections among myriad brain components— interconnections that operate according to a dynamic process that he terms “re-entry."

Written in a voice that is quite professorial, this book requires concentrated study, and is a must-have text for the serious student of human consciousness.

Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness (Nota Bene)

By Gerald M. Edelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wider Than the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How does the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations, thoughts, and emotions? How can the disparate domains of mind and body be reconciled? The quest for a scientifically based understanding of consciousness has attracted study and speculation across the ages. In this direct and non-technical discussion of consciousness, Dr. Gerald M. Edelman draws on a lifetime of scientific inquiry into the workings of the brain to formulate answers to the mind-body questions that intrigue every thinking person.
Concise and understandable, the book explains pertinent findings of modern neuroscience and describes how consciousness arises in complex brains. Edelman explores…


Rhythms of the Brain

By Gyorgy Buzsaki,

Book cover of Rhythms of the Brain

Why this book?

Of the dozens of books on neuroscience that I have in my library, I consider this one the most comprehensive and authoritative. I quote passages from it extensively in my own bookIts scope and richness qualify it as a primary text for neuroscience students. Buzsáki has enabled me to understand some of the most intricate structures and functions of the human brain.

Rhythms of the Brain

By Gyorgy Buzsaki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rhythms of the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Studies of mechanisms in the brain that allow complicated things to happen in a coordinated fashion have produced some of the most spectacular discoveries in neuroscience. This book provides eloquent support for the idea that spontaneous neuron activity, far from being mere noise, is actually the source of our cognitive abilities. It takes a fresh look at the coevolution of structure and function in the mammalian brain, illustrating how self-emerged oscillatory
timing is the brain's fundamental organizer of neuronal information. The small-world-like connectivity of the cerebral cortex allows for global computation on multiple spatial and temporal scales. The perpetual interactions…


The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body

By Les Fehmi, Jim Robbins,

Book cover of The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body

Why this book?

Les Fehmi (recently deceased, to my great sadness) was a mentor of mine from the early days of biofeedback training decades ago. He was truly one of the great pioneers in the study of consciousness and the brain. This book, co-authored with Jim Robbins, is a succinct presentation of his brilliant discoveries about the deep mysteries of attention as a gateway to experiencing the most subtle aspects of consciousness in general.

The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body

By Les Fehmi, Jim Robbins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Open-Focus Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A breakthrough, drug-free approach to stress and stress-related illnesses—from anxiety and depression to ADHD and chronic pain—using simple attention exercises with powerful results on physical and mental health

This breakthrough book presents a disarmingly simple idea: The way we pay attention in daily life can play a critical role in our health and well-being. According to Dr. Les Fehmi, a clinical psychologist and researcher, many of us have become stuck in "narrow-focus attention": a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress—and which lies at the root of common ailments including anxiety, depression,…


Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind

By Daniel J. Siegel,

Book cover of Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind

Why this book?

In this uniquely structured book, Dan Siegel covers the major elements of interpersonal neurobiology, which is one of the most exciting theoretical constructs currently available. Siegel and I are definitely on the same page in applying complex dynamical systems theory to the understanding of mind/body integration, consciousness, and the essential role of interpersonal relationships in healthy human development.

Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind

By Daniel J. Siegel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many fields have explored the nature of mental life from psychology to psychiatry, literature to linguistics. Yet no common "framework" where each of these important perspectives can be honored and integrated with one another has been created in which a person seeking their collective wisdom can find answers to some basic questions, such as, What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? How do we know things, how are we conscious of ourselves? What is the mind? What makes a mind healthy or unwell? And, perhaps most importantly: What is the connection among the mind, the brain, and…


Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness

By Allan Combs,

Book cover of Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness

Why this book?

I have only recently become acquainted with Allan Combs, and consider myself very fortunate to be in correspondence with him regarding my book. As a serious student of synchronicity, I had read his book by that title (written with Mark Holland) and knew him to be a delightful writer and deep thinker on topics dear to my heart. Consciousness Explained Better, which demonstrates Allan’s depth and scope as a teacher of consciousness studies, contributed the perfect excerpt needed to support a concept at the very core of my book.

Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness

By Allan Combs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Consciousness Explained Better as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Consciousness Explained Better is a unique contribution. This compact volume represents thousands of years of humanity's struggle to understand consciousness from a wide variety of perspectives. It is an up-to-date digest of the search in bite-sized chapters. Allan Combs has managed to encapsulate and synthesize vast bodies of thought and research without dilution. He has made even the most mind-twisting arguments and questions comprehensible, and he has brought forward scholarship and rigorous inquiry in language that speaks to the heart as well as the head. This book satisfies with its comprehensiveness yet intrigues with all that still remains enigmatic. It…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the brain, consciousness, and physiology?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the brain, consciousness, and physiology.

The Brain Explore 112 books about the brain
Consciousness Explore 61 books about consciousness
Physiology Explore 52 books about physiology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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