The best books about the amazing human brain

Ginny Smith Author Of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals
By Ginny Smith

The Books I Picked & Why

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

By Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

Why this book?

Sacks is one of my all-time favourite writers, and I could have recommended several of his books. The man who mistook his wife for a hat is one of his collections of short stories about patients he worked with as a neurologist. These cases give a deep insight into the brain while remaining, at heart, stories about people. Sacks’ recounts the strangeness of these people’s symptoms, but the real focus is on how their lives, and those of their loved ones, are impacted. It is this sensitivity that shines through the book- you can see clearly on the page how much Sacks cares about his patients not just as puzzles to be solved, but as individual human beings. 


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The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

By Dean Burnett

The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

Why this book?

In this book, Burnett takes the readers on his own journey of discovery, trying to find out what it is that makes us happy. Along the way, he explores topics from love to work to relationships and discovers that happiness isn’t as simple as it might seem. Written in Burnett’s signature witty style, with personal anecdotes and laugh-out-loud moments, this book is easy to read, but packed with neuroscience. It will leave you thinking differently about what it really is we need in order to be happy.


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Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

By Richard Wiseman

Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Why this book?

The UK’s only Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology, Wiseman is a master of storytelling. Quirkology is a fascinating romp through some of the more unusual studies he has been involved in, as well as those conducted by other people. From whether time really does seem to pass more quickly when you are in love to constructing the world's funniest joke, Wiseman takes on the every day, and dismantles it to discover more about how our brains work.


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SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood

SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

Why this book?

Humans are inherently superstitious. Even those of us who think of ourselves as scientists will ‘touch wood’ after saying something, or avoid walking under ladders. But why? In this book, Hood argues that these behaviors, and more complex beliefs like religion, develop as a byproduct of something our brains do that is vital for human survival—finding patterns. This is one of the first pop-sci books on psychology I read, and I clearly remember seeing Hood deliver a talk about it while I was at University. It helped stoke my curiosity about the topic, and how our incredible brains can drive such complex and nuanced behaviours. It is still one of my favourites over 10 years later. 


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Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

By David Eagleman

Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

Why this book?

Eagleman uses patient stories and metaphors to beautifully illustrate the remarkable flexibility of the human brain. Far from being static, our brains are constantly changing, shaped by our experiences and our surroundings. This comprehensive book explores the limits of our understanding of this ‘live wiring process. Based on his own research, as well as decades of work by other scientists, Eagleman explores how it is that we are able to learn to use new senses, adapt to new body parts, and form new memories.

Along the way, he examines how plasticity can explain common human experiences, from dreaming to heartbreak. This book will leave you with a newfound respect for our incredible brains and in awe of how they might allow us to incorporate technology into our lives in the future.


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