The best books about the human brain

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the human brain and why they recommend each book.

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Talking to Strangers

By Malcolm Gladwell,

Book cover of Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know

How well do we know someone? Malcom Gladwell asks readers to explore biases in a way that begins to question the personal interactions we have each day. Using examples based on prejudice, assumption, fear, false trust, and preconceived notion, the book exposes the nature of human connection and an internal battle we face when interacting with or judging others. Our unconscious actions are built from survival instinct and previous experiences that become exposed when we meet someone new or cannot reconcile someone’s actions with whom we thought they were. This inability to understand others impacts how we navigate our lives and decern perceived threats that often result in wrong actions being taken. This book begs us to look deeper into the assumptions we carry within ourselves when Talking to Strangers.


Who am I?

I have a passion for helping people realize being better through sharing my thoughts and experiences to guide them on their path. My curiosity of understanding “why people do what they do?” started when I was 13. The search for this questions evolving answer led me on an educational, career, and personal journey that authored a unique perspective to move people forward. Working with people for over 25 years through clinical therapy, personal coaching, and now through my company Rhodes Smith Consulting, I see patterns in the struggle to transform. Books offer me new perspectives or reinforce old ones in expanding my knowledge and helping people master their own intentions. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story

By Ian D. Brooks,

Book cover of Intention: Building Capabilities to Transform Your Story

What is my book about?

Have you ever wanted to expand who you are and move past the ‘box’ you’re in, but don’t know how? Intention provides steps to transform personal stories by focusing on your capabilities to move forward. It integrates research, experience, and fictional imagery to illuminate a path for transformation in a digestible way.

Intention contains five parts, each offering questions that elicit inner dialogue for application. On your way to solving a specific concern now, you’ll build capabilities to address any future change. Intention shows that successful transformations – from leaders influencing teams, losing weight, to just being better – start with you. In the end, you are challenged to use the book as a guide to master your intentions and create new possibilities for your story.

Livewired

By David Eagleman,

Book cover of Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

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.


Who am I?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.


I wrote...

Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

By Ginny Smith,

Book cover of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

What is my book about?

From adrenaline to dopamine, our lives are shaped by the chemicals that control us. They play a role in all aspects of our experiences, from how we make decisions, who we love, what we remember to basic survival drives such as hunger, fear, and sleep.

In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores what these tiny molecules do: what roles do cortisol and adrenaline play in memory formation? How do hormones and neurotransmitters affect the trajectory of our romantic relationships? Ginny meets scientists at the cutting-edge of brain chemistry research who are uncovering unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. An eye-opening route through the remarkable world of neuro-transmitters, Overloaded unveils the chemicals inside each of us that touch every facet of our lives.

The Happy Brain

By Dean Burnett,

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

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.

Who am I?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.


I wrote...

Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

By Ginny Smith,

Book cover of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

What is my book about?

From adrenaline to dopamine, our lives are shaped by the chemicals that control us. They play a role in all aspects of our experiences, from how we make decisions, who we love, what we remember to basic survival drives such as hunger, fear, and sleep.

In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores what these tiny molecules do: what roles do cortisol and adrenaline play in memory formation? How do hormones and neurotransmitters affect the trajectory of our romantic relationships? Ginny meets scientists at the cutting-edge of brain chemistry research who are uncovering unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. An eye-opening route through the remarkable world of neuro-transmitters, Overloaded unveils the chemicals inside each of us that touch every facet of our lives.

The Brain

By David Eagleman,

Book cover of The Brain: The Story of You

David Eagleman is a Professor of Neuroscience at Stanford University. He writes in an accessible way and speculates about questions within neuroscience. The book is a best-seller and deservedly so, because you feel what it is like to be a scientist studying the most complicated thing in the world, our own brain.

Who am I?

I have worked on the brain in Oxford since 1970, and my job also required me to teach students, not just in lectures but also in tutorials. This taught me how to communicate clearly. In my own scientific work, I was amongst the first to use functional brain imaging to visualize the human brain at work. I have written seven books and edited an eighth. My particular specialisation is decision making and the brain areas (such as the prefrontal cortex) that support it. I have just published a monograph of nearly 500 pages on the prefrontal cortex, aimed at other scientists in the field. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

I wrote...

Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction

By Richard Passingham,

Book cover of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction

What is my book about?

This is one of a series of books on topics in the sciences and humanities for laypeople. These books have proved to be extremely popular. Each chapter starts with questions that people might ask and ends with the answers that the brain sciences provide. Cognitive neuroscience is the neuroscience of perception, thought, and decision making.

The book is written in an easy style. There are technical terms for the brain areas that are mentioned, but these areas are also shown on diagrams.

Quirkology

By Richard Wiseman,

Book cover of Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

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.


Who am I?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.


I wrote...

Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

By Ginny Smith,

Book cover of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

What is my book about?

From adrenaline to dopamine, our lives are shaped by the chemicals that control us. They play a role in all aspects of our experiences, from how we make decisions, who we love, what we remember to basic survival drives such as hunger, fear, and sleep.

In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores what these tiny molecules do: what roles do cortisol and adrenaline play in memory formation? How do hormones and neurotransmitters affect the trajectory of our romantic relationships? Ginny meets scientists at the cutting-edge of brain chemistry research who are uncovering unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. An eye-opening route through the remarkable world of neuro-transmitters, Overloaded unveils the chemicals inside each of us that touch every facet of our lives.

SuperSense

By Bruce Hood,

Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

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. 


Who am I?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.


I wrote...

Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

By Ginny Smith,

Book cover of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

What is my book about?

From adrenaline to dopamine, our lives are shaped by the chemicals that control us. They play a role in all aspects of our experiences, from how we make decisions, who we love, what we remember to basic survival drives such as hunger, fear, and sleep.

In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores what these tiny molecules do: what roles do cortisol and adrenaline play in memory formation? How do hormones and neurotransmitters affect the trajectory of our romantic relationships? Ginny meets scientists at the cutting-edge of brain chemistry research who are uncovering unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. An eye-opening route through the remarkable world of neuro-transmitters, Overloaded unveils the chemicals inside each of us that touch every facet of our lives.

Success Through Manipulation

By Colin Christopher, Chris Simon (illustrator),

Book cover of Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make Or Break You

Our future is determined by us, and our actions are determined by our thought processes. In other words, the future of human society can be influenced by manipulating group thought. Colin applies years of training and experience as a hypnotist to give us a view of how the human brain functions and how it can be manipulated.

He views it as two computing systems. A subconscious mind performing 40 million tasks/second deals only in the present, ignoring abstract things like “yesterday,” “don’t,” etc. The second conscious mind uses 40 tasks/second to control and program the first. It doesn’t exist in babies and develops during childhood. How that growth is managed determines its adult thought process and ultimately group thought. Colin provides insights on how it can be manipulated for good or bad results.


Who am I?

Over the past decade, I’ve become very concerned with the direction authoritarianism is taking human society. It’s a global problem that now infects America, leaving us with a partisan divide we may not be able to bridge. My recommended books helped me understand the situation and how one might speak out against this negative force effectively. Convinced that bombarding readers with facts alone is useless, I chose to provide a novel that is interesting and captivates readers. My goal is to entice readers to press on to the end regardless of their political persuasion, in hopes that along the way some thought will be devoted to the issues raised.


I wrote...

You Speak For Me Now

By Sandy Graham,

Book cover of You Speak For Me Now

What is my book about?

In a world torn between democracy and dictatorship, can America survive the onslaught of authoritarianism and become once again a beacon of democratic leadership? Emergence of a powerful propaganda machine places the answer in doubt.

A musically gifted extrovert, John McEwan, becomes embroiled in this battle, dragging Emma Simon, a deaf introvert, in with him. Forces against them turn violent, driving them into seclusion, tearing them apart, and destroying their rapidly growing company. In a dramatic role reversal, Emma reveals how a strong individual can rise in the face of crises. This emotion-packed novel, at times heart-wrenching, at times heart-filling, lights a path to a brighter future.

We Are Our Brains

By D.F. Swaab, Jane Hedley-Prole (translator),

Book cover of We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's

A book written after decades of research by a leading neuroscientist to share his love of the brain with the general public. An ideal starter book for those of you who want to get a sense of all the different parts of the complex organ that comprise the human brain. In a series of chapters on the many different parts, regions structures, and brain processes this book provides a succinct yet comprehensive overview of the brain. It explains what the different parts do to make your brain work and how they work together they make us do what we do and makes sense of what we are.

Who am I?

I have been a doctor, psychiatrist, and brain researcher for nearly 50 years. I have treated thousands of patients, written over a thousand scientific articles, and given a similar number of lectures to medical and neuroscience students and to the general public. I have held many leadership positions in this field for academic groups both in UK and Europe and in 2009 I set up the charity Drug Science, to tell the truth about drugs and addiction.

I wrote...

Nutt Uncut

By David J. Nutt,

Book cover of Nutt Uncut

What is my book about?

Most people know David Nutt as the sacked drug czar. But my real life I am an academic psychiatrist and researcher who uses neuroimaging to study the brain so I can help understand how it goes wrong in mental and neurological illnesses, and so helps the search for new treatments. This book takes the reader on my journey from enquiring schoolboy, through my medical training into research and then becoming the government chief advisor on drugs.

This path has often taken me into controversial areas such as the safety of treatments for mental illness and the role of animals in medical research. I have been the subject of bomb attacks from anti-vivs and reputational assaults from anti-psychiatry groups. But my belief in science as the foundation of decision making has allowed me to overcome these and continue to do innovative brain research and pioneer new clinical treatments especially those using “illegal” drugs such as psychedelics and MDMA.

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