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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: And Other True Stories of Trauma, Madness, Affliction, and Recovery That Reveal the Surprising History of the Human Brain - Sam Kean

Most of us have that friend, the one that tells great stories.  Not the tall-tale kind of stories. This friend can sit down with a beer of wine after work and tell you all about their day and make it entertaining and interesting, even if you don't really understand what they do.


Imagine this friend is a neurosurgeon or neuroscientist and you'll have this book in a nutshell.  Kean fills this book full of fascinating, true anecdotes of horrible things that happen to the human brain and how scientists have used these opportunities to learn more about the our grey (and white) matter and what separates the brain from the mind.  He does this all in a very easy, laid-back way, without any silver-spoon language.  This whole book is a chat about brains over beer in a pub.  Which has just taken my mind to: if you had this chat in Wales, you could have a chat about brains over a few pints of Brains  at the pub (it's a beer brand in Wales).  But I digress...


Lest my description above makes it sound too shallow without enough science, let me stress that the science is here; Kean uses these anecdotes to introduce or illustrate the neuroscience.  He succeeds in taking an incredibly complex creation and making the higher levels of its architecture understandable, even for those of us who do not have Ph.D's or M.D.'s.


He has asterisks throughout the text that connect to a Notes section at the back.  These include anecdotal asides, clarifications, and suggestions for further reading.  If you read the book, these are not to be missed because there's a lot of stunning information here (lobotomobile).  There's also a Source list and an index.


I've been a fan of Kean's since he wrote The Disappearing Spoon but I think this one is his best written yet.  I went 4.5 stars because I could have done without the details of animal experiments and I skipped those sections, but otherwise I'd unreservedly recommend this book to anyone who has a slight interest in the human brain but doesn't want the interest smothered with dry academic writing.