Laughter can tighten your abs, soothe your mind and increase your empathy. Lighten up your summer reading with two funny new books that have both heart and brains.
“I’m of two minds,” we say. Or, “I changed my mind.” These phrases roll casually off the tongue, but we don’t mean them literally. Maybe we should, according to two new books that explore the fascinating history and tantalizing future of neuroscience.
Originally published in Israel, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant history of humankind has already become an international bestseller. A specialist in world history, Harari undertakes a daunting task in Sapiens: to examine the rise of our species and discern the reasons behind our remarkable success.
At the age of 85, Edward O. Wilson, one of our foremost evolutionary biologists (and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner), has written a provocative book that is so fascinating it nearly lives up to the stunning ambition of its title.
Upon hearing that Randall Munroe, NASA roboticist turned webcomic all-star, is writing a collection of “What If?” columns, a number of you will immediately make plans to buy the book. Don’t worry, you’ll love it. But this review is for the rest of you, who are curious if a bit confused.
I once belonged to a reading group where one member, no matter what book we were discussing, would invariably ask, “Who would you cast as . . . ?” In all fairness, he was a screenwriter, but his perennial need to graft the face of some Hollywood star onto a given character in a novel could be irritating. As I read Peter Mendelsund’s quirky and fascinating What We See When We Read, I came to the realization that this casting device may have been this reader’s imperfect way of visualizing what he was reading.
The more we learn about the human brain, it seems, the less we know for sure. In the 50 years he's focused on it, Dutch neuroscientist D.F. Swaab has studied the brain at every stage of being. We Are Our Brains is a “neurobiography” of the brain, but it reads more like a gazetteer—you can start anywhere and be assured of finding something interesting.
Listening to an audiobook while doing something else is a great way to multitask, and it’s especially satisfying if you get a little bit smarter and more informed while doing it. So, I suggest you start the new year off by listening to The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman, a renowned professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard....
If there’s one thing we humans are good at, it’s surviving. Look at us go: “Over the past two centuries,” writes environmental journalist Alan Weisman in Countdown, “we have become brilliant at beating back diseases or preemptively protecting ourselves from them. . . . Through much of the world, we’ve doubled average human lifespans from under 40 years to...
Scarcity has the ability to change your life. Or at least, it will make you on time for your next meeting.Defined by the authors, scarcity means having less than you feel you need. Whether it’s time, food, customers or insurance coverage, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir argue that one single impulse underlies everything we do when we feel our resources are scarce. They ask,...