The Beautiful Brain

Sometimes known as the “father of modern neuroscience,” Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was also an accomplished illustrator. A devoted neuroanatomist, Cajal painstakingly reproduced the brain cells and circuits he saw in the microscope in exemplary, detailed drawings. In The Beautiful Brain, the four authors use Cajal’s drawings to highlight his contributions to neuroscience as the world’s first “neuroimager.”

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death

In his latest book, neuroscientist Adrian Owen explores the “gray zone”—the space between full consciousness and brain death, where people have working minds in damaged bodies. Dr. Owen’s research suggests that up to 20% of people once thought to be in vegetative states are actually in this “gray zone”—aware and capable of thought on some level, but immobile. What are the implications of this discovery for the patients themselves, as well as for legislation, families, religion, and insurance? What even counts as life? Dr. Owen attempts to answer these questions and more.

Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives

As our population expands, we will need to build houses, office buildings, parks, and other spaces, both public and private, to keep up. But what kinds of places should we build? Architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen takes the reader on a trip to architectural treasures and horrors, calling on research in neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology to understand how our built environment shapes human perception and cognition.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, scientist David P. Barash says “It’s no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.” Indeed, Robert Sapolsky’s seminal new work is a humorous, exciting, and challenging examination of what it is in human nature and experience that drives our responses to one another, including what allows us to act so aggressively and violently towards one another. Ultimately, he hopes that a better understanding of the complexity of what drives our behavior can help us pave the way toward a more peaceful and compassionate future.

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential

Mindshift helps us work through some of our preconceived notions about what is possible for us to learn and achieve. It also discusses how traits that may be seen as negative—like worrying and losing focus—have hidden benefits for creativity and success. If you are feeling stuck in a rut, and having trouble moving forward - Mindshift may help you break out and get to the next level.

The Brain: The Story of You

Stanford scientist David Eagleman is back with another great book—this time, a companion to his BBC series of the same name. This is an excellent primer on how the brain creates "you" and defines your reality. His writing is easy to follow and enhanced with some colorful illustrations.

Into the Magic Shop

Neurosurgeon Jim Doty is the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. In Into the Magic Shop (named for a transformative experience he had as a boy), Doty shares his own story of moving past his successful-but-unhappy life by changing both his brain and his heart, and gives scientific and practical guidance for doing the same yourself.

The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters

In this intriguing book, Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray explore how we ascribe thoughts—a mind—to others. This exploration doesn’t just address how we think about the minds of other people (though it does that, too). It also includes animals, robots, God, and much more. The authors argue that how we think about the minds of others can affect our treatment of them. It’s what makes it seem reasonable to eat some animals and keep others as pets, what drives us to protect some people and harm others, and what determines many other “moral” decisions we make as we interact with the world.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande has grown his audience with his smart, spot-on pieces in the New Yorker, and his excellent books are proving no less popular or worthwhile. Gawande, a concise and measured writer as well as a working surgeon and professor, discusses the miracles of modern medicine and how the American medical system can drastically err in the context of end-of-life care, death, and the process of dying. Some have called this book a “game-changer” and “required reading for every American.”