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.

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.

Brain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease

In Brain Storms, award-winning journalist Jon Palfreman covers the scientific story of Parkinson’s disease—from the discovery of the disease to the latest in scientific research—in compelling detail. But the book is more than that: it’s also a passionate and insightful memoir from the perspective of Palfreman, who has Parkinson’s himself.

Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain

In this fascinating book, neurobiologist Douglas Fields traces “snapping” (outbreaks of rage) to a small cluster of neurons in the “hypothalamic attack region” of the brain. Throughout human history, this region has played an important role in responding to threats—and at times, it still leads to heroic actions in the face of danger. But our modern world often triggers the “snapping” reaction inappropriately. The good news is that if you can identify the triggers, you can help prevent snapping—in yourself or others.