I finished Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson (of Emergence fame) this afternoon and it was fantastic. I first heard about this book when NPR did this segment on it and was thoroughly entertained and intrigued by Johnson’s stories. The book is written for the casual reader and through a healthy mix of storytelling and well-written commentary, it keeps you engaged all the way through.
The fundamental premise of the book is this: how does the brain work (chemicals, structures, routines) and how do these systems affect/connect to the day-to-day realities of our lives. Johnson chronicles his visits with various scientists on the cutting edge of “neurofeedback” – an exercise where you’re hooked into a machine that takes pictures of your brain at work as you read, come up with an idea, assemble words into a sentence, etc. Various interludes offer a fun peek at why laughter has little to do with humor and how eyes are the most powerful communicator.
All in all, it is works like this that allow you to earn some capital in the most important department of personal development: self-knowledge and awareness.