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Publisher's Summary

Brilliantly exploring today's cutting edge brain research, Mind Wide Open allows readers to understand themselves and the people in their lives as never before. Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works and how its systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives. Johnson embarks on this path as his own test subject, participating in a battery of tests and experiments in search of a modern answer to the oldest of questions: who am I? He explores how we "read" other people, how the brain processes frightening events, what the neurochemistry is behind love and sex, how our brain teems with powerful chemicals closely related to recreational drugs, why music moves us to tears, and where our breakthrough ideas come from.
Johnson suggests that learning about the brain's mechanics can widen one's self-awareness as powerfully as any therapy, meditation or drug. To read Mind Wide Open is to rethink family histories, individual fates, and the very nature of the self.
©2003 Steven Johnson (P)2004 Tantor Media, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"It's the rare popular science book that not only gives the reader a gee-whiz glimpse at an emerging field, but also offers a guide for incorporating its new insights into one's own worldview. [Johnson] does just that in his fascinating, engagingly written new survey." (Publishers Weekly)
"Spreading a gospel to be curious about one's own mind, Johnson, aided by personal anecdotes about, for example, the length of his attention span, will snare even those unfamiliar with brain science." (Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Chris on 02-02-05

Fascinating, fascinating... but short

I have always found the brain's inner workings fascinating so I was looking forward to this book, but I didn't want to get lost in medical jargon. Johnson states at the outset that he will only hit the high points, and that was what he did. The jargon was controlled and well explained, and the anecdotes were easy to follow. He repeats himself a lot, and at first I thought this was fluff to fill out the book, but then I realized it helped me remember the concept. Rather than zip from topic to topic, we dwell on one for a while before moving on to the next. This is important because each concept builds on the next.

Johnson's writing style is smooth and clever, and several times I chuckled out loud. The narrator is also good. At first he spoke in a dry monotone and I thought he was going to be horrible, but he got better once the book was well underway.

My only complaint is the book was too short! In the end, it doesn't cover a lot of ground. At least the ground it does cover is well done and topical. Recommended for anyone who is interested in a pop-sci version of neuroscience.

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26 of 26 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By reggie p on 03-27-05

Fascinating and Enjoyable

I was afraid this was going to be too technical or medical but it was very easy to understand. It offered insights into how the brain functions with respect to autism, attention deficit disorder, love, laughter, fear, memory, addiction, bonding, hormones, drugs, and music. It shows how chemicals, both natural hormones and neurotransmitters as well as illicit drugs, affect our behavior, our thinking, our emotions. Being aware of what is going on inside your head gives you a new perspective on your life and those around you. It helps us understand one another at a scientific level and may lead to improvements in personal health and relationships.

The ending dragged a little for me when he got into a discussion of Freud, but I've always preferred chemistry over psychology. Most of it was very enjoyable and I thought the narrator did a great job.

I also recommend Scientific American Special Edition: The Brain: A Look Inside.

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25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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