The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

  • by Sam Kean
  • Narrated by Henry Leyva
  • 12 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The author of the best seller The Disappearing Spoon reveals the secret inner workings of the brain through strange-but-true stories.
Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: Wait for misfortune to strike - strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents - and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims' personalities. Parents suddenly couldn't recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn't speak but could still sing.
In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: Phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients' memories, blind people who see through their tongues. He weaves these narratives together to create a story of discovery that reaches back to the 1500s and the high-profile jousting accident that inspired this book's title.* With the lucid, masterful explanations and razor-sharp wit his fans have come to expect, Kean explores the brain's secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.
*"The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons" refers to the case of French king Henri II, who in 1559 was lanced through the skull during a joust, resulting in one of the most significant cases in neuroscience history. For hundreds of years scientists have gained important lessons from traumatic accidents and illnesses, and such misfortunes still represent their greatest resource for discovery.


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Detailed but not overly Technical

This book comes with a PDF, but it is not too critical to the book. There are little puzzles for each chapter that involves piecing together pictures, letters, and sounds to form a hidden word or phrase, which are mentioned at the start of each chapter, and are mildly interesting but not at all necessary for understanding the material. There are also pictures of where the various parts of the brain are, but again, interesting but not critical.

The book is written for the layman and not overly technical. It covers a bunch on interesting neurological case studies, most of which have been covered in other books. However, Kean does an excellent job of research, and exposition, getting to the essence of the case studies without too much technical detail. I tend to like a lot of technical detail, but I enjoyed this book quite a bit anyway. The stories are interesting, and a number of details that were misreported elsewhere are corrected and clarified here.

The author has a quite graphic style (some might say too graphic). The book is often discussing in vivid detail oozing, infected, dissected, projected, extracted, rotting brain tissue. This did not bother me, but it may be more than some listeners would expect.

If you don’t mind a little grossness, I think most listeners will enjoy this book and at least get something to think about.

The narration is excellent, very upbeat and high energy, without being sappy.

There are other books on this subject, that I think I learned more from, but none that I enjoyed more, plus this made several subtle, yet important, points not presented elsewhere and corrected commonly misreported stories that I thought I knew.
Read full review

- Michael "I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read."

Facinating and engaging

Where does The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was one of my favorite books to listen to. The story is told with humour and a keen eye to the incredible reality of these tales.

What did you like best about this story?

The depth of the stories told. They were all so very facinating.

Read full review

- Kenn

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-27-2014
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio