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End of Year Book Roundup

Here is a list some of the books that I have read this year, some outstanding some less so. In no particular order:

1. “The Root of Thought, Unlocking Glia the Brain Cell That Will Help Sharpen Our Wits, Heal Injury and Treat Brain Disease” by Andrew Koob – As you can tell from my earlier blogs, this book, one of the first describing the new found importance of Glia was very thought provoking to put it mildly.

2. “The Mind and The Brain” by Jeffrey M. Schwartz – This book describes the fascinating new research on neuroplasticity and has been the source of some of my earlier blogs.

3. “The Information” by James Gleick – This panoramic history of information and communication over the past 250 years was both interesting and relevant to many issues today ranging from computers to brain injury.

4. “Jeff in Venice, Death in the Varanasi” by Geoff Dyer – In this book the great British writer Dyer contrasts his experiences at the Venice’s Biennale, amid a decadent crush of social climbers, with transformative experiences in India.

5. “Dirt: The Erosions of Civilization” by David R. Montgomery – Here one learns that dirt is the vital skin on our earth that truly does decide the course of civilizations. Interestingly, Darwin, in one of his last books, described his theory of how earthworms created dirt. He was laughed at until proved correct seventy-five years later.

6. “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett – A sprawling picaresque novel in which incredible medical discoveries are made in the Amazon jungle. It gives us insight into the sometimes non scientific ways in which science progresses or fails to progress.

7. “Zone One” by Colson Whitehead – This is a “literary zombie book” and it probably indeed has all of the problems that the terms conjure up.

8. “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit” by Mark Seal – This incredible true story almost defies belief. A young German boy, who learned English by imitating Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island, comes to the United States and successfully impersonates a series of fictitious millionaires and finally successfully becomes a Rockefeller until arrested. This speaks to the primacy of our speech and diction in social interactions and prejudices.

9. “Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and the Struggle for the Soul of Science” by David Lindley – This book describes the battle over the true nature of Quantum Mechanics and how Einstein ended up on the losing side of whether or not “entanglement” and other phenomenon really existed. Einstein never accepted Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty Principle” and was left behind by other physicists starting in 1925.

10. “How the Hippies Saved Physics” by David Kaiser – A historical follow-up to the earlier book, which shows how some outcast scientist in the ‘60’s revived interests in “entanglement” and Bell’s theorem, aided strangely by defense department and CIA funding, resulting in breakthroughs that are now part of our everyday lives in internet security and communications.

11. “The Escape” by Adam T. Hirlwell – A comic British novel charting the comic activities of the main character as he comes to grips with his past, giving rise to stories of World War II, and whether he had a life well lived.

12. “Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees” by James Reidel – At mid-century Kees was a pivotal figure in modern art and poetry, but after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, his contributions were largely forgotten. An interesting journey into the cultural changes that predated the 1960’s.

13. “The Thousand Autumn’s of Jacob De Zoet” by David Mitchell – Mitchell, the author of the great book “The Cloud Atlas” (coming soon as a major motion picture) imagines life in Imperial Japan at a Dutch trading outpost and vividly creates the clash of cultures that this, the only trading outpost allowed in Japan, caused.

14. “A Ticket, A Pack and A Chart: Episodes from a Borderless Life” by Buz Donahoo – My good friend Buz Donahoo, a lifelong adventure guide, has put many of his interesting adventures into this all to short book. Worth reading.

15. “Joan Mitchell” by Patricia Albers – A biography of the one of the only woman painters allowed into abstract expressionist canon. Before becoming a painter, Mitchell was the youngest person to ever be published in Poetry Magazine.

16. “Busy Monsters” by William Giraldi – This high spirited comedy follows the epic failures of heartbroken protagonist Charlie Homar as he gets involved with fringe characters of all stripes after his girlfriend leaves him to capture a giant squid. A very funny book.

17. “Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain” by David Eagleman – Eagleman, now famous on television and radio, relays some of the interesting new breakthroughs in brain research. His method of describing some of the paradoxes in the brain is similar to the economics book “Freakonomics.”

18. “Remainder” by Tom McCarthy – This well reviewed British author’s book begins when the protagonist receives a huge legal settlement after being struck by a falling satellite. It gets even stranger after that. It does show some of the odd behaviors one can see after brain injury and how the actual “reality” that the victim sees can change dramatically as well.

19. “Inside Scientology: The Story of American’s Most Secretive Religion” by Janet Reitman – Scientology is much, much scarier than Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, it is almost like a paramilitary group that intimidates through litigation.