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Brain Candy, aptly named

August 3, 2010

Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons
Garth Sundem
Three Rivers Press, August 2010
$14.00 paperback 288 pages

Paging through the short factoids, optical illusions, anecdotes and brain-teasers in this collection is exactly like mental candy. It’s like the zippy, tart, bright-colored candy that turns your tongue all kinds of vibrant rainbow shades. In the best, little-kid zooming around with arms outstretched and airplane noises kind of way. Writing that brings that kind of freewheeling and offbeat fun to the complexities of neuroscience is especially impressive.

My editor at the Star-Ledger sent this over, not for me to review officially, but because she knew how perfectly it would hit my sweet spot. So to speak.

This is a great book for browsing, for passing around among your friends. Did you know that ephebiphobia is a fear of teenagers? Or that monkeys in a research experiment are happy to be rewarded with cucumber slices, until they see another monkey getting tastier grapes!

Along the way, there are optical illusions and brain teasers to play with and puzzle over (answers at the back, thank goodness!) And each section of the brain, from the cerebellum to the hippocampus, gets a detailed exploration, of what it does and famous studies in the history of neuroscience. (Like H.M., the patient made famous in psych texts for his inability to retain new long term memories. Apparently, he had some kind of motor memory still working, so could learn to do new tasks, even if the part of his brain that stored new memory was damaged.)

To keep things from getting dry, each story or piece of information gets distilled down into snackable candy bites of information and stories that fizz with fun and humor. Overall, the style of the book reminds me of MentalFloss, a blog and magazine I’ve loved reading for a long time. No matter what they’re covering, I love their tales of the odd and the arcane, told in a breezy, nearly giddy style. Brain Candy works the same way. Although, thinking of Mental Floss and Brain Candy at the same time makes me laugh at the juxtaposition. I like how you get both candy and floss as metaphors for goofy troves of facts, organized into delicious bites.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. garthsundem permalink
    August 8, 2010 9:08 am

    Thanks so much for a spectacularly written review! I don’t suppose there’s any way I could talk you into rolling this over towards the book’s Amazon page, could I? You’d be the all-important first reviewer!

    Thanks again,
    Garth
    #garthsundem

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