An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain

by Diane Ackerman

Paperback, 2005




Scribner (2005), Edition: unknown, 300 pages


The most ambitious and enlightening work to date from the bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses, An Alchemy of Mind combines an artist's eye with a scientist's erudition to illuminate, as never before, the magic and mysteries of the human mind. Long treasured by literary readers for her uncommon ability to bridge the gap between art and science, celebrated scholar-artist Diane Ackerman returns with the book she was born to write. Her dazzling new work, An Alchemy of Mind, offers an unprecedented exploration and celebration of the mental fantasia in which we spend our days -- and does for the human mind what the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses did for the physical senses. Bringing a valuable female perspective to the topic, Diane Ackerman discusses the science of the brain as only she can: with gorgeous, immediate language and imagery that paint an unusually lucid and vibrant picture for the reader. And in addition to explaining memory, thought, emotion, dreams, and language acquisition, she reports on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and addresses controversial subjects like the effects of trauma and male versus female brains. In prose that is not simply accessible but also beautiful and electric, Ackerman distills the hard, objective truths of science in order to yield vivid, heavily anecdotal explanations about a range of existential questions regarding consciousness, human thought, memory, and the nature of identity.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member grero
I really like this book. It's one of those books you read for the share beauty of the language, for the resonance of the author's thoughts with your own, only phrased with infinitely more grace, intelligence and wisdom. If I could write one book I'd wish it to be this one. Ackerman takes the study of the brain from the technical description of a textbook, past the informal treatise of popularised science to the realm of poetry, where subtle and profound ideas about what it means to be human, the agony and joy of possessing minds as encompassing and creative as our own, and the miracle of having the world created before our very eyes. Please read this book if you have even the vaguest interest in the intricacies of your brain.… (more)
LibraryThing member DK_Atkinson
Wonderful read! Poetic and informative as Ackerman's writing generally is.
LibraryThing member twcox
This 'lump on a stick', weighting less than three pounds, manages, in Ms. Ackerman's book, to become a very weighty subject. Her prose reads like poetry, and if you have never before read her work, as I had not (don't ask me why), this book is like your first taste of a great chef's cooking.

Ackerman has been called our finest literary interpreter of science and nature, and after reading this book, you'll never think of your brain in the same way again.… (more)


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