Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life

by Sandra Aamodt

Hardcover, 2008

Call number

612.8 AAM

Collection

Publication

Bloomsbury USA (2008), Edition: 1, 240 pages

Description

We use our brains at practically every moment of our lives, and yet few of us have the first idea how they work. Much of what we think we know comes from folklore: that we only use 10 percent of our brain, or that drinking kills brain cells. These and other myths are wrong, as shown by neuroscientists who have spent decades studying this complex organ. However, most of what they have learned is not known to the world outside their laboratories. Here, the authors dispel common myths about the brain and provide a comprehensive, useful overview of how it really works. You'll discover how to cope with jet lag, how your brain affects your religion, and how men's and women's brains differ. With accessible prose decorated by charts, trivia, quizzes, and illustrations, this book is suitable for quick reference or extended reading.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member sjmccreary
This is an appealing book - looking at first glance much like the "You!" books by Drs Oz and Roizen. The topics are, naturally, all related to the health, development, and functioning of the human brain. The book is divided into sections of similar topics, each with 4 or 5 chapters. The chapters are short - only 4 or 5 pages each - but there are more than 30 of them. Topics include the 5 senses, personality and behavior, memory and memory loss, and age-related development and learning. The chapters are designed to be stand-alone , and may be read in any order.

I thought the topics were interesting, and the sidebar comments - especially the myth-buster discussions - were fun to read. The chapters, being so short, were fast and easy to read. But, I had trouble reading more than 2 chapters at a time. This book is more fun to browse than actually read cover-to-cover. The discussions weren't as engaging as those in the "You" books. There is only so much superficial information that can be presented in an intelligent and interesting manner. Technical information wasn't well explained, in an effort not to be too technical, I suppose. I came away with the feeling that I hadn't learned as much as I could have, since the authors choose to be breezy and entertaining instead of treating me like an intelligent lay person who can understand scientific subjects once they are explained to me.

I don't think this is a bad book, but not great, either. I don't recommend avoiding it, but wouldn't suggest seeking it out, unless you have an interest in human health/development/behavior. This is a better choice for the library than the book store - worth some time spent reading, but not the money to purchase.
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LibraryThing member michelle_bcf
This is full of interesting information, presented in a light, informative manner. It’s divided in short chapters, which means you can read from beginning to end, or dip into the sections that most interest you.

The first section explains a little about how your brain works, and includes info on issues such as jet lag and weight regulation. The second delves into how your senses work, inclusing explaining why mice don’t like diet coke!

Section outlines how the brain changes throughout the various stages of life, including learning and ageing. The fourth looks at emotion, and the fifth is about the rational brain, which includes intelligence and memory.

The last section looks at the brain in an altered state, exploring issues such as sleep, stroke, and alcohol.

Each chapter includes the main content, plus extra sections, which include practical tips, myth busting, and ‘Did you know?’. These look at issues such as ‘increasing happiness’, ‘how does your brain know a joke is funny?’, ’should you cram for an exam?’ and ‘is your brain like a computer?’

This is a great book to have your shelf, to dip in and out of, or to answer those important questions when they’ve been discussed down the pub!
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LibraryThing member OliviainNJ
A layperson's guide to the neuroscience of the brain. This is an easy to digest overview of how the workings of the brain affects perception, emotion, and the senses; and in turn how physical changes to your brain (because of drugs, injury, or illness) can affect perception and ability. The topic is fascinating and the authors hit a good balance between being overly complicated, and giving readers a "--for dummies" version. The authors address numerous facts that everyone "knows" about how the mind works that are just plain wrong, which may be disappointing or reassuring, depending on your point of view.

That said, the book didn't resonate with me as I'd hoped. Other reviews have called the writing style dry, and it is, a bit. Additionally, I listened to the audio version, which suffered both by missing the drawings and charts that are included int he text, but also because the narrator has an annoying, superior tone that made me feel like a schoolchild being lectured. I think it's worth a read, but go for the text in this case.
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LibraryThing member Arseny
It is written as a popular introductory book, but organized as a textbook, with many small chapters covering important topics one by one, in a logical sequence. And this unique organization is both good and bad: it makes the book really useful and thorough, but also a bit boring.

There are some factual mistakes in the book as well: e.g. at one point they mixed up the pineal gland with the pituitary gland, which is rather characteristic. But overall it may serve as a good and structured introductory reading on neuroscience.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This book goes back and forth between the past and the current time period. Jacob lives in a nursing home, but when the circus comes to town he remembers his life back in the thirties, when his parents passed and he dropped out of vet school and ran away and joined the circus. Once he arrives at the circus he falls in love with a married woman and an elephant named Rosie. At the nursing home, he can feel himself starting to slip as he reminisces, his favorite nurse is also leaving and his family forgets to visit.

You only get the briefest idea of who Marlena is, even though she is the major love interest. I really feel like this is more about August then Marlena and circus life in general. I loved the historical detail and that the author used actual stories from the thirties. I loved Camel and Walter and was so sad about what happened to them. It was good to see other characters get their comupance as well.

I absolutely loved the ending, even though on some levels I felt a little bit nervous for Jacob, I felt like it was the best possible ending for him and didn't feel overly sappy or sad.
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LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This book goes back and forth between the past and the current time period. Jacob lives in a nursing home, but when the circus comes to town he remembers his life back in the thirties, when his parents passed and he dropped out of vet school and ran away and joined the circus. Once he arrives at the circus he falls in love with a married woman and an elephant named Rosie. At the nursing home, he can feel himself starting to slip as he reminisces, his favorite nurse is also leaving and his family forgets to visit.

You only get the briefest idea of who Marlena is, even though she is the major love interest. I really feel like this is more about August then Marlena and circus life in general. I loved the historical detail and that the author used actual stories from the thirties. I loved Camel and Walter and was so sad about what happened to them. It was good to see other characters get their comupance as well.

I absolutely loved the ending, even though on some levels I felt a little bit nervous for Jacob, I felt like it was the best possible ending for him and didn't feel overly sappy or sad.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This book goes back and forth between the past and the current time period. Jacob lives in a nursing home, but when the circus comes to town he remembers his life back in the thirties, when his parents passed and he dropped out of vet school and ran away and joined the circus. Once he arrives at the circus he falls in love with a married woman and an elephant named Rosie. At the nursing home, he can feel himself starting to slip as he reminisces, his favorite nurse is also leaving and his family forgets to visit.

You only get the briefest idea of who Marlena is, even though she is the major love interest. I really feel like this is more about August then Marlena and circus life in general. I loved the historical detail and that the author used actual stories from the thirties. I loved Camel and Walter and was so sad about what happened to them. It was good to see other characters get their comupance as well.

I absolutely loved the ending, even though on some levels I felt a little bit nervous for Jacob, I felt like it was the best possible ending for him and didn't feel overly sappy or sad.
… (more)
LibraryThing member micahmom2002
One of those books that you want to read straight through neglecting all other responsibilities. Story based on the circus of 1930's in the Depression Era. The main character looks back on his life in the traveling circus as a vet, and all the loves, joys and difficulties he faced.
LibraryThing member apatt
"A Whole Lotta Rosie!"

AC/DC do not appear in this book, nor do they get any kind of shoutout, more is the pity. The massive presence of Rosie in this book just reminds me of this headbanging classic.

I really shouldn't read Goodreads reviews before reading a book because some of them just give me a false expectations. One reviewer called it "Dumbo for adults" fercrissake! What was he smoking? Beside having an elephant that is more capable than she initially seems this book has nothing in common with Dumbo in the details or themes.

The focus of the book is almost entirely on the protagonist Jacob Jankowski. The first person narrative is from his point of view but switches back and forth between two timelines, that of the 20 something Jacob and the “90 or 93” version of the same character.

Young Jacob jumps on a circus train and soon finds himself joining them in the capacity of a veterinarian, meet some colorful characters, falling in love with a married performer and much wackiness ensues from there. In the alternate (not alternative) timeline old Jacob is a cantankerous old man in a nursing home who thinks he is either 90 or 93. For most of the book he just mopes around being a pain.

Personally I prefer the Young Jacob timeline, the old Jacob is a little too miserable for my liking. There is a lovely passage about ageing at the beginning of the old man’s first chapter though.

“When you’re five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I’m twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It’s a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I’m— you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you’re not. You’re thirty-five. And then you’re bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it’s decades before you admit it.”

Young Jacob has the recklessness of youth on his side, he never seems to pause for thought very much before doing something drastic. Consequently his life in the circus moves at a breakneck speed and is very entertaining to read. The supporting characters in this timeline are very well developed, the story does become a little too melodramatic for my taste at times, but the pacing never drags.

This is a very pleasant, breezy read. If there is a subtext to this story I must have missed it entirely, I don’t think there is an earth shattering insight to be found here. This is not a life changing book, but then what is wrong with your life that you would want a 350 pages novel to change it?

I would recommend it to anyone on Goodreads looking for a good read.
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LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
I saw the preview for the movie, and while it didn't particularly make me want to watch the movie, it did make me want to read the book. I'm glad I did.
While the story can at times be overly dramatic and sentimental, it's also the sort of book that makes me stay up way too late at night, ignoring everything around me so that I can finish it. That's never a bad thing!
A veterinary student, struck by personal tragedy, ends up in a traveling circus, where he finds a rougher life than he had dreamed existed, full of violence, insanity - and, surprisingly, true friendship and love.
Gruen really did her research on the traveling shows of the 1930's, and it shows. I found it wholly convincing - although sometimes it does seem like she shoved every exciting thing that ever happened or might have happened at a circus into her book like clowns into a clown car... but overall, it works.
I even liked the sections of the framing device, where Our Protagonist is an old man in a nursing home, struggling to maintain his dignity and remembering the years of his youth. Surprisingly, they're nearly as gripping as the more action-packed scenes set in the past. And the ending, while a bit of a fantasy, is truly heartwarming.
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LibraryThing member RealLifeReading
Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
LibraryThing member micahmom2002
One of those books that you want to read straight through neglecting all other responsibilities. Story based on the circus of 1930's in the Depression Era. The main character looks back on his life in the traveling circus as a vet, and all the loves, joys and difficulties he faced.
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This book goes back and forth between the past and the current time period. Jacob lives in a nursing home, but when the circus comes to town he remembers his life back in the thirties, when his parents passed and he dropped out of vet school and ran away and joined the circus. Once he arrives at the circus he falls in love with a married woman and an elephant named Rosie. At the nursing home, he can feel himself starting to slip as he reminisces, his favorite nurse is also leaving and his family forgets to visit.

You only get the briefest idea of who Marlena is, even though she is the major love interest. I really feel like this is more about August then Marlena and circus life in general. I loved the historical detail and that the author used actual stories from the thirties. I loved Camel and Walter and was so sad about what happened to them. It was good to see other characters get their comupance as well.

I absolutely loved the ending, even though on some levels I felt a little bit nervous for Jacob, I felt like it was the best possible ending for him and didn't feel overly sappy or sad.
… (more)
LibraryThing member donwelty
I agree with many of the reviewers that had high expectations for this novel and feel the story started off well and definitely fell flat in the second half of the book.

The relationship between Jacob and Marlena never really caught me up and I never felt young Jacob and old Jacob were the same person. Both seemed like period caricatures and the story didn't convince me of a connection between the two. Young Jacob seemed like a waspy sort of windbag and old Jacob seemed like a crusty old jewish man.

Lastly there seemed to be a real lack of continuity between the early and late days of Jacob esp. in how the story finished - I was expecting there to be a stronger connection between the periods of time.
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LibraryThing member dorie.craig
A story about an old man in a nursing home remembering his life with the circus during the depression. It really made me wonder how realistic some of the actions of the circus owner were -- did they really use to do things like this? The descriptions of the animals were interesting, and I wish there had been a bit more with them. Most of the characters were well developed, with the exception of Marlena. I really didn't get why everyone seemed so wild about her. She was written more pathetically than sympathetically. But the ending of the book made up for everything, because it was great. I couldn't have ended it better if I'd written it myself. I really felt myself sympathizing with and liking old man Jacob.… (more)
LibraryThing member Carol420
Sara Gruen's real success is introducing 21st century readers to circus life in the 1930s. Then it was a scandal, today it is a fascinating backdrop to a story.
Cruelty born of greed and sadism play a significant part as both humans and animals suffer beatings and neglect. The show must go on, profits must be made and base human desires must be satisfied. Strange to read a book where I'd much rather read about the relationship between a young man and an extraordinary elephant than about the human love of his life.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rascalstar
I read this book shortly before I became a member of GoodReads. It was better than going to the circus! The reader will learn what goes on behind the scenes in a circus, or what did in times past. Good cast of characters, lots of action to keep you turning pages. It took considerable research to write this book and is well worth the time.… (more)
LibraryThing member lamotamant
When I was about six years old we went to the circus. It was my first (and only time) at a circus with a menagerie. One that happened to include an elephant (or two, I'm not entirely sure). At the end of the circus the kids were allowed to wait for elephant rides and my cousin and I were ecstatic. We eagerly waited and had our turns and the whole experience seemed completely magical. To be that close to a gigantic and amazing animal that I'd only read about in stories up until then- it's an experience that sticks with you.

As I've grown up I've become more aware about the b-side to this awe-inspiring experience. How horrible animals are treated in circus life more often than not, how stressful those rides with all of the cotton-candy junkie kids clamoring all 'round must have been for the poor girl, how that cane used by the handler had an awful gleam to it that looked so innocent to six year old me and must have looked so sinister to the great Her. As mentioned before, that was my only circus experience minus a few aerialist-heavy shows that didn't include animals of any kind. And that glorious elephant and what I've learned over the years about so many circuses will be the reason I refuse to go to any more animal-centric shows.

That all being said, the memory is still precious and who knows, had I not experienced it I might not have the respect for animals, elephants, etc. that I do now. So I'm grateful for it. But I'm also grateful for books like Water because they don't skimp on the reality of the circus animal, performer, or working man.

Yes, things have drastically improved and regulations have been put in place to make that happen. But that doesn't change the history and the fact that the best intentioned regulations aren't all-seeing and all knowing. So I suggest animal sanctuaries for the curious and nature-minded rather than a performance that might be tainted by cruelty and abuse.

So many things in this book were absolutely heartbreaking, and so many things had you end up looking at them from a completely different perspective than you might have originally. At least that was how it seemed to me. Whether it's the abuse Marlena deals with, the fact that August is abusive because he's mentally ill, Jacob's grief that leads to him ditching his exams, Jacob's old age/life in a nursing home, the class system of the circus, the fact that working men and performers may or not get paid, life during the Depression, horribly wicked things such as abuse and redlighting, etc... all of it had so many facets. Add that to the myriad of facets of the characters and it was intensely intriguing. I'd just assumed that this was a period romance centered under the big top but there's really a lot more to it than that.
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LibraryThing member NicoleSch
This book symbolizes the reason why I am still reading YA books. I have recently become disillusioned with YA books because the majority of what I read is a recycled plot, recycled characters, with a recycled, often instalove romance. But then, I read this book. The story is unique, I don't loath the main character or his love interests, and the romance, while fairly fast, was not instalove. You'd think I'd love it, so why didn't I?
 
Well, there was a lot of cussing. I'm generally tolerant of cussing in books because I can skip over it or change it to "bleep" when I read it. I was reading this via audiobook, so I couldn't do either of the things I usually do, but even so, I probably wouldn't have allowed mere cussing to make this book, which could have been a four or five star read, down to two stars. The problem, for me, was the sex. Or the vulgarity in reference to sex. When a character was having sex or naked, the detail the author gave was far, far too explicit, making me want to cover my ears. What's worse is that the book didn't need these details. It didn't even need most of those scenes, but the ones that were necessary for the plot did not need to be that explicit. Even though, overall, I liked the narrator, the fact that he kept giving so much detail for these things made me like him a lot less.
 
Probably another reason why I didn't like the book as well is that I watched the movie (which was very good) first. For some reason I've found that most of the (admittedly few) times when I have enjoyed a movie more than a book it's because I watched the movie first. The movie cut most of the vulgarity and nudity in order to be PG-13, but it still kept the characters and story line. The movie also moved me more emotionally. It was very upsetting to see the abuse of Rosie, and I truly felt for Marlena's difficult position. In the book, the abuse of Rosie had a problem of being told rather than shown, and so it wasn't as moving, though I still did feel for Marlena in her difficult situation.
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LibraryThing member BooksForTheLiving
I found this story to be slightly anti-climatic. I put expectations on it to be a great, fabulous book - but in the end it let me down - which may have been my own fault.
LibraryThing member Laurochka
I really enjoyed this book. I was engrossed right form the start and loved the descriptions of the behind the scenes circus intrigues.
I loved Rosie and also thought it ended well.

All in all very enjoyable - made me want to go and see a circus!
LibraryThing member Borrows-N-Wants
This book was fantastic. It is told from the point of view of an old man in a nursing home looking back on his life as part of a travelling circus. The chapters switch back and forth between the past and the present, and together, they present a moving, unforgettable story. The circus story is bizarre, but doesn't go too far and is still believable and extremely interesting. The story from the nursing home is moving and deals a lot with the emotional aspects of growing older and coming to terms with it. Overall, a great book, and I can not wait to read more from Gruen!… (more)
LibraryThing member LauGal
This book pulled me in from page 1 and never let go.It is riveting.This book was recommended to me becasue my grandparents traveled the Carni and Vaudeville circuit during the depression.I would recommend this book to everyone.I would have plowed right thru if not for work and sleep.Great character development and fast paced.Worthwhile read! Well written!
I loved Rosie!
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LibraryThing member startwithgivens
I think this book will soon be a classic! It was an incredibly written book, the plot was captivating and Gruen is definitely an artist with a pen. She uses exquisite literary techniques that only the most keen readers will pick up.
LibraryThing member BraveNewBks
Wow. Definitely one of my favorite books I've read in a long time. An excellent counterpoint to the rule of thumb that if you see tons of people reading something on the subway, it's probably crap.

I loved every single one of the main characters-- I could see them in my head, and in some ways this read almost more like nonfiction than fiction, in the sense that I never once questioned the author's choices, never had any meta-questions about why the story was unfolding in a particular way. I was just swept up in the story, turning pages as fast as I could soak it all in, and then a lovely feeling of deep satisfaction when I reached the end.… (more)

Pages

220

ISBN

1596912839 / 9781596912830
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