The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revieled by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery
Author Sam Kean
Author Sam Kean does a wonderful job in this nonfiction book weaving together human interest stories and historical accounts with complex neuroscience to educate the reader without ever being boring, unapproachable, or condescending. I love this approach to nonfiction writing. It is so much easier to retain the facts when they’re couched in entertaining tales of wild accidents and spontaneous personality changes.
If you enjoy human interest tales then The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons will be right up your alley. Instead of describing neurological impairments, every ailment is described through a personal story involving an actual person.
This tactic brings a much needed empathy to what could be very dense subject matter. It also helps that many of the brain disorders discussed are so rare that they only have one case study to reference. It is interesting to see how one life can alter the body of medical and scientific literature so much.
Many of these case studies are relatively modern as well. Some historical cases are discussed because they are pinnacle but a lot of the examples have been analyzed with modern medicine or even recent interviews. This grounds the book with relevancy instead of just reading like a compilation of hearsay and tall tales.
There were countless times during this book that I felt the urge to stop and tell someone what I had just learned. For instance, that a person with a specific brain abnormality can lose the ability to read but retain the ability to write. So I wouldn’t be able to read this book I’m reviewing but I could write this sentence, and then not be able to read it right after! If you don’t think that’s fascinating then we cannot be friends.
This book accomplishes what any good nonfiction book should. It is well researched and written by someone of authority. It is educational and entertaining. And it reads more like a fiction book than a text book. Author Kean uses his backgrounds in both science and journalism to create a unique book that tackles the complex nature of the brain without being bogged down with jargon.
I highly recommend The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons to anyone who’s had a slump of nonfiction. They can be fun and this one is proof!
5/5 brains 🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠
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