Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Three Pound Enigma

Science books can be a crapshoot.  Sometimes, the prose is crisp and clear, and the author's complete grasp of the topic is even clearer.  Other times, the author is intimately familiar with the topic, but less so with sentence structure and pacing.  When I read the jacket to The Three Pound Enigma and discovered that Shannon Moffett was a medical student when her book was published, I was afraid I'd stumbled onto the latter.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  Dr. Moffett is a brilliant writer, and smart enough to start out her book with a profile of Dr. Roberta Glick, a professor of neurosurgery and nothing short of a force of nature.  She's one of the first women to make her name in neurosurgery and as an established expert in the field, mixes her technical skill and knowledge with a sense of spirituality and a fascinating personality.  This is the chapter in which Moffett lays the basic, physiological groundwork for her book and without Dr. Glick, she wouldn't have had the same hook.

Moffett explores both the "how" and the "what" of the brain - the mechanics of neuroimaging and what it tells us about how we thinks; the roots of multiple personalities and the effect on the patient; the mechanics and the ethics of neuromarketing.  Even the potentially dry chapters, like the one discussing the intersection of science and philosophy, were crisp and enjoyable.  The Three Pound Enigma belongs to the upper echelon of science books - equally enjoyable to the layman and the scientist.

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