Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
A captivating collection of short essays about your brain, in the tradition of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.
“So short and sweet… Outstanding popular science.” —Kirkus [STARRED REVIEW]
Have you ever wondered why you have a brain? Let renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett demystify that big gray blob between your ears.
In seven short essays (plus a bite-sized story about how brains evolved), this slim and accessible collection reveals mind-expanding lessons from the front lines of neuroscience research. You’ll learn where brains came from, how they’re structured (and why it matters), and how yours works in tandem with other brains to create everything you experience. Along the way, you’ll also learn to dismiss popular myths such as the idea of a “lizard brain” and the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or even between nature and nurture, to determine your behavior.
Sure to intrigue casual readers and scientific veterans alike, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain is full of surprises, humor, and important implications for human nature.
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain was written with generous support from a Guggenheim Fellowship and a book grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Excerpt from Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
“Why did a brain like yours evolve? The obvious answer is to think. It’s common to assume that brains evolved in some kind of upward progression — say, from lower animals to higher animals, with the most sophisticated, thinking brain of all, the human brain, at the top. After all, thinking is the human superpower, right?
“Well, the obvious answer turns out to be wrong. In fact, the idea that our brains evolved for thinking has been the source of many profound misconceptions about human nature. Once you give up that cherished belief, you will have taken the first step toward understanding how your brain actually works and what its most important job is — and, ultimately, what kind of creature you really are.”
Praise for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
“Beautiful writing and sublime insights that will blow your mind like a string of firecrackers. If you want a rundown of the brain and its magic, start here.”
—David Eagleman, Stanford neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author of Incognito and Livewired
“Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain reads like a novel—one whose main character is all of us. Read this book! It will make you smarter about yourself, and your species.”
—Leonard Mlodinow, New York Times bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk, Subliminal, and Elastic
“A smart and delightfully breezy look at the things most of us think we know about the brain, but don’t.”
—Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
“Barrett writes with a scientist’s eye and a storyteller’s heart. A must-read for anyone who has a brain.”
—Helen Mayberg, Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai
“Lisa Feldman Barrett is a pioneer in neuroscience and one of today’s most provocative thinkers about the mind. Get ready to have yours blown.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take
“An excellent education in brain science…. Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern who also has appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, clearly knows her neuroscience. However, like in How Emotions Are Made (2017), the author deftly employs metaphor and anecdote to deliver an insightful overview of her favorite subject. […] The narrative is so short and sweet that most readers will continue to the 35-page appendix, in which the author delves more deeply, but with no less clarity, into topics ranging from teleology to the Myers-Briggs personality test to ‘Plato’s writings about the human psyche.’ Outstanding popular science.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“One of the best short, whirlwind introductions to the human brain I’ve ever read. [Lisa Feldman Barrett is] one of the most brilliant and bold thinkers and scientists I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with.”
—Lex Fridman, podcaster and A.I. researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“What about that ‘three-pound blob between your ears’? In seven essays about the brain and a half-size one about its evolution, […] Barrett has crafted a well-written tribute to this wow-inducing organ.”
“[A] must-read science book. Neuroscientist Barrett takes readers on a journey from the first earthly creatures, through the musings of ancient philosophers, and to present-day neuroscience.”
—Discover Magazine, November 2020
“A radical and provocative look at a range of pervasive misconceptions, emerging discoveries, and enticing mysteries regarding our very nature as individuals and intertwined social beings. By illuminating our unimaginably complex, constantly changing brain/body networks, Barrett gets to the heart of the new understanding of who and what we are as creatures, and how much latitude and agency we have.”