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Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Human Mind: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind [Hardcover]

Daniel Tammet
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Jan 2009

Owner of "the most remarkable mind on the planet," (according to the US's Entertainment Weekly) Daniel Tammet captivated readers and won worldwide critical acclaim with the 2006 Sunday Times bestselling memoir, Born On A Blue Day, and its vivid depiction of a life with autistic savant syndrome. In his fascinating new book, he writes with characteristic clarity and personal awareness as he sheds light on the mysteries of savants' incredible mental abilities, and our own.

Tammet explains that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated; his astonishing capacities in memory, math and language are neither due to a cerebral supercomputer nor any genetic quirk, but are rather the results of a highly rich and complex associative form of thinking and imagination. Autistic thought, he argues, is an extreme variation of a kind that we all do, from daydreaming to the use of puns and metaphors.

Embracing the Wide Sky combines meticulous scientific research with Tammet's detailed descriptions of how his mind works to demonstrate the immense potential within us all. He explains how our natural intuitions can help us to learn a foreign language, why his memories are like symphonies, and what numbers and giraffes have in common. We also discover why there is more to intelligence than IQ, how optical illusions fool our brains, and why too much information can make you dumb.

Many readers will be particularly intrigued by Tammet's original ideas concerning the genesis of genius and exceptional creativity. He illustrates his arguments with examples as diverse as the private languages of twins, the compositions of poets with autism, and the breakthroughs, and breakdowns, of some of history's greatest minds.

Embracing the Wide Sky is a unique and brilliantly imaginative portrait of how we think, learn, remember and create, brimming with personal insights and anecdotes, and explanations of the most up-to-date, mind-bending discoveries from fields ranging from neuroscience to psychology and linguistics. This is a profound and provocative book that will transform our understanding and respect for every kind of mind.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (22 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340961325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340961322
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Tammet was born in a working-class suburb of London, England, on 31 January 1979, the eldest of nine children. His mother had worked as a secretarial assistant; his father was employed at a sheet metal factory. Both became full-time parents.

Despite early childhood epileptic seizures and atypical behaviour, Tammet received a standard education at local schools. His learning was enriched by an early passion for reading. He won the town's 'Eager Reader' prize at the age of eleven. At secondary school he was twice named Student of the Year. He matriculated in 1995 and completed his Advanced level studies (in French, German, and History) two years later.

In 1998 Tammet took up a volunteer English teaching post in Kaunas, Lithuania, returning to London the following year. In 2002 he launched the online language learning company Optimnem. It was named a member of the UK's 'National Grid for Learning' in 2006.

In 2004, Tammet was finally able to put a name to his difference when he was diagnosed with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre.

The same year, on March 14, Tammet came to public attention when he recited the mathematical constant Pi (3.141...) from memory to 22,514 decimal places in 5 hours, 9 minutes, without error. The recitation, at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, set a European record.

Tammet began writing in 2005. His first book, Born On A Blue Day, subtitled 'A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind', was first published in the UK in 2006 and became a Sunday Times bestseller. The US edition, published in 2007, spent 8 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2008, the American Library Association named it a 'Best Book for Young Adults'. It was also a Booklist Editors' Choice. It has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2009, Tammet published Embracing the Wide Sky, a personal survey of current neuroscience. The French edition (co-translated by Tammet himself) became one of the country's best-selling non-fiction books of the year. It also appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, Canada, and Germany, and has been translated into numerous languages.

Thinking in Numbers, Tammet's first collection of essays, is published in August 2012.

In 2008 Tammet emigrated to France. He lives in Paris.

Product Description


Entertaining and informative about an impressive range of subjects . . . EMBRACING THE WIDE SKY is fun and inspirational (FT Weekend)

Packed with his clear summaries of fascinating experiments . . . Recent debate has bumped up this book from delightful to vital (Daily Telegraph)

What's remarkable is that Tammet's many wanderings always seem measured and logical. . . truly fascinating. (Guardian)

The book is full of information such as this, packed with his [Tammet's] clear summaries of fascinating experiments. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Far from a one-dimensional prodigy, his is a rich multi-textured intelligence. A beautiful mind. (Scotsman Magazine)

Book Description

A beautifully written and brilliant portrait of the human mind and the extraordinary potential within every one of us, by real-life Rain-Man and bestselling author of Born On A Blue Day - Daniel Tammet.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but tails off badly 5 Oct 2009
I really enjoyed Born on a Blue Day and the first few chapters of this book continue in the same vein: a charming and fascinating tour around the brain and its workings, this time looking at "normal" brains as much as Daniel's own, and expanding to include other writers' and scientist's views as well as Daniel's experiences. I have seen a lot of the content elsewhere and in places this book did seem to take claims at face value rather than critically evaluating them if they fitted with the author's world view.

The writing is straightforward and functional rather than inspired, but by no means dull or clunky. The concept of using autistic experiences to better understand non-autistic minds works well and there are some interesting ideas presenting in a simple and accessible pop-sci way.

Where it all started to fall apart for me was around Chapter 8 where the focus moved beyond the brain and started to look at wider social issues. In this section complex issues were addressed from a surprisingly elitist, simplistic and close-minded perspective which made for an irritating and uncomfortable read and ultimately spoiled a decent book. I've never enjoyed being told what to think, particularly where the basis is a gross over-simplification of a complex issue. To usefully understand our shades-of-grey world you need both intelligence, and the ability to tolerate ambuguity, and I think the latter is what is missing from this book and costs it a star or two.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A book about the mind will inevitably cover ideas you have seen elsewhere - don't think that because this book is written by someone on the autistic spectrum you will find it completely weird. And that's the point - Daniel Tammet comes across as interesting, facinated in the world around him and having a far better understanding of autism than the those who have built their careers on the subject.

A particularly illuminating moment for me came with a comment about a study into children with autistic-spectrum disorder, comparing their creativity with a control group. One question was "how would you make this toy more fun?" - the control group did better than the kids with ASD. But as Tammet explains, for someone who sees detail before they see broader issues (and as Tammet says of himself, someone who sees the scratches on the table before they see the table), this is such a sloppily-worded question that it's incredibly difficult to answer. What kind of fun? Fun for whom? When?

Understanding this, and taking savant skills out of the realm of the superhuman & into the real world, is one of the book's key strengths. The principal weakness is that Tammet isn't an incredibly engaging writer and can come across as a bit stiff and stilted at times - but this is in the nature of his brain, so it would be a bit foolish to expect otherwise and considered in this context he writes with great skill. The book challenges preconceptions about autism without being judgmental or confrontational, and has left me thinking quite a bit about the nature of the brain. Well worth the purchase.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but unoriginal 19 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the second book from Daniel Tammet after his superb memoir `Born on a Blue Day' and whilst it is quite good, it is also lacking a certain something. Don't get me wrong, I found this interesting to read and it had some insightful moments in it, but it is decidedly unoriginal. In fact there is a huge overlap of information with another book I have read recently (`Bounce' By Matthew Syed) which was about sports achievement and excellence. This looks at our brains and how it functions and the outstanding feats it is capable of. The only problem is is that I have previously read virtually all of this information in other books about the brain. However, this is well written, although less intimate than his memoir and offers a unique insight into Daniels savant syndrome. This covers topics such as basic neuroscience, IQ tests, memory, language, number sense, creativity, perception, information in society, the benefits of thinking mathematically and the future of the human mind with insight into injury treatment and linking our minds with technology. There are some diagrams littered throughout to illustrate various points raised which help to clarify. If you haven't read any books about the brain then this will be deeply fascinating and engaging, but if, like me, you have already done some rudimentary reading on the nature and working of the brain then this book will feel slightly anticlimactic and a disappointment. Overall, this is an interesting introduction to our brain, but only for those who are new to the topic.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Embracing a singular point of view 1 Nov 2012
It was the poem by Emily Dickinson quoted in the introduction that drew me to this book, which begins 'The brain is wider than the sky.' It was a poem familiar to me, and one which provides a springboard for endless reflection. The intro and the first few chapters were interesting and illuminating, but then Mr Tammet leaves the personal and begins to offer digests of material from other books, most of which is quite well-known, and most of which he offers in a dry pedestrian fashion. However, there's another pretty wise quote, this time from Anais Nin: 'We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.' And of course Mr Tammet proceeds to show that the way he sees things is the best way, offering 'proof' that fits his views. For example, he rightly decries reasoning by way of a false analogy, then later compares the chances of winning the lottery and being struck by lightning. There is probably a greater chance of being struck than striking it rich, but these are two completely unrelated events, which should not be compared. The advice to less well-off people to invest their weekly bets in a savings account is likely to be ignored, since gambling is fun and savings isn't - look at the telly on Saturday night! What I'd like to know is the chances of being struck by lightning at the exact moment of a lottery win...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant .
I love these books by Daniel Tammett, written about himself, by him, rather than by someone else . I have bought extra copies, because it's so difficult to describe to someone else... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Seaweedgirl1
1.0 out of 5 stars Pseudointellectual and boring
Despite the author's impressive memory, the parts of the book on mnemonic theory are exceedingly poorly researched and dull. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Zero
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome view into new ways to look at numbers
Interesting book for all the mathematicians out there, the author describes how he sees numbers in different perspectives and assigns smells, shapes and colors to them in order to... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bruno
4.0 out of 5 stars Embracing the Wide Sky
I bought this book for myslef as I have been reading a lot of books about Aspergers or books written by people with Aspergers. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jill Hardcastle
5.0 out of 5 stars Embracing the Wide Sky
An excellent and informative book, recommended to all interested in this subject. Arrived promptly and in great condition. Great price too!
Published 23 months ago by Mr. Adnan Al-mahrouq
2.0 out of 5 stars copycat sevant
I read this book a while ago and thought it was rather vague .just read'Moonwalking with Einstein'and realised why. Read more
Published on 19 Oct 2011 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique insight into intelligence
I view books about 'geniuses' with jaded suspicion. They either seem to be trite how-to manuals for 'awakening your own genius', or sycophantic biographies about particular... Read more
Published on 10 July 2011 by regodibay
3.0 out of 5 stars ok if your into language
found his writing hard going book did not flow as well as his first. But I like him very much
Published on 26 Jun 2011 by angel yildiz
5.0 out of 5 stars New ways of thinking
Daniel, has done us the honour of letting us into his world, and showing us that there are a plethora of ways of percieving the world we live in. Read more
Published on 15 Oct 2010 by Linda Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but unoriginal
This is the second book from Daniel Tammet after his superb memoir `Born on a Blue Day' and whilst it is quite good, it is also lacking a certain something. Read more
Published on 19 Jun 2010 by Spider Monkey
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