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Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology [Paperback]

Paul Broks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 May 2004
Paul Broks draws on his long experience as a neuropsychologist to create a unique mosaic of neurological tales, metaphysical parables and autobiographical reflections. Interspersing real life stories with speculative fictions, Into the Silent Land describes ordinary people whose extraordinary situations have much to teach us about chance, compassion and human resilience in the face of adversity. It is a book that penetrates the reader's imagination and lingers in the memory long after the final page.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; New edition edition (13 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843540347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843540342
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Like some aberrant surgeon, neuropsychologist Paul Broks' debut book, Into the Silent Land peels apart the skull and declines to cauterise. We are plunged straight into the macabre world that Broks inhabits--an infernal and tragic look at people with bits of their brains missing. We meet Michael and Stuart, textbook cases of equal and opposite brain wreckage; Jeanie, who believes herself already dead and Robert's tumour that "reset his personality dials". But this is no travelling freak show. Broks is careful and gentle with his subjects, recognising the humanity in each, which turns Into the Silent Land into a rare work of compelling, cerebral genius.

Broks is as much a part of this book as any of his patients. He turns the glare of his analysis on himself as intensely as he does on any of his other "characters", revealing his own deepest concerns. He also includes professional anecdotes and other interesting phenomena that will be familiar to students of consciousness--phantom limbs, out-of-body experiences, ghosts, emotional response and the social instinct.

He goes on to explore his doubts as to whether neuropsychology can truly attain its stated aim of understanding consciousness. But despite his deft touch and elegant, sparse style, toward the end he begins to leap fretfully from subject to subject before coming to an abrupt end. Nevertheless Into the Silent Land is as unsettling, mentally engaging and unusual a book as you are likely to read for some time. --Dan Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A beautifully written addition to brain literature… will mesmerise anyone curious about the mass of goo inside our heads' -- John O’Connell, Time Out Book of the Week

'Full of wonders and unsettling new perspectives' -- Independent on Sunday

'Reads as light as a souffle, yet has the resonant depth to haunt you for the rest of your days' -- John McCrone, Guardian

'Rich with disturbing images, eerie characters, wistful philosophical reflection… in terms of sheer prose ability he is a modern master' -- Andrew Marr, Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This is a very intriguing book with a surprisingly wistful and poignant tone. Paul Broks wanders between authorial voices, sometimes he is a clinician describing symptoms, sometimes a man relaying his dreams or furnishing us with examples from his personal life, sometimes a writer of short fictional interludes that explore his theme - yet he always returns to his central question - what is the difference between meat and mind? Is there even such a thing as a mind, or a soul in the midst of all those neurons? Whilst Broks takes the scientific view that it is all explainable meat, his own ego and personality continually seeps out to challenge that pure material view. This conflict between what science thinks it knows about brains and consciousness and how we, as brain users, actually experience consciousness, is at the heart of the book.
Whilst I'm not sure that I always agree with his views, it was refreshing to read a scientific book that explores more than the impersonal third person view. The personal and poetic tone of the book worked well for me, although I found that I also wanted more facts and more resolution. But perhaps that is Brok's point, in the search for the elusive human mind perhaps there can be no true resolution - perhaps, like mystical enlightenment, the experience of being conscious can only really be hinted at and alluded to rather than explained.
This is a book that leaves you with a lot of questions. It left me pondering these questions deeply and eagre to think more about them and it's a book I intend to reread. If you are looking for a straightforward exploration of the current state of knowledge about human consciousness then look elsewhere, but if you are interested in a poetic, poignant philosophical meditation on the mind, then this book is a winner.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a modern classic 11 July 2003
By A Customer
Science books written by good writers are rare. Broks, a working neuropsychologist, presents a compelling account of the human brain. His style is poetic, assured and remarkably humble. The cases (phantom limbs, living ghosts, damaged and diseased minds) are expressed with elegance and dignity. There is no sense of spectacle, but rather of insight and speculation into what it means to be human and how our brains support the delicate phenomenon of consciousness. Modern and accessible. This book is set to be a classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A student's view 19 Oct 2005
As a student at the UOP and thus a student of Paul Broks, I was intrigued to discover what interests Dr. Broks. His lectures in clinical psycholgy are consistently informative and very interesting/intriguing, showing a passionate insight in the realm of clinical psycholgy.
So to the book....having heard some of these stories in lectures it was great to know that I must have been paying attention!! This book provides such a fascinating insight into the minds of people, their behaviours and problems.
Dr. Broks, in my opinion, is a truly brilliant individual whose work should be viewed by those interested in a career in clinical/nueropsychology and even by those who are just fascinated by human behaviour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, highly recommended 4 Sep 2004
By A Customer
Absorbing, Insightful, Intelligent but easy reading... a must for any psychology student. Presents the philosophical aspects for the consciousness phenomena from a neuropsychological standpoint
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, disturbing and emotional 7 Oct 2003
If you look into a brain, can you find the soul?
Whilst Paul Broks leaps between case studies, philosophical thoughts and imaginary scenarios, the one thread running through this beguiling, and sometimes upsetting book, is the search for the "self".
This search stops and starts, and often one feels that Broks is trying to impress the reader by making their reading just a little more difficult than it needs to be. Wonderful little stories such as the effects of a butterfly ganglia on a patient are disrupted by technical details that, whilst educational, ensure that the book cannot be read in just a couple of sittings.
And maybe that's the point. Woven into the stories and dialogues are ideas that rarely see the light of day, and make you question your common-sense ideas of the person and the self. These moments need reflection, not continued reading.
For all it's tongue-tied moments, though, Into The Silent Land has a breathtaking two chapter finale that will upset some and enchant others. Only when we are faced with our death do we ever question whether our lives really matter. The two takes, that of a malfunctioning time machine, and the personal, touching tale of Broks' wife's breast cancer, leave us hanging over a pit of uncertainty. And that's how it needs to be : philosophy is very much alive and well, and there is still an awful lot to think about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. 6 Jan 2014
By Marc
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book made me laugh and cry; its both fascinating and frightening. It carrys you forward through the narrative eager to see more of Paul's amazing 'files'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 29 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good mix of clinical experience and stories with some existential wonderings to keep you thinking outside the box. Enjoyed thouroughly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 16 April 2013
By Vikki
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this as it's recommended by my bio-psychology teacher (I'm a 2nd yr undergrad). I'd say this book is perfect for anybody trying to understand or wants to know more about the effects of brain damage and in turn how easilly interlinked and losable our self is. Not so great for understand and working out the different parts of the brain for exam revision, but an enjoyable read with some good explanations of what different brain structures do.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
If you haven't read it, you really should. Your mind will be blown in a long lasting, scientific and existential fashion. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Deborah Pearson
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing beats Oliver Sacks
The book has its inspired moments, but no book can beat Oliver Sacks or Luria so far. Having read the enthusiastic reviews, I set the standards really high and was a tad... Read more
Published on 20 Nov 2011 by Ola
3.0 out of 5 stars every theory is a reduction of an intuition...
Mr. Broks' book is something of a curate's egg; the case studies are intriguing and beautifully observed, but his philosophical meanderings are less acute. Read more
Published on 24 Aug 2010 by Schopenhauer’s ghost
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberation or cause for concern?
I am lucky enough to receive lectures from Broks at the University of Plymouth. Broks has created a very thoughtful and mind twisting reflection on consiousness, what it is... Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2010 by Affinity
3.0 out of 5 stars Sort of Ok
Given the rave reviews, I thought this book was a bit of a letdown. It just came across as a series of narcissistic meanderings. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2009 by madaboutbooks
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was really very disappointed by what I thought would be an interesting and sharp insight into neuropsychology but what actually turned out to be an attempt at philosophical... Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2008 by L. Dean
3.0 out of 5 stars pseudo-philosophy but decent neurology.
In this book Brok castigates neurology books that have a bent towards morbid curiosity. he skirts the issue, yes, but essentially says that they rely more on the human curiosity of... Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2008 by D. T. Brunetti
5.0 out of 5 stars Even *I* could understand it!
This is a truly wonderful, moving, thought-provoking insight into the human mind than even I, having NO knowledge of, well, anything really, could understand. Utterly beautiful.
Published on 23 Sep 2006 by T. Hennessy
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Silent Land
This book has altered my perception of everything. Paul Brok has gently dessembled all sense of the self that we have clung to unwittingly. Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2005 by Attained Nun
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