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The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (SCIENCE MASTERS)
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
After reading other books in the Science Masters series by such brilliant authors as Richard Dawkins, and having heard all the hype about Susan Greenfield, I was expecting a lot from this book, and was frankly disappointed to discover that it covered almost exactly the same information, in the same style, as any GCSE level biology text book. There was no mention of Greenfield's current work, nor anything even remotely controversial or cutting-edge - virtually everything in this book has been widely known since the 1960's or before. Potential readers should be clear that while this book would make an acceptable introduction to the brain for novice readers, it never goes beyond the basics and has nothing whatsoever to offer people with pre-existing knowledge of the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
I ordered this book and it arrived today. I was looking forward to learning about the areas of the brain and what their functions are. The blurb on the back says "What would you see if you removed the skull from the human brain and then slowly worked your way deeper and deeper inside...?"

Indeed, I was very excited about what I would SEE. I shouldn't have got my hopes up. Apart from a few drawn diagrams (none of which labelling different areas of the brain), there are no visual aids in this book; it's all text. How can the book be a "guided tour" without illustrations? The book discusses Broca's Area but it's left up to the reader's imagination to wildly speculate where it sits in the brain. (Or perhaps the elbow, or buttocks - who knows?)

The text is interesting and thorough, but the lack of diagrams is such a disappointment, and it also seems like the book is deceitful in implying it would teach reader's about the different areas of the brain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 1999
Before now it has never occurred to me that I should read a book about the human brain. Susan Greenfield's guided tour has given me an awe inspired interest that has led me to purchase more books around this subject area. Her style is in the main easy to follow and while I may stumble over some of the technical medical terms I am nonetheless amazed at how wondrous the brain actually is. This book has given me more then information it has provided me with ideas to take into business....
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2001
A lot of useful information here for the non-scientist, and a cracking reference book for the cover price. Susan Greenfield explains the depth in five chapters, covering a different topic in each, including what happens when the brain can go wrong (e.g. disease). Probably nothing here a brain surgeon wouldn't already know, but great for the general public
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2003
Susan Greenfield presents this complex and highly technical area of the human biology in an easy to grasp manner, but at the same time maintaining the depth and the details. She impressively manages to captivate the readers in the intricacies of the functioning of the brain, and while maintaining the perspective at a level that is understood by a non-scientist readership.
As someone from an engineering/mathematical background, but with an interest in biology, I find this book a deeply satisfying and fascinating revelation of the basics of human brain, and an exciting peeping-hole to the way our mind works. In particular, I find her analysis very objective and scientific, which is particularly helpful when dealing with the sensitive area like the human mind, which could potentially be a breeding ground for one's own personal prejudices and believes.
Recommended to anyone who is interested in the subject in a non-technical, yet a scientific perspective.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2000
All of C Bickerstaff's comments. However, as a poorly educated layman thirsting for knowledge I do realise that the eyes are the most inportant means of input to the brain. The book is massively short of diagrams to supplement the words. A book that gets over this difficulty, for example, is 'The End of Time' by Julian Barbour, chapter 5, or almost any Richard Faynman book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2000
This is a really good way to get into the main mysteries surrounding the brain. Its such a complicated organ that this book could never cover it all in detail. Instead it introduces things in a relatively simple way, providing a good starting point to go off and read further from people like Steven Pinker.
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on 12 August 2013
I found each chapter covered something new and interesting about an area or aspect of the brain that many people are curious about. Written in an easy yet scientific style, it was a great way to get me used to the language of the brain. I would recommend to anyone even slightly interested in the brain/neuroscience, as it is the best introductory book I've read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2012
Originally I read this book back in the late 90s, shortly after it had been published and not long after I had been to a public talk by Susan Greenfield on the same subject.
Upon recently rereading the book, I felt that it is good in parts, but also weak in others.
Clearly, given her academic position, then Susan Greenfield knows a lot about the brain (although much of her assumed knowledge is absent from this book); but the book is only intended as a guided tour as stated in the title.
The question is: tour for whom? The book is not a text book and falls into that increasingly sizeable genre of popular science; however, to really be able to follow much of what the author is describing, the reader would benefit from some grounding in the basic anotomical structure of the central nervous system (CNS: brain and spinal cord), since otherwise, I suspect a novice reader would be somewhat lost as to the position and role of the number of varied nuclei of the brain and their varoius connections and roles.
Another comment suggests that this book offers nothing in addition to basic GCSE Biology; I should have to disagree or question whether the commentator has actually looked at a GSCE Biology text book recently. Treatment of the brain in GCSE tends to be somewhat simplistic and certainly does not delve down to the depths covered by Greenfield; particularly, when one looks at Chapter 5 'With Mind in Mind', which tends to read very differently to the rest of the book. This is problematic, since Chapter 5 does not flow very well and as someone else commented appears to be a set of lecture notes strung together; rather than prose written specifically on the topic.
Some comments on this site have picked up on the etymology mistakes and I agree that these are frustrating and sadly all too common in many popular science books; one is left wondering whether the author is simply lazy or actually ignorant, since Latin and Greek have long been removed from the necessary requirement of undergraduate science students as they were in the more distant past. My suspicions are that even some top university professors tend to simply repeat what they may have read in another work, whose original comments were wrong or inaccurate.
As for the substance of the book, I enjoyed it overall and particularly through to the end of chapter 4; but thereafter, for the reasons mentioned above, I think it was poorly written, although the idea of the chapter was perfectly sound and potentially interesting.
The book is of course a little dated in 2012, which is not a criticism, since much of the material is still current and one should judge it for the time when the author wrote it back in the mid-90s. However, it is not a classic. There are many other books that have come along since which deal with the same subject more clearly, since apart from the prose issues, the book is horrendeously short on diagrams (as mentioned by another commentator). This is not to say the book is not worth reading, but probably as a complementary work to anyone studying the brain and its functions as part of a more detailed course of study. For anyone, wanting a more up to date pictorially based explanation of the brain and its fuctions, I should recommend The Brain Book by Rita Carter which is published by Dorling Kindersley and provides a rich description of the anatomy and physiology of the brain, as well as a summary of some of the brains major disorders. After digesting The Brain Book, Greenfield's book would probably be easier to read and make more sense to a novice.
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on 4 December 2013
I loved this book. I read it so quickly as it was written in a style that non academics like myself could read. I started this book having no knowledge of the different areas of the brain and their functions but I am now confident in many different regions and what they control.
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