1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good in parts, but . . .,
This review is from: The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (SCIENCE MASTERS) (Paperback)
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.