cover image Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties

Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties

Patricia Marx. Hachette/Twelve, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5495-9

New Yorker staff writer Marx (Starting from Happy) chronicles her four-month-long quest to improve her memory and re-up her IQ to where it was in the glory days of her 20s. Employing candor and wit, she tackles the science and sociology of the brain fitness rage and delivers suggestions and solutions for stemming widespread neurological downslide. Marx test-drives brain exercises, electric zapping, and learning a new language (Cherokee in her case), and throws in some blueberries and fish oil pills for good measure. She also debunks faulty findings. For example, alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells, she writes. In fact, according to a study from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, 29% of people who never drank suffered mental impairment, while only 19% of the imbibers did. She blames the information age for overstuffing people’s brains with information. Marx includes quizzes, tests, and teasers to improve readers’ memories, aiming them at her fellow baby boomers who fear dementia more than death. She also provides lists of things to forget, including inconsequential presidents, wars, and Shakespeare plays. Reflecting on her overall experience, she writes, “I spent so much trying to improve my brain that I had no time to use it,” but her work belies that statement. Marx has written a hilarious and comforting book on maintaining mental acumen at any age. (July)