The last great frontier is as close to us as it gets: our own brains. Strides in neurological technology are unraveling their mysteries, letting us see how the brain can be changed, often for the better.
A host of new books delve into these mysteries for a trade readership that wants to understand not only how the human mind works generally but “how our own mind works, too,” says Eamon Dolan, editorial director of his eponymous Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint.
What’s emerging as a result is a hybrid of genres. “We’re seeing more of science blending into what used to be self-help, and developing a new category of ‘self-helpful,’ ” says Melanie Tortoroli, editor at Viking.
Such titles explain neuroscience in layman’s terms and also offer tips for brain improvement, using techniques such as focusing exercises, guided meditations, and calming strategies.
This angle is an important component in the latest brain books, according to Denise Oswald, executive editor at Ecco.“In this country, we’re obsessed with remaking ourselves,” she says. The latest technology informing these books lets us “hack into the mind and train the brain.”
Caroline Sutton, editor-in-chief at Avery, sees the trend as having broader social implications. If we can alter our brains through meditation and other practices, Sutton says, “this changes how we treat addiction and people who are incarcerated, and how we bring up our children.”
Below is a list of new and upcoming releases that follow these trends.
Crown, out now
Can hypnosis, meditation, and acupuncture bring us better overall health? This book by the bestselling British science writer, which has sold more than 8,000 print copies since its January release, according to Nielsen BookScan, delves into the latest brain research in an effort to rescue science from pseudoscience.
Into the Magic Shop
James R. Doty
Avery, out now
A neuroscientist describes his experience with neuroplasticity, beginning with the meditation exercises he learned as a boy. Four Buddhist meditations are included.
The Tides of Mind
Norton/Liveright, out now
A computer scientist weighs in on the distinctions between brain and mind, and what it means to think as a human.
Why We Snap
R. Douglas Fields
Dutton, out now
Sometimes we find ourselves powerless over our own rage and other strong negative emotions. As Fields, a neurobiologist, explains it, we’re wired this way—but by understanding the neurological roots of our sometimes violent tendencies, we are capable of changing them.
How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain
Andrew Newburg and Mark Robert Waldman
Neuroscientist Newburg, known for his brain-scan studies of spiritual practitioners, and his cowriter, Waldman, a personal development coach, find that enlightenment activates brain structures that allow us to live more calmly, sanely, and fearlessly.
The Mind Club
Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray
Two psychologists present new research into how we perceive the mind, and why this perception matters in how we view others—and ourselves.
On Being Human
Yale Univ., Mar.
With the goal of giving readers a better understanding of their own minds, the author, a developmental psychologist, explores how social structures affect what we believe we know.
Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
Is expertise dependent on an inherent ability that some are born with? Or can we tap the hidden potential of our brains to become masters of anything? Ericsson, a science writer, and Pool, a psychologist, investigate.
An exploration of the neuroscience of mindfulness and why the practice works from a clinical standpoint, this book keeps one foot firmly in the “self-helpful” camp, with guided meditations.
Hachette Books, Aug.
A neuroscientist blends history, case studies, and new science—some of which he’s had a hand in researching—in an effort to show readers that they don’t have to be slaves to their seemingly unchangeable brains.
Lela Nargi is a Brooklyn journalist who writes about science, parenting, food, and travel.