Forthcoming popular science books broaden our understanding of the human mind, touching on its evolution over time, its development from conception to birth, and on the meaning of consciousness.

The Book of Minds

Philip Ball. Univ. of Chicago, July

Ball, a former editor at Nature, attempts to conceptualize the makeup of minds truly alien to our own, including those of plants, robots, and fungi. He provides a definition of what it means to have a mind (it’s all about an entity’s particular experience of being itself), and in doing so, illuminates much of what makes human minds unique

How the Mind Changed

Joseph Jebelli. Little, Brown Spark, July

In his first book, In Pursuit of Memory, neuroscientist Jebelli chronicled the history of Alzheimer’s disease. Here, he turns his attention to the evolution of the human brain, from its primate origins to its contemporary iteration. Tracing the emergence of complex brain functions such as language and consciousness, Jebelli uses his scientific insight to ponder the future paths the human brain might take.

Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness

Patrick House. St. Martin’s, Oct.

In order to answer the age-old question of what exactly human consciousness is, neuroscientist House offers 19 explanations for a surgery documented in a 1998 Nature article, in which an alert patient’s brain was prodded with an electrode that changed her behavior and, potentially, her consciousness. House parses the surgery in myriad ways, including allegory (for instance, likening the evolution of consciousness to pinball), and considers what researchers have gleaned from the minds of learning robots.

Two Heads

Uta Frith, Chris Frith, and Alex Frith, illus. by Daniel Locke. Scribner, Apr.

Cognitive scientists Uta and Chris Frith collaborate with their son, children’s book author Alex, and illustrator Daniel Locke on a graphic work that uses the scientists’ careers to survey key developments in psychology, neuroscience, and social cognition (or how humans process information and behave in relation to other groups of humans). PW’s review said “the work overall has the feeling of being invited to dinner with a friend’s eccentric genius parents.”


Zero to Birth

William Harris, Princeton Univ., May

Drawing on decades of research, Harris, a neurobiologist and professor emeritus of anatomy at the University of Cambridge, chronicles the breakthroughs that inform current understanding of how the human brain grows in utero, as well as its postnatal development. In addition to tracing the crucial period of brain development from conception to birth, Harris also delves into how animal studies have been vital to mapping the human mind.

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