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the new brain

Book Review of: The New Brain

We highly recommend The New Brain

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Review of The New Brain, by Richard Restak, M.D. (best-selling author of Mozart's Brain and The Fighter Pilot).

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, Mensa member, principal of, and author of over 4500 articles.

Why are attention spans shorter, these days? Take a trip to the library, and look at magazine articles from a decade ago. Why are they twice as long as today’s articles? Why is it "people don't read?" Or listen? Or, as we are increasingly hearing, think? The answers to these and other important questions regarding a fundamental shift in the way people process information and respond to it are in The New Brain.

The trends toward shorter attention spans, instant gratification, and "dumbing down" have been the subjects of one guru after another. Yet, the discussions have been largely opinion and open to debate. Until now.

Restak settles the questions and removes all doubts by using modern medical imaging technology to literal look into the working, living brain itself. From the studies he cites and the explanations he provides, we can clearly see that the brain "of modern man" is rewiring itself to adapt to television and other rapid-fire, image-intense media. Restak pushes the subject further, to show that this adaptation is not without its costs. For example, brains rewired to adapt to these unbalanced inputs lose their ability to work in the abstract. This ability is important for invention, creation, conversation, imagination, and even good love-making - things that make us human.

While the book is fascinating in its own right, the information is worth far more than its value for party chatter. Restak has handed his readers the keys to their own destinies. By understanding the effects of what we watch, see, read, and listen to, we can determine how much of this rewiring goes on. Empowered by the information in The New Brain, the reader can adapt to the new inputs without becoming lost in them. Other books will surely emerge on this topic. Make this one the first in your collection.



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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