Beilock, Sian. How the Body Knows Its Mind: The Surprising Power of the Physical Environment To Influence How You Think and Feel. Atria. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781451626681. $26. COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
Let’s agree that mind and body interact with all the power and bounce of billiard balls cue-sticked by a championship player and ask what’s taking the hits when. A proponent of embodied cognition, University of Chicago psychologist Beilock argues that our bodies and our environment shape how we think, feel, and behave. Children learn better when their entire bodies are involved, for instance, and pacing around the office has helped some of the ideas in this column really pop. Food for, dare I say, thought.
Doidge, Norman, M.D. The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. Viking. Jan. 2015. 432 ISBN 9780670025503. $29.95. PSYCHOLOGY
In his New York Times best-selling The Brain That Changes Itself (it’s sold more than 450,000 copies to date), Doidge explained the revolutionary new concept of neuroplasticity, which posits that the brain can change its structure and function in response to mental experiences. Here he takes us on further adventures into neuroplasticity, showing how light, sound, and vibration can flow into the brain noninvasively and promote healing, whether from stroke, accident, cerebral palsy, and more. Science in the world; with an eight-city tour.
Greenfield, Susan. Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains. Random. Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780812993820. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812993837. COGNITIVE SCIENCE
A distinguished Oxford neuroscientist and best-selling author (e.g., The Private Life of the Brain), Greenfield also sits in the House of Lords as baroness and controversially exchanges barbs with the likes of Richard Dawkins. Here, she keeps up the controversy by arguing that our pervasive attachment to the computer screen can’t help but impact our brains (as the environment always has) and that the consequences can be troubling. Learning, remembering, and communicating have all been affected, with short-term memory winning out over linear, immersive thought; Greenfield even includes charts showing how our thought patterns have changed and how “fast-food” social media take over the brain’s dopamine mechanism and effectively addict us. A great discussion book.
Karpf, Anne. How To Age. Picador. Jan. 2015. 224p. ISBN 9781250058980. pap. $16. ebk. ISBN 9781250058997. SELP-HELP
Part of Picador’s ambitious new “School of Life” series, this book by journalist and medical sociologist Karpf shows that our attitudes about aging are culturally determined—and our culture certainly hate aging. Her argument: we need to rewrite the script, recognizing aging as a rich opportunity instead of a challenge to do more squat thrusts and buy a desperately youthful wardrobe.
Linden, David J. Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind. Viking. Jan. 2015. ISBN 9780670014873. $28.95. PSYCHOLOGY
As it moves from skin to nerves to brain, we really do find physical touch touching; it powerfully affects our emotions as it shapes how we develop individually and how we bond with others. Pain and healing, the things we buy and the joy of sex—all show the physical impacting the emotional. From a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins and a New York Times best-selling author (e.g., The Compass of Pleasure).
McQuaid, John. Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat. Scribner. Jan. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781451685008. $26. COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
To live we must eat, and to eat we need the sense of taste—not just a moment on the lips but an experience that triggers significant mind-body interactions. Science journalist McQuaid explains how genes affect our taste, how the mind draws from all five sense when determining that sugar is sweet, and why things that taste good to some folks gross out others. He also looks to the future, showing how our sense of taste will evolve even as we continue to define and study this concept. Not just for foodies.
Morin, Amy. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Morrow. Jan. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780062358295. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062358318. CD: HarperAudio. SELF-HELP
Once upon a time, clinical social worker and psychotherapist Morin’s post about how to be mentally strong went flagrantly viral. It was picked up by Forbes.com to become its biggest yet, receiving over eight million page views in seven weeks and still grabbing thousands of views each day. Now she’s expanded her post into a book that has a 100,000-copy first printing. Hints
on mental strength: avoid the negative attitudes like dwelling on the past.
Young, Damon. How To Think About Exercise. Picador. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9781250059048. pap. $16. SELF-HELP
Not your standard exercise guru (he’s an honorary fellow in philosophy at the University of Melbourne and the author books like Voltaire’s Vine and Other Philosophies), Young dismisses Cartesian dualism, arguing that exercise develops the mind and body as one, improving them both. Part of Picador’s “School of Life” series (like Anne Karpf’s How To Age, above).