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There are some very interesting concepts broached is this book in an approachable style. Coming from a science background, I thought Holmes blurred the line between science writing and opinion piece so it was at times unclear what came from research and what from anecdotes.
On a slightly different note, the majority of the research talked about comes from studies of lab mice and rats. If you are uncomfortable hearing how scientists deliberately bred mice who are highly anxious all the time or about the probes they have inserted in their brains for experiments, I would recommend you find something else!
The book is written in the first person and describes the author's journey to interview scientists working in the field. I'm not a great fan of that style and felt that the result was very heavy on the author's opinion and personal anecdotes and not that heavy on science. Worse, at times it is unclear where one ends and the other begins. Having said that, her encounters with many of the big names of our time and exploration of these people's laboratories is absolutely fascinating and makes the whole book worth while. The author also shines when it comes to explaining complex concepts in layman' terms. If you think you won't enjoy it because it's about psychology and neuroscience, then absolutely do not worry: I promise that you will. If you have a scientific background you might do so less, but then I don't think you're the target audience.
The annoying style is the author's technique of jumping into first person, and adding commentary related to her personal experience in obtaining data, interviews, etc. Its sort of a cross between a laboratory journal, a scientific paper abstract, and a freshman girl's personal journal detailing her first year in college. Some may find it endearing, I find it annoying, and distracting. I question how much of this book is accepted science on brain physical/chemical effect on personality, and how much is conjecture.
My listening experience went from mildly annoyed/somewhat interested, to highly frustrated in the few sections where the author attempts to explain political differences on brain characteristics. One example; due to the intensity of the amigdala firing at various picture stimuli, liberals value equality, and conservatives value justice and a clear chain of command. While there is some sideways truth to this, it is clear the author has only a "conventional thinking" understanding of political philosophy. I might ask her how more government control of distribution reflects the liberal view of "equality". That conclusion necessarily derives from the idea that some are more unequal than others, and only a powerful central government can fix the inequality, viola... equality. As for the "conservative" penchant for a strong chain of command, I would like to know who the author finds most enamored with the likes of Mao Sze Tong, and the wonderful tenets of the former soviet union (conservatives or liberals??). Your answer is also the group that prefers the iron fist in a velvet glove, or strong chain of command. The bottom line is that one side values individual liberty, and the other values government control. Now, what does the amigdala say about which is which?
The armature political analysis, and personal journal style aside, I found most of the study details and analysis interesting. The tie-in's to evolutionary development are thought provoking.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I only got an hour into this book before I had to move onto something else. Whether it was the tone of the written word, or the narrator, I felt over and over again as though I was being spoken to as if I were a child. This made it quite annoying, and before long, the annoyance grew to be greater than what could have been interesting content. It's unfortunate, because it is a topic that interests me.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful