If you haven't been following my book reviews over the past year, you might not know that Sam Kean is one of my favorite science writers. In fact, he is THE writer who got me- a punk rock, writing teacher, fiction author, terrified of the word 'science' person- interested in science in the first place (Radiolab had something to do with it as well...).
If you've read my reviews of The Disappearing Spoon or The Violinist's Thumb, then it shouldn't come as a surprise that I had Kean's The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons on pre-order from the moment I first became aware that it was going to be on the scene. And let me tell you, this book does not disappoint. In fact, I think Kean has raised the bar on popular science writing with this one (and he had already set the bar pretty high).
With this new tour-de-force, Kean creates a road map of the human brain and guides readers on a journey populated with tales of madness, murder, carnival "freaks," sex, love, royalty, ethnology and bizarre, yet real, neurological diseases that will leave you flabbergasted. (I am still trying to wrap my head around "alien hand" syndrome.) Kean also brings mind-boggling questions to light about, well, the mind. He explores the links between the body and the brain, the soul and consciousness and what this means about our identity and how we perceive ourselves. In short, as with all of Kean's works, it is science meets art meets history meets humanity.
It is a masterpiece. And I would have expected nothing less.