Author: Jonah Lehrer
Title: Proust Was a Neuroscientist
Publication Info: Brilliance Audio on CD (2008)
Previously read by same author: How We Decide
This book explores the work of eight artists and how their art revealed truths about the human brain that would later be discovered through science. A quick search of Google brings up several reviews that dismiss Lehrer’s work as “popular science” but I think they’re missing the point that readers can learn scientific concepts through an artistic lens. Of course, with my humanities background I’m biased to the idea that the arts have something to offer to scientific study. The artists include Walt Whitman (feeling), George Eliot (malleability of the brain), Auguste Escoffier (taste), Marcel Proust (memory), Paul Cezanne (vision), Igor Stravinsky (music), Gertrude Stein (language), and Virginia Woolf (self). The conclusion of the book is an appeal to end the artificial divide between arts and sciences that I strongly support.
“Nature, however, writes astonishingly complicated prose. If our DNA has a literary equivalent, it’s Finnegan’s Wake.”
Recommended books: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science–From the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noë, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.