I’d like to introduce you to my latest book. It’s called Brain Cuttings: Fifteen Journeys Through The Mind. (Amazon / BN) It’s my ninth book, but it’s my first dip into a new kind of publishing. And it was spurred on by you, dear reader.
Last year I put a survey on the Loom to find out about your reading habits—current and future. The 761 responses I got were surprising in a lot of ways, and they guided my thinking about what sort of new kinds of formats I could explore. I’ve been especially curious about how books can become blogified: in other words, writers can think up ideas for books, create them, and then quickly offer them up for sale at places like Amazon, regardless of whether they fit into the well-worn grooves of traditional publishing.
As a first foray, I decided to gather my favorite recent pieces on the brain. Some readers may have come across one or two of my published pieces over the past couple years, but I wanted to offer them a bunch of them—fifteen to be exact—in one place. Collections have always thrived on this convenience. If you’re a fan of Joseph Mitchell, for example, you could track down all of his pieces in individual issues of the New Yorker. Or you could just buy Up in the Old Hotel.
Ebooks are thriving on convenience too. You can read a lot of things for free online, but you need the patience to hunt for them amidst a lot of mediocre writing, pop-up ads, and text so poorly designed it burns out your visual cortex. Or you can tap the “buy” button on an e-reader and having a well-crafted book in seconds. The convenience sometimes borders on addiction. Finished The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet? Well, David Mitchell’s previous book, Cloud Atlas awaits.
So I brought together fifteen of my favorite pieces. Fourteen of them are from Discover, and the final one is a long feature that I published in January in Playboy on the future of the brain—as seen through the funhouse prism that is a movement called the Singularity. I’ve edited them all, updating some of the science and giving them more of a unified feel of a book. Scott & Nix have given the book a lovely design and made sure it stays lovely in the various incarnations ebooks take these days.
I hope you’ll consider getting a copy, and passing on the word to anyone with a serious ebook addiction, or just a long flight to Phoenix to get through. Here’s the Kindle page, and Barnes and Noble’s. I’ve set up a page on my web site with more information. Other links are coming up in a fairly unpredictable way; I’ll update the book page as they arrive.
If you do get Brain Cuttings, please tell me what you think. This is still very much an experiment, and it’s not over. You can post a comment on this post or send me an email. (And if any bloggers, book reviewers, neuro-folk, or new media people would like a review copy, just get in touch.)
While working on Brain Cuttings, I’ve been thinking a lot about where science writing is headed, and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts tonight at the Koshland Science Museum. Join us if you can (I think some seats are still left), or watch (and participate) through this livestream. I’ll also be thinking out loud in some future posts.
Let me leave you with some of the kind endorsements I’ve gotten for Brain Cuttings:
“Carl Zimmer takes us behind the scenes in our own heads. He has ferreted out all the most wondrous, bizarre stories and studies and served them up in this delicious, sizzling, easy-to-digest platter of neuro-goodness.” —Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars and Stiff
“If you want to jump start your knowledge about how the brain does all those marvelous things for us like think, feel, and deal with others, read these essays. Zimmer has the rare capacity to get the science right and make it all feel like a glass of smooth bourbon.” —Michael Gazzaniga, Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara, author of Human: The Science of What Makes Us Unique.
“These essays combine that rare blend of precision and wonder, hard-nosed reporting and nose for the poetically spooky. The brain should be very pleased to have Carl Zimmer as its scribe.” —Jad Abumrad, host and creator of Radiolab
“Carl Zimmer is one of the finest science writers around. In this fascinating tour of the brain, he explores the meaning of time, the genetic tug of war between parents, the science of anesthesia and a dozen other absorbing tales of the meaty computer inside our head.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist
“Few writers are as clear and wide-ranging as Zimmer. In these fifteen day-trips into modern neuroscience, he clears away the fog of jargon to give us a clear view of the newly discovered land.”—David Eagleman, Baylor College of Medicine, author of Sum