This is a book framed by grief—Broks’s wife died of cancer in middle age—but it is not the usual memoir of loss. Broks has long been a scientist of consciousness, and he sees death, as well as the miracle of waking life, through a bracingly unsentimental lens of neural activity. Which might make for a dry book, but this is anything but: it’s a collection of detours and digressions—a “rambling, ramshackle house of a book,” in his own words—that leaps from Oliver Sacks-style case studies to retellings of myth to shards of personal memory to fictional thought experiments to summaries of the latest in brain science. It’s a deeply human journey that illuminates, without claiming to fully explain, one of the things that makes us most human.
—Tom Nissley, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA