1. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman.
2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
3. And So It Goes, Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles Shields.
If you’re too busy writing or grading papers or mowing the lawn or changing diapers and can’t read, here are a few thoughts on the books and a few lines to take in.
Eagleman: “Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia—hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city.” Phew. And all these tiny, elaborate “cities” work in concert to help us make sense of the world. Eagleman is a neuroscientist who comes across as a witty and intelligent, like a neighbor you want to spend time with.
Kahneman’s writing is relatively less engaging, but his material is engrossing and accessible. And his book is a perfect companion to Eagleman’s. Kahneman explains how we think, which we often believe is sound and rational. But there’s an entire system that pushes and pulls and often leads us astray.
Vonnegut quoted: “Each person has something he can do easily and can’t imagine why everybody else is having so much trouble doing it. In my case it was writing.” I haven’t read much about Vonnegut, but I’m most struck by how his work and life seem in contradiction. I’ve always regarded Vonnegut as a giant in literature, yet he felt slighted by the lack of recognition. And he doesn’t have many nice things to say about his mother, father, or brother.
Listening, in the best car stereo I’ve ever had, to…
1. Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen. This is an excellent CD. Twangy, urban, soulful, soft, hard. You can hear dozens of influences from a variety of regions. I don’t know how he puts out such consistently good work. I haven’t listened closely to the lyrics. This is usually a gradual process for me. I immerse myself in the music, not knowing titles or lyrics, and over a period of months or even years, I begin to glean what the songs are about.
2. Oscar Peterson for Lovers. I don’t know if there’s a better jazz piano player than Peterson. I’m pressing Repeat often, especially when Bill Henderson sings I’ve Got a Crush on You.
3. Best of Patsy Cline. I feel a little strange listening to Cline as I drive around my suburban neighborhood. I feel as if I should be in Nashville. But Crazy sounds right anywhere. More Repeats on that song.