An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain

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Simon and Schuster, 2004 - Science - 300 pages
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The most ambitious and enlightening work to date from the bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses, An Alchemy of Mind combines an artist's eye with a scientist's erudition to illuminate, as never before, the magic and mysteries of the human mind.

Long treasured by literary readers for her uncommon ability to bridge the gap between art and science, celebrated scholar-artist Diane Ackerman returns with the book she was born to write. Her dazzling new work, An Alchemy of Mind, offers an unprecedented exploration and celebration of the mental fantasia in which we spend our days -- and does for the human mind what the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses did for the physical senses.

Bringing a valuable female perspective to the topic, Diane Ackerman discusses the science of the brain as only she can: with gorgeous, immediate language and imagery that paint an unusually lucid and vibrant picture for the reader. And in addition to explaining memory, thought, emotion, dreams, and language acquisition, she reports on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and addresses controversial subjects like the effects of trauma and male versus female brains. In prose that is not simply accessible but also beautiful and electric, Ackerman distills the hard, objective truths of science in order to yield vivid, heavily anecdotal explanations about a range of existential questions regarding consciousness, human thought, memory, and the nature of identity.

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An alchemy of mind: the marvel and mystery of the brain

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Poet/naturalist Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) brings her poetic vision to various aspects of the human mind. The result is a series of brief yet colorful essays on such phenomena as ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Diane Ackerman was born on October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois. She received a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and her M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. Poet, author, educator, adventurer, and naturalist, she tries to bridge science and art in her writing, exploring questions of who we are, where we come from, and how we fit into the fabric of the world. She has written many books of poetry including The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral; Wife of Light; Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems; Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire; and I Praise My Destroyer. Her nonfiction works include A Natural History of the Senses; A Natural History of Love; The Moon by Whale Light: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Crocodilians, Penguins, and Whales; An Alchemy of Mind; and On Extended Wings. She also writes nature books for children including Animal Sense; Monk Seal Hideaway; and Bats: Shadows in the Night. She is coeditor of a Norton anthology, The Book of Love. Her essays about nature and human nature have appeared in Parade, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker magazines. She hosted a five-hour PBS television series inspired by A Natural History of the Senses. She received the Orion Book Award for The Zookeepers Wife. Her other awards include the Abbie Copps Poetry Prize, Black Warrior Poetry Prize, Pushcart Prize, Peter I. B. Lavan award, and the Wordsmith award. She has taught at a variety of universities, including Columbia and Cornell.

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