The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge

doidge-brainhealingDoidge, Norman. The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York: Viking, 2015. Print.

Genre: Nonfiction (although don’t be surprised if you often think you’re reading scifi!)

Summary: Imagination heals chronic pain. Meditation reverses blindness. Walking stops the onset of Parkinson’s. Red LED lights heal arthritis or physical disabilities caused by brain defects. Music reverses the symptoms of autism, dyslexia, or ADHD.

Sounds like the stuff of tabloid headlines, right? Well, the title is not kidding when it proclaims”from the frontiers.” The only people getting you closer to these seemingly futuristic frontiers are Isaac Asimov, Andy Weir, and James S. A. Corey.

Critique: The first chapter is so riveting, you can’t help but worry that the rest of the book will dud. Isn’t that how the bulk of these controversial medical narratives go? Part one: hype. Part two: snore.

Fear not with Doidge! Every chapter features a compelling braid of stories featuring innovative researchers, determined doctors, and actively engaged patients (both young and old) who bring about amazing neurological transformations and physical or psychological recoveries. And every chapter effectively outshines its predecessor!

Additionally, Doidge’s narratives place you in the skin of someone living with a debilitating brain injury, disorder, or dysfunction. You come away with a more comprehensive understanding and compassionate perspective on what life is like when you share it with these substantial challenges.

After centuries of cutting the body up, down, and inside out, medical science and treatment undergo a complete paradigm shift in this book! Doidge provides a veritable cornucopia of noninvasive, non-surgical, and drug-free neuroplastic treatments and therapies for Parkinson’s, MS, autism, reading disorders, blindness, , , , The list goes on and on. The astounding results are backed by research and ongoing studies.The ability of the brain and body to partner up and heal a disorder, injury, or disease thrusts the patient out of the passive victim role, straight into the driver’s seat of recovery. Eastern remedies combine with Western technologies. Mind unites with body. Neurons grow, die, regrow, and grow better than before. The results are nothing short of revolutionary!

Read this book if for no other reason than to flirt with wonderment. Dance with the bedazzling. Intimate yourself with the impossible. And perhaps if you or someone you care about lives alongside pain, disease, or disability, this book may help you find a viable route to hope and recovery when all other signs previously pointed to despair.

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Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

Asimov, Isaac. Pebble in the Sky. 1950. North Kingstown, RI: BBC Audio, 2009. MP3.

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Genre: science fiction

Summary: Robert Fass narrates Asimov’s first novel, and the story that kicks off the Foundation series in book form. Thanks to an accident in a nearby chemistry lab, unsuspecting Joseph Schwartz steps through a wrinkle in time. The retired tailor finds himself catapulted 50,000 years into the future. He doesn’t speak the language, he doesn’t know anyone, and he’s well over the age of “retirement.” Retirement here being a word that means the age when you are euthanized in order to preserve Earth’s precious few resources. Joseph begs a farming family for help and they take him to see a doctor. The doctor is really a brilliant scientist experimenting with neuron-boosting technology. He successfully accelerates the neurons in Joseph’s brain, effectively turning the tailor into a super-cognitive-being. He’s telekinetic, physic, learns languages mega-fast. And he can kill with a thought. Joseph is quickly entangled in a sinister plot that could destroy countless quadrillions of lives across the Galactic Empire. Earth will transition from a lowly pebble in the sky to the ruling intergalactic powerhouse.

Critique: A tremendous first novel. Ambitious ideas skillfully executed. Asimov employs deft omniscience — a point of view increasingly misused or neglected these days. What’s more, he masters omniscient narration with a psychic character who can see the future. And not a single drop of tension is spilled or wasted for the reader! Writer’s studying dialogue should not reference this work. Much of what Asimov puts down is corny, on-the-nose, and reminiscent of stuff Errol Flynn might say while clad in bright colored tights. (And no, I will not excuse the dialogue being a product of its time! The 40s and 50s were still part of the Golden Age of noir and hard boiled films with some of the sharpest dialogue ever to ring in the human ear!)

However, Asimov’s world building techniques are worth noting. In some ways, he barrages the reader with brute force science. In his “other life,” Asimov was a scientist. A fluent speaker of the language of physics and chemistry, he accosts the reader from the start in a sit-down-and-shut-up way. The reader does, like a student in a pass/fail high-stakes lecture. Asimov then establishes the molecular mechanics of accidental time travel and we go happily along for the ride, so pleased that our capable narrator knows it all.

Asimov also puts science fiction to its proper use, which is to show that which does not change easily in human nature. Tens of thousands of years in the future, we still deal with prejudice. We still have bigots. No matter how fast and far technology goes, we exert the same inertia to change. Perhaps that realization is as demoralizing as it is inspiring.