Lisa Genova's 6 favorite books about science and literature
The Harvard-trained neuroscientist recommends works by Stephen King, Oliver Sacks, and Jean-Dominique Bauby
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (Touchstone, $15). A collection of case studies describing patients with extraordinary neurological impairments, told with compassion and an infectious curiosity about how the mind works. Sacks’s book ignited my passion for neuroscience.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Vintage, $13). Bauby wrote this memoir one painstaking blink at a time after a massive brain-stem stroke left him completely paralyzed but for his left eye. His body a prison, his mind nonetheless remained sharply intact. Stunning and eloquent, Bauby’s words still haunt me.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper, $15). I love and admire everything about this novel, told from the perspective of Enzo, a Lab-terrier mix and the companion of a race-car driver. Great storytelling, flawed characters you’re rooting for on every page, and beautiful life lessons, delivered from an unforgettable point of view.
Don’t Leave Me This Way by Julia Fox Garrison (Harper, $14). This memoir of a 37-year-old woman who survives a right-hemisphere hemorrhage blew me away. Educational and inspirational, it still inhabits me. Readers who enjoyed My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor will love this one.
On Writing by Stephen King (Scribner, $16). King’s books usually terrify me, but this one is different. It’s part memoir, part words of wisdom about craft. Thank you, Mr. King, for telling it to us straight, for being generous with what you know, for the reassurance and some additional tools. I’ve read only a handful of books more than once; I’ve read this book three times.
The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran (Norton, $27). Phantom limbs, synesthesia, the evolution of language, the underpinnings of empathy, art appreciation, a sense of self: How do our brains allow us to perceive, understand, interact with, and enjoy the world around us? The questions, poignantly raised by Ramachandran, are as fascinating as his theories and answers.