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Extended Audio Sample The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery, by Sam Kean Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sam Kean Narrator: Henry Leyva Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The author of the bestseller The Disappearing Spoon reveals the secret inner workings of the brain through strange but true stories.

Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike—strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents—and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims’ personalities. Parents suddenly couldn’t recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn’t speak but could still sing.

In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients’ memories, blind people who see through their tongues. He weaves these narratives together with prose that makes the pages fly by, to create a story of discovery that reaches back to the 1500s and the high-profile jousting accident that inspired this book’s title. With the lucid, masterful explanations and razor-sharp wit his fans have come to expect, Kean explores the brain’s secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Strokes, seizures, accidents: if they don't kill, they can traumatize the brain so badly that an individual's personality can be significantly changed. But, explains New York Times bestselling author of the terrific The Violinist’s Thumb, early neuroscientists saw such traumas as an opportunity to study the brain's wondrous workings.”

    Library Journal

  • “In tale after tale, bestselling author Kean provides a fascinating, and at times gloriously gory, look at how early efforts in neurosurgery were essentially a medical guessing game…Entertaining and quotable, Kean's writing is sharp, and each individual story brings the history of neuroscience to life. Compulsively readable, wicked scientific fun.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Science writer Kean explores the vagaries and inconsistencies of the human brain via diverting stories that chronicle medical science’s fits and starts…Where does the brain end and the mind begin? Curious readers will find both brain and mind fully revved up while engaging with this powerfully appealing and thought-provoking work of neuroscience history.”

    Booklist

  • “This is Sam Kean’s finest work yet, an entertaining and offbeat history of the brain populated with mad scientists, deranged criminals, geniuses, and wretched souls. The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is one of those books that will have you following your friends around, reading passages out loud, until they snatch the book away from you and read it for themselves. Good luck getting it back.”

    Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist

  • “Put your Netflix queue on hold. Sam Kean's The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons will command your full attention from the first page. It's not just an engaging guide to mysteries of existence; it's compelling story-telling for anyone with a taste for the bizarre and metaphysical.”

    William Poundstone, author of Rock Breaks Scissors

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Barnes & Noble's Biggest Books, May 2014
  • A 2014 Library Journal Editor’s Pick
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Longlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Award
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About the Author
Author Sam Kean

Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he’s a writer in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in the New York Times magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, and Science, and it has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab and All Things Considered. The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb were New York Times bestsellers.