(With mother, Sandra Blakeslee), The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better (nonfiction), Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Matthew Blakeslee trained to become a neuroscientist, having majored in cognitive science in college, but decided instead to go into what might be considered the Blakeslee family business—science writing. His grandfather and great-grandfather both covered science for the Associated Press, and his mother, Sandra Blakeslee, has contributed many articles on the topic to the New York Times and coauthored several books, including, with Matthew, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better.
In this book, the son and mother detail how the brain experiences the body and its environment, and what scientists have learned about this process in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They discuss the work of Canadian surgeon Wilder Penfield, who, beginning in the 1930s, documented which part of the brain perceives which part of the body. They go on to explore findings that the brain also senses clothing, tools, surroundings, and other people as extensions of the body. The brain's maps, they explain, lead to such phenomena as amputees feeling that a missing limb is still there, thin people seeing themselves as fat, and the urge to yawn when others yawn.
Several critics thought the Blakeslees had made their topic accessible to lay readers without oversimplifying it. The book, according to Washington Post Book World contributor Wray Herbert, is a "captivating exploration of the brain's uncanny ability to map the world." Herbert added: "The authors have essayed some difficult terrain here and, for the most part, with clarity." In a similar vein, Mark Lamendola, a reviewer for the Mind Connection, reported that "the authors have a gift for making a complex subject understandable" and called the book "excellent."
The information provided by the Blakeslees, commented Gilbert Taylor in Booklist, is "varied and revealing," and is "expressed in an amiable, we're-all-in-this-together manner." A Publishers Weekly critic deemed the work "entertaining," written in a "lighthearted and low-key" style, while Mary Ann Hughes, writing in the Library Journal, pronounced it "engaging without being simplistic." Eva Kay, discussing The Body Has a Mind of Its Own for Curled Up with a Good Book, remarked that "perhaps the most valuable aspect of the book is the sense of wonder about the human brain," adding that the authors' "enthusiasm for the topic is contagious." Kay concluded: "Readers will come away with both a new understanding of their brain and a new appreciation for it." They also, Herbert noted, "will emerge with a far keener sense of where they are."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August. 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better, p. 11.
Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Mary Ann Hughes, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 109.
Nature, September 27, 2007, Edvard I. Moser, "Atlas on Our Shoulders," p. 406.
New Scientist, September 15, 2007, Amanda Gefter, "The Map of Me," p. 58.
Psychology Today, September 1, 2007, Peter Sergo, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2007, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 42.
Skeptical Inquirer, November 1, 2007, Kendrick Frazier, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 60.
Washington Post Book World, October 28, 2007, Wray Herbert, "Our Things, Ourselves," p. 6.
Body Has a Mind of its Own,http://www.thebodyhasamindofitsown.com (February 17, 2008), Web site for book.
CultureCartel.com,http://www.culturecartel.com/ (December 19, 2007), Kim Lumpkin, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (February 17, 2008), Eva Kay, November 1, 2007, Kendrick Frazier, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.
Matthew Blakeslee Home Page,http://www.matthewblakeslee.com (February 17, 2008).
Mind Connection,http://www.mindconnection.com/ (February 17, 2008), Mark Lamendola, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.