Book Review: Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks

Book Review: Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks

Genre: Non-fiction, Neuropsychology, psychology.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

*No spoilers.

Into the Silent Land is a non-fiction book about neuropsychology that explores the vast and unknowable terrain of people’s minds. Paul Broks is an English neuropsychologist and writer. This book was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award. In my opinion, it really deserved to win that prize because it’s endlessly compelling.

In its pages, we explore strange case studies of people who have undergone changes in their brain chemistry and physiology and how this inner earthquake has had far-reaching ripples in their lives. It’s not at all dry like some other books written by a scientist. It’s written with a deft and painterly touch that effortlessly weaves in and out of people’s lives and keeps you in a trance-like state with its poetic writing style – part speculative fiction, part memoir, part philosophy.

This is not overly simplistic book and it doesn’t attempt to dumb-down the complexity of neuropsychology for a mainstream audience. Instead the reader gets to enjoy provocative riffs and meditations on the big questions like:

  • The mind-body problem
  • What is self? What is other?
  • What is memory?
  • What is personality and how can it change with time, injury or illness?

Broks gently considers what events like brain tumours, brain injuries or degenerative diseases have on who we are. Even though he is a scientist he focuses on the subjective “I” experience, and covers all of the existential questions in a really compelling way. He plunges deep into the ‘silent land’, a netherworld we all live in that is fundamentally unknowable and subjective. Our individual experiences, sensations and feelings belong to us alone and not to science, and Broks has managed to write a compelling masterpiece about it. I definitely recommend Into the Silent Land to anyone who is interested in the human mind and psychology.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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