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
Little, Brown, 2014

Some people's tragedies have been science's miracles, particularly in the field of neuroscience, where researchers have long relied on rare brain traumas to reveal the workings of the mind. “Despite the (often overhyped) advances of fMRI and other brain-scanning technologies, injuries remain the best, and only, way to infer certain things about the brain,” writes journalist Kean. In this compilation of patients' stories, he details some of the unexpected truths revealed by accidents: “Destroy one small node of neurons, and people lose the ability to recognize fruits and vegetables, but not other food. Destroy another node and they lose the ability to read—even though they can still write.” Beyond paying tribute to the scientific advances these patients made possible, Kean humanizes the patients themselves.