Monday, September 12, 2016

The Brain: Nature's Own Computer, by Anthony Johns, June 2011

Anthony Johns is an engineer, and in this short book he looks at the brain and the human body from that perspective: that we are chemical machines, and our brains are low-voltage, highly efficient computers. They come with a basic operating system installed, and get "programmed," starting in the womb, by the general environment, experiences, and the intentional education efforts of the adults we rely on. He includes some very practical approaches to addressing and correcting mental and emotional disturbances created by unhealthy, destructive experiences.

This includes the effects of his own negative experiences of being abused by a choirmaster in his own church. This helped create an unhealthy, negative relationship with religion for him, which led to later mental and emotional disturbances which he has had to work through. Much of this book, without going into excess detail about his own personal experiences, is concerned with laying out the basic tools used to overcome and emerge from that stressful period.

It's also a useful set of tools for helping to understand and work through less extreme stresses.

Because of Mr. Johns' attitude toward religion, this book will be more easily useful to the non-religious. Depending on your own religious beliefs and your degree of sensitivity around them, it may still be useful anyway; I found much of it very practical in its approach. Mr. Johns, unlike some passionate atheists, does acknowledge that religion developed and became widespread because it helped people survive. He is absolutely entitled to his own negative feelings about religion, having had experiences we know are very destructive for the individual.

I will confess to being very mildly amused by a brief discussion acknowledging the common roots of Christianity and Islam, without any mention of Judaism, of which they are both offshoots.

Overall, this is an interesting book with a practical life approach to understanding your brain and its daily workings, with some interesting blind spots that may make it more or less useful for particular individuals.

It is, I think, necessary to mention that it did not receive professional editing. It has some of the weaknesses that can come from that, errors of word choice and punctuation that typically the author's eye does not catch because the author knows too well what he meant to say. It slowed my reading bu did not deter it, nor should it deter you if this is a useful book for you to explore.

I received a free pdf of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.