For the past couple of decades, I have been an avid reader. From Vedic literature to Renaissance art, OSHO to DALI, Feynman to Sherlock Holmes, my readings so far has shaped my research and style of thinking! Below are some of the recent books I am absorbing...I keep updating this page with new reviews!

 

Crowds and Power (Masse und Macht)   Just started reading this ! Elias Canetti's book was written when I was -20 years in past life! Though I am just starting to read it, the landscape of imagination by the author literally facinates me! and I think landed in my hands at the right time..From how different crowds form, underleying collective behaviours of groups of growing self organizing systems, elements of power, survivors, crowds that were formed/eliminated in history  human postures and their relation to power..I am truely excited to find and begin reading this book...More details on this exciting book soon (as Feynman said: Knowing the name of something and knowing that thing are two different things)...so no further comments for now!

My GITA by Devdutt Pattanaik -- This intriguing modern day interpretation of the Bhagwad Gita, explores the interplay between the Behavioral (Karma Yoga), Emotional (Bhakti Yoga) and Intellectual (Gyana Yoga) dimensions of the self and the other. With beautiful pictures and set up in the battlefields of Mahabharata, it looks at still prevalent loop of  "Boundaries-Conflicts-Judgements-Fear-Violence" and how a simple shift in imagination can induce a drastic shift in ones Identity, Values, Assmumptions and Aspirations...to go beyond. While generally yoga is associated to the physical  (and recent UN yoga day June 21st  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Yoga_Day, that is more of a media circus), this book looks the other way from "stuff" to "substance", and a sense of purpose  that goes beyond "one self " ...

 

Art of Memory by Frances Yates -- In the ages before printing, a trained memory was vitally important: for orators, kings, scholars, administrators etc. This 1967 classic explores the diverse techniques people used in the ancient times to memorize large chunks of information in their brains. From Method of Loci of Simonides in Ancient Greece, to Memory Theaters in the Rennaisance era, and the emergence of modern scientific thinking in the 17th century, this work is relvant in the present times given that now we know from neuroscicnes that the areas in the brain involved in spatial navigation are also involved in memory (travelling in time). Further, instead of rote learning that is the prevalent strategy to memorize presently,  teaching children such alternative playful strategies might help in enhancing their creativity, imaginations!  I stumbed uopn this classic book accidentaly while listenting to the 2014 Nobel prize in Medicine lecture of May Britt Moser (listen to her talk here).

 

Supernormal Stimuli by Dierdre Barret -- Building up on Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergens playful body of work like fooling birds to sit on exagerrated artifically created plaster eggs, instead of their own real ones, Dierdre explores how this concept of amplifying certain aspects of stimulus also affects human perception, behaviours and preferences. From Junk food addiction, to Pronography, modern day warfare and art, the book shows how human behaviours in a range of circumstances can be easily hijacked by Supernormal stimulus (much like Tinbergen's sea gull hanchlings that would ignore their own parents and beg food from artifical beaks with more dramatic markings)! I am particularly fond of simple expreriments that lead to interesting insights, that I try to adopt also with my work on the humanoid robot.

 

Age of Insight by Eric Kandel -- With a masterful depiction of the interplay between Art, Neuroscience, Psychology and Literature, Eric Kandel takes us back to Vienna of 1900 where artists and scientists met in magnificent salons to exchange insights on brain, mind and art, the significant advances made then and their enduring influence today. From an intriguing perspective on the works of Austrian artists like Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele to the present day understanding of Brain circuits for Empathy, Creativity, the book sets the foundations for an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the mind, one that combines the humanities with the natural and social sciences.

 

Guardians of the Being: Spiritual teachings from Dogs and Cats -- With beautiful illustrations, Eckhart Tolle and artist Patrick Mc Donnell take us back to the rustling leaves, falling raindrops, humming bees and bird songs as a much needed break from the continuous stream of inner mental noise. From Zen Cats to Still rocks, this short and sweet picture book illustrates how true happiness’ can be found in simple, seemingly unremarkable things. Tolle has also written another beautiful book called as Stillness Speaks that I read way back in 2005.

 

My Stroke of Insight By Jill Taylor --  A fascinating first-person description of massive brain stroke and recovery from it by neuroscientist Jill Taylor, when one morning she completely lost ability to walk, talk, read, write, and remember. Jill takes us though her eight year journey of recovery, when she observed her own brain like an explorer in uncharted territory full of suspense and surprise, while also giving several useful tips on communicating with and taking care of stroke victims.

 

      Among my  all time favourites are several works of OSHO Rajneesh, V S Ramachandran, Richard Feynman (and his lectures on The.Character of Physical Law), Douglas Hopfstader, Murray Gell-Mann, George Lakoff,  Steven Strogatz, Antonio Damasio, A. L.Barabasi, Olaf Sporns, Rajiv Malhotra and many other inspiring writers and thinkers.

 

  As time permits, I am working towards my first book that extracts few experiences and thoughts, tentatively titled as B

3

Buddhaa, Bomb and the Brain

While titled B3, there is a little twist to the story (and the content might not be what you would naturally imagine!!!!)

© Vishwanathan Mohan

email: vishwanathan.mohan@essex.ac.uk

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