My new book–ebook, that is: Brain Cuttings

By Carl Zimmer | October 14, 2010 9:00 am

brain_cuttings_377x600_72dpi_webI’d like to introduce you to my latest book. It’s called Brain Cuttings: Fifteen Journeys Through The Mind. (AmazonBN/ Mobipocket ) It’s my ninth book, but it’s my first dip into a new kind of publishing. And it was spurred on by you, dear reader.

Last year I put a survey on the Loom to find out about your reading habits—current and future. The 761 responses I got were surprising in a lot of ways, and they guided my thinking about what sort of new kinds of formats I could explore. I’ve been especially curious about how books can become blogified: in other words, writers can think up ideas for books, create them, and then quickly offer them up for sale at places like Amazon, regardless of whether they fit into the well-worn grooves of traditional publishing.

As a first foray, I decided to gather my favorite recent pieces on the brain. Some readers may have come across one or two of my published pieces over the past couple years, but I wanted to offer them a bunch of them—fifteen to be exact—in one place. Collections have always thrived on this convenience. If you’re a fan of Joseph Mitchell, for example, you could track down all of his pieces in individual issues of the New Yorker. Or you could just buy Up in the Old Hotel.

Ebooks are thriving on convenience too. You can read a lot of things for free online, but you need the patience to hunt for them amidst a lot of mediocre writing, pop-up ads, and text so poorly designed it burns out your visual cortex. Or you can tap the “buy” button on an e-reader and having a well-crafted book in seconds. The convenience sometimes borders on addiction. Finished The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet? Well, David Mitchell’s previous book, Cloud Atlas awaits.

So I brought together fifteen of my favorite pieces. Fourteen of them are from Discover, and the final one is a long feature that I published in January in Playboy on the future of the brain—as seen through the funhouse prism that is a movement called the Singularity. I’ve edited them all, updating some of the science and giving them more of a unified feel of a book. Scott & Nix have given the book a lovely design and made sure it stays lovely in the various incarnations ebooks take these days.

I hope you’ll consider getting a copy, and passing on the word to anyone with a serious ebook addiction, or just a long flight to Phoenix to get through. Here’s the Kindle page, and Barnes and Noble’s. I’ve set up a page on my web site with more information. Other links are coming up in a fairly unpredictable way; I’ll update the book page as they arrive.

If you do get Brain Cuttings, please tell me what you think. This is still very much an experiment, and it’s not over. You can post a comment on this post or send me an email. (And if any bloggers, book reviewers, neuro-folk, or new media people would like a review copy, just get in touch.)

While working on Brain Cuttings, I’ve been thinking a lot about where science writing is headed, and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts tonight at the Koshland Science Museum. Join us if you can (I think some seats are still left), or watch (and participate) through this livestream. I’ll also be thinking out loud in some future posts.

Let me leave you with some of the kind endorsements I’ve gotten for Brain Cuttings:

“Carl Zimmer takes us behind the scenes in our own heads. He has ferreted out all the most wondrous, bizarre stories and studies and served them up in this delicious, sizzling, easy-to-digest platter of neuro-goodness.” —Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars and Stiff

“If you want to jump start your knowledge about how the brain does all those marvelous things for us like think, feel, and deal with others, read these essays. Zimmer has the rare capacity to get the science right and make it all feel like a glass of smooth bourbon.” —Michael Gazzaniga, Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara, author of Human: The Science of What Makes Us Unique.

“These essays combine that rare blend of precision and wonder, hard-nosed reporting and nose for the poetically spooky. The brain should be very pleased to have Carl Zimmer as its scribe.” —Jad Abumrad, host and creator of Radiolab

“Carl Zimmer is one of the finest science writers around. In this fascinating tour of the brain, he explores the meaning of time, the genetic tug of war between parents, the science of anesthesia and a dozen other absorbing tales of the meaty computer inside our head.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist

“Few writers are as clear and wide-ranging as Zimmer. In these fifteen day-trips into modern neuroscience, he clears away the fog of jargon to give us a clear view of the newly discovered land.”—David Eagleman, Baylor College of Medicine, author of Sum

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Meta, Talks, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (21)

Links to this Post

  1. Fifteen brain encounters « Mind Hacks | October 17, 2010
  2. NeuroTribes | Plutopia Productions, Inc. | October 22, 2010
  3. Sunday Links #8 « Neuromancy Blog | October 24, 2010
  1. Great! I can’t wait! You can join David Sedaris and Tom Levenson in signing the back of my Kindle! :)

  2. Awesome, I’ll have to take a look!

    ~Rhaco

  3. Bill M

    Bought it for my Kindle. Downloaded in less than 10 seconds. This kind of thing could become addictive.

  4. Miguel

    You got yourself a customer, Carl. I really appreciate this kind of publishing effort, and my Kindle deserves a collection of essays on brain science. I bought it a couple minutes ago, and I’d begin to read it right now, if not for my day job :(

    Please let us know how it goes in terms of sales (with comparisons to your other books).

  5. We do have just a few seats left for Carl’s discussion this evening, Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Koshland Science Museum in Washington, D.C. Tickets are free, but reservations are strongly recommended as there has been a high level of interest in this program. For tickets, call (202) 334-1201 or contact ksm@nas.edu. The museum is located at the corner of 6th & E Streets, NW (Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown). The discussion is presented with the support of the American Society for Microbiology and MicrobeWorld.

    If you cannot attend in person, tune in live from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT to http://www.microbeworld.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=593:the-dish&catid=103:the-dish&Itemid=268. Tweet questions/comments for Carl to @microbeworld.

    We look forward to your joining us this evening, Carl.

  6. Adriana

    I want to buy your book but I own a Sony Reader and the Sony Reader store does not have it yet :-(

    CZ: :-( indeed! Getting the ebook into the many different stores is a surprisingly slow process. I’ll post links to stores as Brain Cuttings appears in them.

  7. Rikaja

    This is good news, but I would really prefer a physical book :(

  8. Rikaja–We haven’t ruled out that possibility!

  9. minusRusty

    Book purchased. Gotta go turn on the Whispernet on the Kindle, get it downloaded, and then read the thing.

    Thanks, in advance, Carl, and I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve thumbed through it. So to speak.

    -Rusty

  10. Bought on the Kindle; will begin reading it soon (I’m in the middle of something else right now).

  11. Sounds wonderful, I’d love to read it and review it, if you ever make it a real book. I can’t stand reading anything substantial on a Kindle.

  12. Daniel J. Andrews

    I want to buy Kindle 3, but there are a substantial number of reviews of the product indicating it is glitchy (reboots randomly, freezes), and tech support seems to include having people jump through hoops, download patches that don’t seem to work or don’t download when they’re supposed to. I did download the Kindle reader for PC, but I don’t want to have to sit in front of my computer even more than I do already.

    Think I will have to wait for these bugs to be fixed, or perhaps wait for the colour Kindle reader rumoured to be in the works. There are some pretty good e-books out now though and I hope they get their reader working consistently soon.

    Did look at the iPad for reading and it is tempting. It has its own reader plus there’s an iPad version of Kindle too so lots of choice for books…..

  13. johnk

    Suggestion for Dana Andrews:

    E-readres have matured. Don’t wait for a color kindle. Make the plunge.

    I don’t know about the kindle 3, but the earlier kindles are excellent.

    The ipad, although pricier, is also excellent. But can do a lot more.

    If you have an iphone, the kindle application for reading is remarkably good. The small screen is not as much of a problem as you might expect. (Probably true of other smart phones, but I have no experience).

    One thing to bear in mind: if you buy an amazon e-book, you can read it on any kindle or kindle software. If you get a new e-reader, its simple to transfer reading to your new device. There is no downside to buying a book early. kindle books can be shared for all devices that register with the same amazon credit-card account. (The Barnes and Noble nook has similar arrangements).

  14. Szwagier

    I read this online…

  15. Graham Cobb

    I would be very interested in purchasing your ebook. However, I only purchase content DRM-free (like the MP3 music I purchase every month) so I can read it on any of my devices and at any time in the future.

    What DRM-free ebook stores are you planning on using?

  16. bigjohn756

    Oh, you’re supposed to sign the Kindle on the back? No wonder I am having so much trouble reading lately…

  17. ND neophyte

    i’m terribly sad…
    i don’t have a kindle…
    i want this book to hold in my hand and read.

    [CZ: Depending on how things play out, we may also make a paper edition, too. I’ll let you know.]

  18. Anna

    I heard about this book from the Point of Inquiry podcast and I’d love to read it, but I have to second Graham Cobb’s sentiment about a DRM-free store. Any news on that front?

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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