How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim

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How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A very readable look at thinking and an excellent selection of puzzles to enhance brain function - particularly if you're American.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Souvenir Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0285641754

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Many people in the first flush of youth will read this book to find ways of increasing their brain power. Others - like me - at the other end of the age continuum will read because they're looking for ways to restrict or even reverse what they see as deterioration. Both groups might initially be disappointed as the title suggests that the book is about puzzles, but don't give up as the reality is far more useful. This is a book about how our brains work, how the different parts interact or come into play in certain circumstances - and then there are some puzzles directed at improving performance in those areas.

It's a book about memory, perception and cognition. If that sounds rather dry, don't be put off. My background contains nothing which would aid me in reading a book of this type, but I found it an interesting and only occasionally demanding read. It's not 'jargon-free' but there were only a couple of points which I needed to research and the rest was made perfectly clear by the context. By the end of the book I'd revised a lot of my thinking about how I thought and had decided to reclassify those areas which I had thought of as failures as areas which might need a little more exercise.

Richard Restak specialises in neurology and neuropsychiatry and became convinced that puzzles could enhance brain function. What he wanted to write was a book which combined the science with exercises which could enhance brain function and this is where Scott Kim, creator of games and puzzles comes into the picture. Restack provides the explanations and Kim goes on to give us puzzles which illustrate the points made or allow is to get along to the brain gym.

The puzzles are neatly balanced. There's nothing so simple that it's insulting but they go from 'gentle workout' through to very challenging. What I did appreciate was that there were explanations about why we might find some puzzles easier than others. I was surprised to find that after a lifetime of believing that I had no aptitude for numbers (I never did pass the basic maths exams) I actually have a bias towards number and logic. These were the puzzles which I consistently found easiest and most enjoyable.

If I had to quibble about the puzzles it's that a few of them assume a US background. I'm not too familiar with US presidents, the Stars and Stripes or, indeed, the General Mills logo. Perhaps, if we asked nicely, we could have a future edition with puzzles for those of us on this side of the pond?

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks.

Buy How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim at Amazon.com.


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