6 Brain-Boosting Books

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends we try to stay “mentally alive” in order to stave off Alzheimer’s later in life. Tackling puzzles, exercising, continuing education, reading, and just being curious seem to have an effect on the brain and strengthen brain-cell connection. We live in a lucky age, where we have easy access to books that will help us in our quest to stay “mentally alive” and never stop learning. Even better, there are many books out there that are great entertainment, and cover a variety of interesting topics, rather than presenting facts in a textbook-like fashion.

Here are six of my and the Libro team’s favorite books to give your brain a boost, and learn some interesting facts along the way.


The Shallows

by Nicholas Carr

It’s no great insight that people are using the Internet more and more. But what effect does that have on us? In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr examines trends among Internet usage, the human brain, and our ever-changing culture. As he notes, “the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli—repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive—that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.”


Mindset

by Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, compiles her years of research on personality and social development into Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She breaks people down into having one of two mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that innate ability is the number one factor in success, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that hard work and diligence matters more. She presents surprising stories and data to support her claim that those with growth mindset are more likely to succeed and succumb to less stress than those with a fixed mindset.


Predictably Irrational

by Dan Ariely

We don’t always make the best decisions. A lot of emotion, bias, and culture affect our choices. While we may seem to use a lot of logic, we behave irrationally—but predictably so. In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely uses his experience in the field of behavioral economics to examine why we do what we do, and to find patterns among the seemingly random sets of human behavior. His goal for the book, as he states, “is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick . . . by presenting a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing.”


Brain Rules

by John Medina

The human brain is one of the most extraordinary pieces of matter in the universe. Complex and powerful, brain scientists have just begun to fully understand it. Here, John Medina, a molecular biologist and bioengineer, presents his rules for making the most of our brains. From the illusion of multitasking to the energizing effects of naps to the importance of exercise, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School shows effective ways to improve learning, business, and mental health.


The Willpower Instinct

by Kelly McGonigal

In The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, psychologist Kelly McGonigal doesn’t just outline what willpower is and it’s importance, but provides guidance in harnessing willpower to meet your goals and change your life. Though she posits that willpower is a result of both the mind and body, people can improve their willpower via mindfulness and good health. Even simple breathing exercises can go a long way to garner more willpower.


Think Like a Freak

by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

After the success of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner are back with another groundbreaking book, Think Like a Freak, this time showing readers how to put their insights to practical use. As always, leave preconceived notions behind, and prepare to be amazed. Then, apply your new skills and out-of-the-box thinking to your own life, because as they put it, “the modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism. That we think—ahem—like a freak.”


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Indie Picks: May 2015

Independent booksellers are the best book curators out there, so each month we’re going to highlight what our friends at indie bookstores are reading (and listening to). Here’s what Andrea, Hannah, Kirstyn, Lily, and Matt from McLean & Eakin Booksellers are recommending.


mclean-eakin

McLean & Eakin Booksellers

Petoskey, Michigan

American-Gods

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Considered by many to be the ultimate masterpiece from a master of storytelling, and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stoker Awards, American Gods is a powerful piece of fantasy that will appeal to lovers of the genre and skeptics alike. Shadow has been released from prison just after the death of his beloved wife. Out of the blue, he is approached by a stranger calling himself Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. With nothing to lose, Shadow takes it and finds himself thrown into the center of a conflict for the very soul of America. You see, the old gods are not dead, they have merely taken on new forms and identities as their former worshippers moved across the Atlantic. They live here, in America and they, the old gods of Egypt, Russia, Scandinavia, Africa, the British Isles and everywhere else that has yielded immigrants to the New World, are fighting for everything they have created against the new gods of technology and business that have arisen on the new soil. What could, in the hands of a less skilled writer, have become an overdramatic and overwritten fantasy, is, in Gaiman’s hands, a dark and gripping tale that cuts to the heart of what it is to be human.

Hannah


Freakonomics

Freakonomics

By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Everyone lies. Realtors lie to sell property faster. Holding out to sell your home for an extra $10,000 only means $150 for the realtor, so waiting for a better price isn’t always the priority they tell you it is. Our law enforcement lie to create or hide “crises” when it serves them to do so. In the run up to the Atlanta Olympics, law enforcement grossly under reported violent crime to increase their chances of winning the Olympic bid. They continue to do so; the Atlanta police department “lost” more than 22,000 reports in 2002 alone! But guess what? There is one thing that doesn’t lie: it’s the numbers Steven D. Levitt, an economist with the University of Chicago, uses the numbers to give greater definition to what many of us see as a very grey world. He is not the kind of economist who is interested in the trade deficit or inflation rates. No, he wants to know if drug dealers make so much why do many still live at home or if naming your child “Loser” will ruin his/her life. Levitt asks these questions and many more in his book, Freakonomics and lets the numbers do the answering. This is the kind of book that will drive your friends and family crazy because you won’t be able to shut up about it.

Matt


Seriously-Im-Kidding

Seriously . . . I’m Kidding

By Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen is one of those people that just make me laugh, no matter what it is that she says. Reading her book was no different. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud in public places. This is just a cute, goofy book, that is a great way to pass time if you enjoy her humor. Ellen seems to be telling parts of her story, some of which I still do not know if they are true. The book is compiled from short journals, stories, and other forms of her writing, that don’t always make since, but still entertain. If you are looking for a quick, entertaining book, you need to pick this one up!

Andrea


My-Story

My Story

By Elizabeth Smart & Chris Stewart

I know what you’re thinking. How could I ever be so in love with a memoir written by a girl who was abducted from her bedroom at knife-point. I do not have an answer for you. However, I cannot remember a book that I got lost in as much as Elizabeth Smart’s My Story. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some points in the book that made me cringe and wonder how on earth Elizabeth was able to pen what many of us would think was unimaginable. I think that’s what made me fall so in love with this book. Elizabeth is smart and leaves no rock unturned as she recounts the events she was forced to experience and how she survived them. Elizabeth is truly one of my heroes after learning of her strength and courage to remain optimistic in the darkest of times. It may have taken her 10 years to write, but I am so glad that she didn’t allow anybody else to tell her story. Elizabeth is truly and inspiration and we could all use even a little bit of her strength and courage.

Kirstyn


Divergent

Divergent

By Veronica Roth

In a world where everyone must fit themselves into one of five factions, choices about how to live your life are extremely limited. Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has more choices than most: when she takes the compulsory test that is supposed to reveal a sixteen-year-old’s suitability for a certain faction, her results are “inconclusive”. She shows equal ability for membership in Abnegation, the selfless faction of her birth; Dauntless, the courageous faction that has always fascinated her; and Erudite, the so-called “genius” faction that she despises. In a nutshell, she is Divergent. When Beatrice chooses a faction, Dauntless, the hard part is supposed to be over. But the truth is far from it. If Beatrice, now calling herself Tris, wants to be Dauntless, she must rank in the top ten of her group of initiates, some of whom have been preparing for this all of their lives. The rankings are decided by violent fights, random acts of daring and idiocy, excruciatingly painful tests that delve into the fabric of your fears, and frankly, whether or not those in charge despise you. In the weeks that follow her choice, Tris must remake herself in the image of the Dauntless, figure out a complicated relationship with an enigmatic instructor named Four, and most of all, watch her back: Divergence isn’t safe, and there are people who want her dead. Divergent is a fascinating read, and is entirely un-put-downable. The realistic and utterly human characters of Tris, Four, and their friends and family, as well as their intriguing world, draw in you into the story and keep you there. It is a fresh and show-stopping addition to the ranks of teen literature, and is sure to delight anyone who is tired of the same-old, same-old.

Lily


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