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Book Review of: Making a Good Brain Great

We highly recommend Making a Good Brain Great.

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Review of Making a Good Brain Great, by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.. Best-selling author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, Mensa member, principal of, and author of over 5,000 articles.

Dr. Amen begins this book by stressing the importance of the brain. The brain is where "you" reside. It's the seat of loving, living, being, learning, thinking, working.... The brain weighs three pounds, but uses 30% of the energy the human body consumes. Yet, the brain is a fragile miracle housed in a thin-walled bony bowl. It's easily damaged by physical trauma, emotional trauma, drugs, disease, and poor dietary habits.

Because of the brain's fragility and the common disregard for it, brain dysfunction is so widespread that it's normal. Perhaps it's because we don't see our brains, but most of us never address the issue of actually caring for our brains. Many brain-related problems are preventable. With a healthy brain, you can fully engage in life, meet its challenges, and be happy. Few of us choose this option, and that's probably due to a lack of good information on the subject.

Dr. Amen has analyzed thousands of brain scans. Consequently, he's been able to correlate specific brain dysfunction with specific actions people take. He has been able to go beyond observing outward behavior to observing inward behavior--how the brain responds to what is done to it.

What are some ways you may be drilling holes in your boat as you float along in the sea of stupidity? To avoid sinking, become familiar with these and don't do them! Here are some paraphrased examples from Dr. Amen's book:

  • Doing cigarettes. Whether you have one in your mouth or someone else does, you are still breathing in the same chemicals. The resulting vasoconstriction reduces blood flow through the carotid arteries, but also reduces blood flow through the brain's blood distribution system. In addition, this reduced blood is diminished because it's loaded with carbon monoxide rather than oxygen. While smokers may temporarily experience increased concentration, their overall brain functions are reduced dramatically. If you want to be stupid, smoke.
  • Eating highly-processed foods. These are "nutrient-challenged," to say the least. And they trigger whole set of hormonal and other effects that work against proper brain function. Shop in the produce section, and avoid foods that come in boxes.
  • Avoiding tough work. Brains, like muscles, follow the "use it or lose it" principle. If your job doesn't provide a good brain workout (and most jobs don't--they mostly challenge your ability to deal with bureaucracy and rudeness), find something that does.
  • Doing the same things all the time. When you try something new, you stimulate your brain into forming new connections. This activity increases overall brainpower.
  • Being a sloth. The brain is a physical organ. Physical fitness is a "doorway" to mental fitness.
  • Avoiding coordination-based activities. When you reinforce the brain-body connection by learning a new physical skill, you provide the brain with massive stimulus. If you are already a regular participant in a particular sport, that's great. But, you've already built those brain pathways and much of the benefit is already "cashed in." Now find another sport to build more brain pathways. Look for a sport that requires a different set of motor skills.

In this book, you'll also find a wealth of information on positive actions you can take to maintain and improve brain health. I'm pretty excited by this whole topic. Now that I've learned about the Amen Clinic, I'm going to investigate them further on their Website--and consider getting a brain scan myself.

A note on the writing: I was pleased that Dr. Amen and his publisher made this text clear and followed the rules of grammar. This shows they care about their message. After reading this book, I can see why they do.


About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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