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After reading an excellent review of this book in a serious periodical, I was expecting an interesting and informative discussion of consciousness - philosophical, psychological, spiritual, biological etc. etc. Instead I was bored to tears by the first couple of chapters and flipping through the rest of the book I only found more of the same. I lent it to three other friends and all gave the same verdict as my own. What a disappointment! I had been so looking forward to something stimulating and even perhaps inspiring. Sadly, I found neither.
Consciousness is a maddeningly slippery and difficult subject. I delve into it every few years by reading some of the luminaries in the field – e.g. Dennett, Searle, Hofstadter. I can’t pretend to have got any nearer unravelling its mystery, but always enjoy the stimulation of the ride along the way. Although written by a non-professional in the field, this is no ‘Dummies Guide to Consciousness’. Parks is clearly a deep and serious thinker, and I found his musings and explorations mostly insightful and compelling, in particular his explorations of alternative theories to the conventional ‘it’s all in our head’ model, e.g. the Spread Mind theory. I managed to keep up with his arguments most of the time but several parts will need a re-read.
Parks occasionally wanders off the subject a little too much for my taste - e.g. his personal life, rather too much detail on mouse brain experiments – which seem unnecessary diversions. However, I still found the book overall an enthralling read and a valuable contribution to my (certainly doomed) quest to understand how consciousness works.
A very enjoyable book. Not too serious. But explaining that despite the many theories, and much continuing research. We are no nearer understanding consciousness - or are likely to be in the foreseeable future!
The entire book is pretty much a digression, or maybe the digressions are the mentioning of interviews he had with neuroscientists. Parks is a novelist and translator, not a scientist, and his minimal science background is quite evident. Even when his interview subjects say something intelligent, he more often misses the point. He seems most interested in discussing the breakup of his marriage, dumping his long-term wife for a woman less than half his age (about which he brags). He seems quite proud that passersby can't tell if his current partner is his daughter or an extramarital fling. He spends more of the book discussing his hotel room, and then his reactions to the interviewees than he does focusing (which he doesn't do) on being "on the trail of consciousness." Unless you're really interested in the ruminations of an "over sixty" sharing a hotel room with a thirty year old, don't bother.
This was another example of a purchase made after reading an intriguing book review and getting something altogether different...my experience of expectation, in other words, did not match with the experience of actually handling the book, absorbing the linear words through my eyes, and then processing the information using the billions of neural connections of my brain. The book opened with the following line: "I open my eyes and there is the wall." I think it sums up the entire reading experience succinctly.
I struggled to finish this book. The author writes more unnecessary detail about mice brain experiments than anyone outside of a neuroscientist could possibly tolerate. The book rambles severely. I found what I thought was an annoyingly air of superiority about the subject of consciousness; almost smarmy. I came away not more enlightened but relieved to have this book on my donation pile.