The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

Siamese-twin brains. Viruses that eat patients’ memories. Blind people who “see” through their tongues. Stroke victims who can’t speak but can still sing…

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery 

Sam KeanOfficial bio:
Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he’s a writer in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons. His first two books, The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb were national bestsellers, and both were named an Amazon “Top 5” science books of the year. The Disappearing Spoon was nominated by the Royal Society for one of the top science books of 2010, while The Violinist’s Thumb was a finalist for PEN’s literary science writing award. His work has also been featured on “Radiolab” and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” among other shows. You can follow him via Twitter @sam_kean, and read excerpts at
(un)Official bio: Sam Kean gets called Sean at least once a month. He grew up in South Dakota, which means more to him than it probably should. He’s a fast reader but a very slow eater. He went to college in Minnesota and studied physics and English. At night, he sometimes comes down with something called “sleep paralysis,” which is the opposite of sleepwalking. Right now, he lives in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master’s degree in library science that he will probably never use. He feels very strongly that open-faced sandwiches are superior to regular ones.
Sam writes:


I’m thrilled to introduce my biggest book yet, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, an omnibus of the most dramatic and fascinating stories in neuroscience. Until recently, scientists had only one way to study the brain–wait for disasters to strike and see how people’s minds worked differently afterward. Parents suddenly couldn’t recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people’s “alien hands” would unbutton their own clothes, against their will, in public. These people’s lives laid the foundation of modern neuroscience and taught us what every last region of the brain did.
Here are their stories.

You helped make my first two books, The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb, big hits, and I’d love for this book to have a strong debut as well: early sales help so much to build momentum and word of mouth. You can order Dueling Neurosurgeons through the links below and share word with others through Facebook or Twitter (@sam_kean). And if you enjoy, please consider reviewing it on Amazon, Goodreads, or another site. Even a few words help.

Most of all, if you have friends, family, or acquaintances who might enjoy it, please pass this message along. (There’s also an excerpt here.)

And don’t worry: Dueling Neurosurgeons can be enjoyed by all. Non-scientists will get a lively introduction to the brain’s secret inner workings, and scientists, students, and teachers will learn something startling about the field. There’s enough oddball history and strange science for everyone!

Thank you! I’m really excited about the book…


  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 6, 2014)

About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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3 Responses to The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

  1. John L. Monk says:

    Reblogged this on John L. Monk and commented:
    This sounds sort of fascinating.


  2. John L. Monk says:

    A lot of people don’t know it, but pure mercury isn’t dangerous. It’s mercury compounds that kill. (don’t go drinking any mercury though, whether it turns to compounds after it encounters stomach acid is beyond my lore)


  3. Sounds interesting. I’m off to read some excerpts. Thanks.


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