This book took me longer than average to get through, but I think it was well worth the undertaking. Slow going to start, but was rewarded for persistence through the pretty dense times. Chapter 1 felt never-ending, just a prolonged overview and intro it seemed, and the next chapters went on and on about the evolutionary aspects of how are brains developed, only finally making its ultimate justification for the discussion afterwards when I was losing patience for the topic. In fact, based on some of the negative reviews on audible, it makes me think they only got that far. I was rapt for the chapter all about the visual processes, leading off with some incredibly cool stuff about illusions and what we *don't* see and what we think we see... That is the kind of thing I think is really interesting and love to hear more about. Later chapters delved into family and social theory, which I am less riveted by but still find interesting.
I liked the approach Pinker took, and how he drew attention to or gave new perspectives to lots of everyday phenomena - how we look at paintings, why/how relationships develop, what is funny, and even how we think about thinking and try to explain the unexplainable. He gave a logical progression, building on topics from introducing the foundational theory (which was referred to and relied on throughout) and working through the various levels of the brain, how we make sense of the world and interact with it, how we make sense of others and interact with them, and how we have fun and find meaning in it all.
My particular interests were in the sections on perception, vision, language, and even a little in his brief discussion of the arts, fiction and music. I loved the time and detail he devoted to stereograms (which he mentions in the afterword as his favorite part)- not only could I visualize everything, but I actually recalled playing with stereoscopes as a kid, even an early 20th century one with photo panel inserts of Paris and other European destinations, just like he described. I was less keen on the long discussions of the evolutionary theory (mostly because I had some familiarity with it already, but it was clear he made the effort not to be misunderstood by creationists or people misconstruing the role of genes in our daily motives) and the chapter on family and social theory, though I thought it was well laid out; I have always found certain aspects of personality and social psychology to be interesting or illuminating, I just them less intriguing and cool than cognition.
Also a great part of his argument structure that i could appreciate - the computer science and mathematical metaphors he employed in explaining the information processing. I am sure my familiarity with the topics helped me get more out of some of the discussions, but I am sure his overall style would be accessible to a novice who was willing and able to take this book on, as he often gives clear explanations of new ideas and seems to assume no level of expertise. I found myself wanting more from the discussion on language than he gave, but then he dedicated an entire book to that topic, which I will be delving into soon.
A hefty and occasionally dense read, but sprinkled with lots of fun or interesting tidbits and pop culture references to keep it lively. Narrator did wonderfully giving voice to the style.
Trying to support 1) the comparably smaller non-fiction selection and 2) the few here that are not misinformation. Got mind? Use it.
My approach is to take notes/bookmark throughout the book the first time, so I can refer to certain sections in the future.
Definitely has enough info in this book to be a textbook, but fortunately it is a more enjoyable read.
Steven Pinker's other masterpiece "The Blank Slate" is still my favorite non-fiction. "How the Mind Works" is a more technical and challenging read/listen, but both are highly recommended based on their wealth of researched facts and arguments.
Probably the best way to absorb "How the Mind Works" is to read it. I found myself rewinding multiple times to re-listen to the more technical parts. Be prepared to exercise your mind, and you will be rewarded.
For an easier listen, "The Blank Slate" is just as informative; it is more on societal impact of our understanding on the mind rather than the technical mind mechanisms explored in this book.
The book started out good and seemed to be on topic. Not long into the book it was no longer about the mind. This should have been titled "An Argument for Evolution and Natural Selection". Never seemed to get back to how the mind works. After hours and hours of why birds have wings and how we grew eyes I just shut if off.
If you want a good book on Natural Selection this is a great listen. If you want a book on the mind look elsewhere.
Although the length seems daunting, every chapter was methodically built up and carefully explained in fascinating detail , at most times it was difficult to put down. Pinker has a gift for breaking abstract concepts into concrete metaphors, accumulating multiple lessons as if I feel like I finished a course in the computational theory of the mind. I highly recommend this book to anyone, it is well worth the time.
The narrator carefully enunciates every word and is careful to insert an automatic, irrelevant caricature of inflection. The book subject is quite interesting and entertainingly written, but the author's craft is entirely hidden by the mechanical, boring narration. It's so boring, it is actively irritating to listen to it. Read the book, it's worth it.
As an introduction to evolutionary psychology, this is a critical work. If the material comes off as dated (and it's less than twenty years old!), that cannot be the writer's fault. Much of the grounding theories are still valid, even as they've been enriched (and misused) between the time Pinker wrote it and now.
Narrator Mel Foster keeps us engaged, even through passages which were originally illustrated in the book. I did not suffer any lack of pictures.