Title: This is Your Brain on Music
Author: Dr. Daniel J. Levitin
Publisher: Plume/Penguin (2007)
Genres: Art, Nonfiction, Science
Sub-Genres: Anatomy, Biology, Music, Psychology
Summary: Levitin started his career as a music producer but ends it as a cognitive psychologist studying how the human brain reacts to music. In This is Your Brain on Music, Levitin covers a variety of musical topics from why we like certain music, what makes a musician, and how music relates to our emotional and linguistic developments. He takes all types of music, from Mozart to Motley Crue, and shows the reader just what our brain does with it.
What I Liked: For a science book that had to deal with two horribly advanced sets of terminology (music terms and anatomy terms), this book was utterly readable. From what could have been a horrible mess of confusion, Levitin manages to create a straight-forward, well-planned book that covers a variety of topics that generally makes sense to the reader. And the bonus is that the book covers topics that your everyday person would find interesting, as his base of musical knowledge is so broad that he can explain the science without talking down to the reader.
The breadth of topics broached in this book are also quite impressive, with the 9 chapters divided up into smaller sections. Levitin conveys a lot of information in a short space (the book isn't really that long for nonfiction) and does so with a down-to-earth tone that I think a lot of readers would enjoy. This isn't a professor talking to a student, but rather an expert teaching their friend about what they do.
I also truly appreciated the way Levitin looks at both science and music. There's this awe in his tone that must come from the author naturally, because that's the way he feels - there's no guile or trickery-in-style here, just straight-forward love of what he does. And the way he can describe the music of the Beatles, Bach, or Bon Jovi in equal terms is refreshing. All music for Levitin is worthwhile, from prehuman drumming to the atonal madness of the 20th century. And it's that appreciation for his subject that brings this book to a higher level.
What I Didn't Like: The book goes by too fast. There's so much in here, that Levitin sometimes does get lost in his topics - going on too long in some sections about music terminology that didn't even grab my attention as a musician or a long discussion on the anatomy of the brain, throwing out way too many words that the average reader won't take the time to understand. When he gets into these pigeon-holed segments, especially in comparison to the other parts of the book where he's so focused, the reader (like me) will start to skim and probably miss something important.
Similar Books: Other Levitin Books: The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature
Other Music and Psychology Studies: Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination, The Tao of Music: Sound Psychology, and Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition.
Last Thought: If you love music and want to feel smart at a dinner party, this is a good place to go.