Books in brief

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    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

    Fourth Estate 592 pp. £25 (2010)

    The battle to cure cancer has been waged for thousands of years. From ancient Egyptian records of the illness to the latest research into how tumour cells multiply, physician and science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee relates our attempts to understand and control cancer. He asks why each new treatment for the disease — whether surgery, radiation or chemotherapy — ends up being applied at extremes that verge on the toxic. But he hopes that incremental knowledge will add up to transformative changes in treatment.

    Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions

    Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde with Sandra Blakeslee. Henry Holt 304 pp. $26 (2010)

    Good magicians know a lot about how the human brain works, and knowledge of magic can tell you a lot about the mind. The authors reveal the neuroscience behind the tricks of some of the world's great magicians. And using everyday examples of illusions, they explain how attention and awareness processes can be hacked. Practical applications range from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education.

    Grounding Sociality: Neurons, Mind, and Culture

    Edited by:
    Psychology Press 288 pp. £45 (2010)

    Humans are social animals. The many aspects of how we interact on varying levels — from the neural to the behavioural and the cultural — are explored through contributions by experts from a variety of disciplines, edited by social psychologists Gün Semin and Gerald Echterhoff. The book asks how individuals take each other into account, coordinate their actions and share their inner thoughts, thus laying the foundations for an integrated view of sociality and its implications for the field of psychology.

    After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver

    Georgetown University Press 284 pp. $26.95 (2010)

    Corpses have rights, argues legal scholar Normal Cantor. The wishes of the deceased regarding their mortal remains should be recognized and upheld, he reasons, suggesting that we should leave instructions for the disposal of our bodies. Examining the legal, ethical and moral aspects of death, he looks at the legacy of the corpse in medical education, science research and tissue transplantation. He also discusses novel endings for bodies, such as those that have been used in artistic displays or cryogenically frozen.

    The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision, and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria

    PublicAffairs 320 pp. $25.95 (2010)

    The scientists who search for a malaria vaccine inspire philanthropist and business leader Bill Shore's book. He uses the quest of these dedicated researchers as a springboard to muse on the lengths to which people will go to cure major world problems. Charting their efforts to overcome logistical and financial difficulties, and the disbelief of tropical-disease experts, he asks why and how these researchers persist in the face of adversity.

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    Books in brief. Nature 468, 169 (2010) doi:10.1038/468169a

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