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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Consciousness in a Nutshell by Jay Nelson and Lindy Nelson is a powerful creative nonfiction book in the guise of a memoir. It delves deep into psychonautical explorations that address consciousness and what it means to be alive. It is one of those rare, brilliant books that use the technique and literary elements of poets, playwrights, and fiction writers to present a nonfiction narrative. Two young neuropsychopharmacologists, James and Ava, are on the brink of publishing a major breakthrough to do with understanding the subject of consciousness. But Ava disappears, and James finds himself trapped in a kind of place that no one would wish even upon their worst enemy. The narrative is divided into four parts where everything is constructed with momentum in mind, particularly about the brain, from its characteristics to the hard problem of consciousness.
You don’t have to be an expert in multimodal conversations that span different fields in the arts and sciences to enjoy Consciousness in a Nutshell. While the perspective of the narrative shifts from time to time, James remains as the faithful narrator, who diligently walks you through the story of his research and how he came to understand the subject of consciousness. If Umberto Eco is considered the most important representative of semiotics, Jay Nelson and Lindy Nelson may well become the same for psychonautical studies. Using their creativity and intelligence, their collaboration in this work could be labeled as a kind of modernist enlightenment in the fusion of psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and evolutionary biology. It’s a treasure house of information written in a non-intimidating style that allows any layman to understand the nature and being of consciousness from its physical, neural, cognitive, and representational aspects. Highly recommended.