Books I Read to Figure Out the Brain

When I started working on Head in the Game, I knew next to nothing about the real science of the brain. Biology and science were my least favorite subjects throughout school; I slept through the one biology class I was required to take in undergrad. So when it came to understanding the brain and how it worked—an important piece of understanding the mental engineering of the world’s greatest athletes, one would imagine—I was pretty clueless.

The entire endeavor, this fit of madness that was researching and writing HitG, unfolded as I blindly flailed my way through hundreds of thousands of pages—maybe even a million—of scientific literature and asked thousands of questions to hundreds of really smart people who were unbelievably patient with me.

It was very much a panicky self-guided crash-course in psychology and neuroscience of performance, and at times it was overwhelming to the point of exhaustion. Much of the work being done by the brave and relentless men and women studying the brain is downright heroic. Their passion and perseverance is astonishing.

As for me, I’m still not quite sure how the book came together.

Well no, that’s not true: I had some wonderful editors.

Anyway, here are some of the books I read before I could even start thinking about writing HitG.

Some of my favorites:

  • A Symphony in the Brain by Jim Robbins (link)
  • Cure by Jo Marchant (link)
  • Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku (link)
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (link)
  • Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter (link)
  • Neuroscience for Dummies by Frank Amthor (link)
  • The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman (link)
  • The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (link)
  • The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley (link)
  • The Rough Guide to the Brain by Barry J. Gibb (link)

Others that were also helpful:

  • Brain Rules by John Medina (link)
  • Flow in Sports by Susan A. Jackson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (link)
  • How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald (link)
  • How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman (link)
  • Smartcuts by Shane Snow (link)
  • The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford (link)
  • The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler (link)
  • The Sports Gene by David Epstein (link)
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (link)
  • The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran (link)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (link)
  • Top Dog by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (link)
  • Your Brain on Cubs by Dan Gordon (link)