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Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind Hardcover – January 6, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 2004, autistic savant Tammet reeled off 22,514 digits of pi from memory, setting a European record. How did he achieve such a feat? Is an autistic mind different from others? Yes and no, Tammet answers in this follow-up to his bestselling memoir, Born on a Blue Day. His own brain may be wired a little differently, but we are all capable of remarkable mental feats, he asserts. Tammet seamlessly blends science and personal experience in a powerful paean to the mysteries and beauty of the brain. Intelligence is a complex phenomenon that synthesizes various skills and abilities. Tammet illustrates this with his own abilities in memory, language and number sense. For example, he points out that his extraordinary memory for numbers is augmented by the unusual way in which my mind perceives numbers as complex, multi-dimensional, coloured and textured that allowed him to compose something like a visual song. Tammet concludes that all humans have something unique to contribute to the world, and he himself has a gift for rendering science accessible and even delightful. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Autistic savant Tammet's follow-up to his 2007 New York Times best-selling memoir, Born on a Blue Day, delves into the vast array of human understanding and how our brains work. Drawing on personal experience as well as on scientific research, he creates the equivalent of a good college lecture series, with the narrative generating interest as it develops. This smooth audio abridgment benefits from British actor Daniel Gerroll's narration, which renders the prosaic material intriguing. Recommended for public libraries with large audiobook collections. [Audio clip available through audio.simonandschuster.com; an alternate recording, with John Keating reading, is available from Recorded Books.—Ed.]—Lisa Powell Williams, Moline P.L., IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569693
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569695
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER on January 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't read Daniel Tammet's first book, Born on a Blue Day (yet) but this book was one of the most fascinating and informative books about the way the human mind works that I've ever read. Daniel Temmet is an autistic savant and talks in this book about how similar autistic and non-autistic minds function. It gave me a whole new perspective on how we learn, remember and process thoughts.

It was particularly helpful to me in understanding how we learn language since I've been learning French for the past 10 years and more recently Italian. It's much more involved than I previously thought but I also came away with the idea that it's possible to learn several languages and be able to function in each of them. According to research it's believed that when a person learns more than one language as a baby and small child, both languages occupy the same small section of the brain, but when learning a second or third language, they are kept in a separate section of the brain. This makes sense since little kids can often go back and forth between languages whereas when I try to switch I can almost feel my brain opening another "compartment".

He discusses IQ tests and IQ and disputes where they can actually measure intelligence. There is a whole section on how the human brain processes information and how we remember things. We often hear that our brains are like computers, just processing information but he shows how they are so much more intricate than even the most advanced computers. There are studies showing that babies can count and he discusses arguments that a "number module" exists within the human brain.

There is so much fascinating information packed into this book and Tammet's writing style makes it all so interesting and not at all a dry subject.
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Format: Hardcover
Autistic savant author Daniel Tammet clearly has a beautiful mind, but the real focus of this important book is the boundless ability of EVERY human brain, "the treasures buried deep within us all." Tammet argues convincingly that the differences between a savant and an average person are not really so great. He debunks myths about savants, many due to the movie Rain Man, that seem to rob the humanity from these rare people. After several chapters explaining how his own mind works, he gives tips on how everyday brains can improve their functioning.

Tammet shows how IQ testing does not show the true intelligence of a person, and is inherently flawed. He agrees with Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, and shows that when schools espouse this view, student's grades improve.

I found it fascinating to learn that Tammet has trouble remember faces, but numbers are alive for him. "In my head, numbers assume complex shapes that interact to form solutions to sums," he explains. "I do not know where my number shapes come from. I do not know why I think of 6 as tiny and 9 as very large or why threes are round and fours pointy."

Peeking in on such a mind is an interesting experience; I highly recommend it!

Here's the chapter list:
1. Wider Than the Sky
2. Measuring Minds: Intelligence and Talent
3. Seeing What is Not There
4. A World of Words
5. The Number Instinct
6. The Biology of Creativity
7. Light to Sight
8. Food for Thought
9. Thinking by Numbers
10. The Future of the Mind
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rather than talk about what this book is about, I'd like to share how I reacted to it. First, I think mild autistic spectrum disorders probably run in my family, overlapping with ADHD. I'm pretty sure after reading this book that at least one of my family members has Asperger's syndrome, and realizing this helps me understand their social distancing. I'm encouraged to find out more.

I was especially encouraged by the "World of Words" chapter, which deals with language acquisition in general, plus common misconceptions about learning languages beyond one's own initially acquired language. I've always approached learning a second language as if there was something mysterious and hard-wired about the brain that negated my ability as an adult to learn it. After getting all eight questions right in the intuitive sense for word meanings test, I realized that learning new languages does not depend on memorizing strings of words. The techniques for learning a new language Tammet suggests made complete sense to me, and I realized I've failed in the past because I've tried to just memorize words without forming a linguistic gestalt.

Throughout other chapters, what soon became clear to me is that many people are taught to just memorize without an understanding of the underlying conceptual, logical, and systematic relationships. Tammet's explanation of the Dewey decimal system used by libraries was a great AHA! for me. The system is not at all arbitrary, as I had always assumed; new categories are not just tacked on willy nilly. The system not only makes elegant sense to me now, the way the books are organized in a library--with books of a similar nature being located near each other--seems analogous to the way information is stored most efficiently in the brain.
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