Happy Holidays, nerds: Books for mind and body buffs

At the MIT Press, we know nerdy

Our authors, loyal readers, and staff are all unapologetically enthusiastic about their niche interests. If that makes us nerds, we’ll wear the honorific proudly. 

We’ve put together book recommendations for every type of nerd, from the peer-reviewers and scholars to the armchair intellectuals and budding aficionados. Explore books for the mind and body buffs in your life below. Happy holidays and happy reading.

Use code NERD20 online and in person at the MIT Press Bookstore for 20% off the below books until January 31, 2024. Terms and conditions apply.

The Day After Yesterday

The Day after Yesterday: Resilience in the Face of Dementia by Joe Wallace

A graphic designer, a writer, a public servant, a retired PhD, a 29-year-old with early-onset Alzheimer’s. These are just some of the 50 million people living with dementia who share their deeply personal stories with Joe Wallace in The Day after Yesterday, a powerful collection of portraits and personal stories that humanizes the millions of people living with the disease. Each story in this poignant volume offers a unique and powerful lesson—not just about how to live with a terminal illness, but how to do so with resilience and dignity.

“A moving tribute to resilience, The Day after Yesterday exemplifies the power of storytelling to catalyze compassion and inspire change.” —Seth and Lauren Rogen, Cofounders, Hilarity for Charity

Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness by Nicholas Humphrey

We feel, therefore we are. Conscious sensations ground our sense of self. They are crucial to our idea of ourselves as psychic beings: present, existent, and mattering. But is it only humans who feel this way? Do other animals? Will future machines? Weaving together intellectual adventure and cutting-edge science, Nicholas Humphrey describes in Sentience his quest for answers: from his discovery of blindsight in monkeys and his pioneering work on social intelligence to breakthroughs in the philosophy of mind.

“Bold, brilliant, honest… I know of no better survey of the big questions in discussions about consciousness.” —Fortean Times

Notebooks of a Wandering Monk

Notebooks of a Wandering Monk by Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard began his spiritual transformation at the age of twenty-one, in Darjeeling, India, when he met Tibetan teacher Kangyur Rinpoche, who deeply impressed the young man with his extraordinary quality of being. In Notebooks of a Wandering Monk, Ricard tells the simple yet extraordinary story of his journey and the remarkable men and women who inspired him along the way, including Kangyur Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and the fourteenth Dalai Lama, as well as great luminaries such as Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, and a number of leading scientists.

“Matthieu Ricard, scientist-turned-monk, brilliantly documents his remarkable years of dedication to spiritual pursuits.” —Daniel Goleman, coauthor of Why We Meditate

Ending Epidemics

Ending Epidemics: A History of Escape from Contagion by Richard Conniff

After the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be hard to imagine a time not so long ago when deadly diseases were a routine part of life. It is harder still to fathom that the best medical thinking at that time blamed these diseases on noxious miasmas, bodily humors, and divine dyspepsia. This all began to change on a day in April 1676, when a little-known Dutch merchant described bacteria for the first time. Beginning on that day in Delft and ending on the day in 1978 when the smallpox virus claimed its last known victim, Ending Epidemics explains how we came to understand and prevent many of our worst infectious diseases—and double average life expectancy.

“[A] highly readable history of epidemic diseases and vaccinologists, from the first description of bacteria in 1676 to the eradication of smallpox in 1978.” —Nature

The Exquisite Machine: The New Science of the Heart by Sian E. Harding

Your heart is a miracle in motion, a marvel of construction unsurpassed by any human-made creation. It beats 100,000 times every day—if you were to live to 100, that would be more than 3 billion beats across your lifespan. Despite decades of effort in labs all over the world, we have not yet been able to replicate the heart’s perfect engineering. But, as Sian Harding shows us in The Exquisite Machine, new scientific developments are opening up the mysteries of the heart. And this explosion of new science—ultrafast imaging, gene editing, stem cells, artificial intelligence, and advanced sub-light microscopy—has crucial, real-world consequences for health and well-being.

“How the heart works, how it fails and what can be done about it. A remarkable read from a world renowned researcher.” —Stephen Westaby, author of the Sunday Times best sellers Fragile Lives and The Knife’s Edge

Tornado of Life: A Doctor’s Journey through Constraints and Creativity in the ER by Jay Baruch

To be an emergency room doctor is to be a professional listener to stories. Each patient presents a story; finding the heart of that story is the doctor’s most critical task. More technology, more tests, and more data won’t work if doctors get the story wrong. When caring for others can feel like venturing into unchartered territory without a map, empathy, creativity, imagination, and thinking like a writer become the cornerstones of clinical care. In Tornado of Life, ER physician Jay Baruch shares these struggles in a series of short, powerful, and affecting essays that invite the reader into stories rich with complexity and messiness.

“Beautifully written with a different take on life.” —Library Journal

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