Did you ever tell someone that they think with their stomach? Then you're on the cutting edge of scientific thought, according to researcher Michael D. Gershon. The title of his book The Second Brain refers to the hundred million nerve cells in and around our guts that often act entirely independently of the dictator inside our heads. This isn't so bad--there are some meals we'd rather not have to think about eating, much less digesting. Gershon tells us the stories of his development into a scientist, his determination to promote neurogastroenterology as a legitimate field of research, and the nature of "the brain gone south," all with humor and aplomb.
Though not for the overly squeamish (after all, even if Gershon were to pull his punches, his subject still carries traces of old taboos), The Second Brain is a lively and invigorating read. The illustrations are superb and well labeled; this complements the text, which ranges from clinical to personal, as when the author details the events leading to his mother's tragic death following unnecessary surgery for an ulcer. The interactions between the enteric nervous system and digestion, emotion, and disease are not simple, but Gershon's patient prose explains everything in terms any interested layperson can understand.
As in the best scientific works, The Second Brain informs and inspires, surprising the reader with unexpected complexities and mysteries arising in such a seemingly primitive venue. It makes excellent after-dinner reading.