"INCOGNITO: The Secret Lives of the Brain," by David Eagleman, Pantheon Books, $26.95, 290 pages (nf)

Author David Eagleman refers to the brain as, “Three pounds of the most complex material we’ve discovered in the universe."

In other words, if the reader takes any message away from “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Human Brain” it should be this: the human brain is amazing.

It turns out that the conscious mind only takes a minor role in our everyday activities. This includes obvious things like breathing and making sure that the heart continues beating.

According to Eagleman, it also includes what humans consider conscious decision-making. He asserts that one's subconscious mind does basically everything and the conscious part of the mind is pretty much the last one to know.

“Incognito” is a pleasure to read. In addition to scientific research, Eagleman builds his case with interesting anecdotes and mini experiments that the reader can try as they read.

One of the most interesting thoughts illustrates both the existence of blind spots in everyone’s field of vision and the brains ability to automatically compensate for them.

As the book progresses, Eagleman delves deeper and deeper into the workings of the subconscious. The last couple of chapters deviate from science to philosophy, and he reaches conclusions that may make some readers uncomfortable. According to Eagleman, there is no scientific evidence that free will exists. If this is true, then the social ramifications are far reaching.

In Eagleman’s defense, he’s no anarchist. He doesn’t advocate exonerating criminals based on the idea that they don’t have free will. Rather, he advocates a legal system where legal consequences are based on how likely it is that a criminal will continue to commit crimes.

If a reader is looking for a fun but illuminating read, “Incognito” is a good choice. With its nice balance between hard science and entertaining anecdotes, it is a good alternative to the usual brainless summer blockbusters.

Matthew Seamons, who resides in Ogden, Utah, loves to read.