Pieces of Light by Charles Fernyhough

Pieces of Light

A new consensus is emerging among cognitive scientists: rather than possessing fixed, unchanging memories, we create new recollections each time we are called upon to remember. As psychologist Charles Fernyhough explains, remembering is an act of narrative imagination as much as it is the product of a neurological process. In Pieces of Light, he illuminates this compelling scientific breakthrough in a series of personal stories, each illustrating...

Details Pieces of Light

TitlePieces of Light
Release DateMay 9th, 2019
PublisherProfile Books
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Psychology, Biology, Neuroscience, Autobiography, Memoir, Brain

Reviews Pieces of Light

  • David
    This intriguing book is mostly about the psychological aspects of memory. Charles Fernyhough makes it very clear that the mind does not retrieve stored memories, but instead it reconstructs them. It mentions the various components of the brain, but has little to do with the microscopic level of neurons, synapses, and the internal wiring of the brain. There is some discussion of brain scans, but mostly it deals with psychological studies of memory...
  • Joanne Harris
    Fascinating. Learned; plausible; well-researched; beautifully-written, yet accessible enough for a non-scientist to enjoy and understand. The writer uses his own memories as well as case studies to challenge and explain the nature of what we remember, and how the process of remembering affects (and sometimes changes) existing memories. Ought to be recommended reading for anyone who still believes in the infallibility of one's own memory, or that ...
  • Nikki
    This is rather more anecdotal than I’d hoped, often exploring memories through Fernyhough’s relationship with his own memories: memories of his father, teaching his children about his father, comparing his memories of a place to re-experiencing the place later on, etc, etc. Some of this is fascinating — especially his interviews with his grandmother, recording all the stories she had to tell. It’s a very personal thing, not scientific, bu...
  • Kurt
    The main premise of this book is a good one: the current state of neuro/psychological research into the nature of memory suggests that it is reconstructive in nature: you don't really have many full scenes stored away in your head right now, more like many images and facts that you reconstruct into a meaningful narrative each time you remember, and various factors make those narratives more or less reliable when it comes to factual accuracy. Fern...
  • Tortla
    I need to own this book so I can flip through it when I want to remember the coolest facts about memory as narrated by the man who is my new hero. (Ironically, I can't retain this much awesome information in my head, so I require a non-library copy to remain in my possession for reference.) Yup, Mr. Fernyhough, you're my new hero. You're British, and you write thoughtfully and in depth about memory (which is like my favorite subject ever), and yo...
  • Charlotte
    I wish this book had been written last year! It would have been so useful for my dissertations. Fernyhough wants to debunk the popular conception of memory as a kind of filing cabinet (Harry Potter's penseive comes to mind) and instead show us how we create memories in the present moment, using data from the past that is stored in the brain. It's a completely readable book which patiently and sensitively discusses the human need to make memory 'c...
  • Holly
    This was perfectly fine. Quite interesting explorations, though not so different from reading Joseph LeDoux or Daniel Schacter. Fernyhough is a good writer who also seems like a wonderful teacher and father. Something about the book didn't excite me too much, though. I can't really put my finger on why, except to say that it's quite anecdotal, and I often grew bored during the anecdotes of his own childhood, and his parents' lives, and his childr...
  • Gizem Kendik
    Selamlar Charles Fernyhough,İstemiyorum senin analı, bacılı, kardeşli anılarını okumak, istemiyorum ya. Bi daha bilim ve edebiyat karışımı hiçbir şeye elimi sürmem. Müsade varsa şuraya bir özet bırakıyorum.Belleğin statik, geçmişten gelen yadigar, anıların zihin kütüphanesinde zihinsel DVD’ler olarak depolandığı veya fotokopi makinesi olarak görüldüğü dönemi geçtik. Bellek anıyı bakmak için çağırmaz, h...
  • Lynn
    This is a fascinating book about thought and memory. What is your first memory? Can false memories be put into someone's head? What causes traumatic flash back memories? Why can five people experience the same event and have five different versions of the story? How much of what I remember is gleaned from stories people tell, rather than from my memory? If you find these questions fascinating you will like this book. It is well written, well rese...
  • Kaeli Wood
    wow. this was a fantastic book. i thought about my memories in a way i never had before, and it was at times disquieting and at times comforting. i was worried that the scientific approach to the way our brains hold onto our pasts would make me doubt my own stories, would remove the magical quality of remembering. but the sensitive, at times literary way fernyhough examines memory removes this trouble. our memories are valid, even if they are fal...
  • Charlene
    This was just ok for me. I would have been much happier to spend my time reading the same topic by a different author.
  • Soho_Black
    Over the years, I've seen the human memory at its best and worst. I watched my Nan suffer with Alzheimer's to the point she couldn't remember who anyone was, but also had a colleague who won a silver medal at the Memory Olympics for his ability to remember long strings of items. I also studied memory as part of a psychology degree but, perhaps ironically, I can no longer remember much of what I learned.In ''Pieces of Light: The New Science of Mem...
  • Kathleen Jones
    This has been my bedside reading for the past couple of weeks. I’ve always been interested in the way Memory and Imagination work together to create. How the imagination takes all the snippets of things we’ve stored in our brains over the years and weaves them into something completely new. What I didn’t realise, until I read Charles Fernyhough’s book, Pieces of Light, was just how dependent the memory was on imagination in order to enabl...
  • Yaaresse
    The author starts the last chapter by writing "I set out to write about science and ended up telling a lot of stories." (That quote may not be exact. I don't have the book in front of me.) And that, folks, is the gist of the whole book. I felt like we never really got to the science or the psychology part of the book. There are a lot of anecdotes, mostly about the author, mostly about him going somewhere he hasn't been in years and observing hims...
  • Dpdwyer
    A good account of the latest understandings about human memory and how we form images of our selves. Lots of ideas to ponder: "The truth is that autobiographical memories are not possessions that you either have or do not have. They are mental constructions, created in the present moment, according to the demands of the present.""...when you have a memory, you don't retrieve something that already exists, fully formed---you create something new. ...
  • Julia
    Eh.I was really interested to read this as a non-fiction book, I read some psychology in university but not much since and I thought it would be fascinating because of the way our memories define us. The writer is a psychologist and a creative writer and the book therefore falls between both and for me, doesn't satisfy on either front. The explanations of the science and key concepts weren't constructed in a way that I really felt I was fully lea...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    Not bad but not great. It is a got a little too much fluff and not enough meat. Some interesting tidbits like three quarters of people have suffered a traumatic incident in their lives but only 8% get PTSD. Those that do tend to have a smaller hippocampus so memory may be involved in PTSD. There is a lot of stuff on how memories are constructed and changed each time we remember an episode and how unreliable memory can be. But a lot of fluff with ...
  • Heather
    A lot of the real-life examples that the author used from his life were not compelling, especially the multiple recountings of his attempts to navigate through cities he once knew. These were often long drawn-out multi-page examples. He also became too technical at times. Some of the case studies toward the end of the book were more interesting, but even those he tended to become very detailed and lengthy. Editing out the unnecessary and unintere...
  • Tessa Fixter-Coniglio
    There is a lot of interesting information and is a digestible and easy to understand read but it often diverges into the author's personal anecdotes about his life and memory. It almost feels 3/4 memoir and 1/4 the psychological research of memory which is a bit disappointing.
  • Melissa Seitz
    For anyone interested in understanding how memory works, this book is for you! Fascinating!
  • Pat Edwards
    didn't live up to the hype. more anecdote than explanation. I wanted to see the connective tissue between a memory and the physical plant, but was disappointed.
  • Ann
    Fascinating. I recommend it especially to writers of memoir, for insight into how and why we remember the way we do. I love the author's mix of science and excellent storytelling.
  • JQAdams
    The concluding chapter of this aptly begins "I set out to write about some science, and I ended up by telling a lot of stories." As that suggests, the book is another entry in the ever-popular Unexpected Memoir category, although the other is an academic developmental psychologist. The science of the title is largely restricted to articulating, over and over and over again, the hypothesis that remembering, especially the remembering of personal h...
  • Lynda
    This book is much like another book I read recently on time research. It discusses memory research but also delves frequently into the author's life story and experience. Some of it is interesting, some of it not. All in all, it seems like a lot of pages were taken up unnecessarily as it can be summed up by these words: memory is not what we thought in the past (sorry Freud) but is replaced with new material every time we try to access it. If you...
  • Sally Brock
    Not entirely the best book for a non scientist sort but truly interesting information about memory - something we all carry around within ourselves all of the time. How we bring them forth, how we circumnavigate them, how we reconstitute them and how, with them, we build a narrative of our lives. Memories are indeed curious things. I enjoyed the parts that were anecdotal, the stories that were attached to real folks.... those enduring PTSD and ot...
  • Bob Collins
    Memory as stories we tell ourselves? Memories as reconstructions from the elements laid down in the brain as opposed to a "movie in our head?" Fernyhough presents some of the best current research on memory and elegantly relates it to our propensity to tell stories. There is much we don't yet know about memory, but the newer abilities to examine a working brain at the molecular level is starting to tease out some tantalizing ideas (neuroscience) ...
  • Lulu Hirko
    This was a very interesting read. I checked it out from the library, then had to have it. What's great about it is that while it's a non-fiction book, it is written by a writer who does also write fiction. In this way, it's the best of both worlds. It's about memory, and the many self defining narratives we construct around them. As it turns out, our memories are, in a big way, subject to-well, a whole lot of components. It caused me to rethink m...
  • Shana Yates
    Illuminating look at memory, how we think it works, and how incredibly malleable and ever-changing it is. Some of this material I have seen discussed in other books (on topics ranging from social science to medicine to criminal justice), but this cover various aspects of memory under one cover. Chapters include, among others, discussions of how trauma impacts memory, how memory is formed, childhood amnesia (the general forgetting that many of us ...
  • Laura
    A beautifully written, contemplative book that crosses several genres, this is a blend of interesting scientific research on the topic of memory combined with moving passages about the author's father who was fond of nature walks ("We are comfortable with silence. Without the pressure of language, actual or expected, we can stretch out a little more easily into the people we are."), his daughter's childhood (a springboard for intriguing discoveri...
  • Bözsi Claussen
    This book (given to me by Nev and Brad for Xmas/Birthday) brings together theories and knowledge that now is being most seriously considered or seems to be the case, well explained by Fernyhough, with many personal examples (drawn both from his own experience or from the experiences of others) of how memory seems to work in various ways. Having quite recently finished reading several of Oliver Sack's books, in which he discusses many memory anoma...