Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes wins 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize

Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes, an investigation into autism, has won the 2015 Samuel Johnson prize, with judges praising it for ‘injecting a hopeful note into a conversation that’s normally dominated by despair’.

Following on from his groundbreaking article The Geek Syndrome, Wired reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

Neurotribes beat shortlisted titles including Jonathan Bate’s biography of Ted Hughes, Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, and Emma Sky’s The Unravelling. Silberman receives £20,000 for winning the prestigious award, last year taken out by Helen Macdonald for H is for Hawk.

‘NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history, presented with a rare sympathy and will change how you think of autism.’

– Oliver Sacks

Grab your copy of Neurotribes here


by Steve Silberman

A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.

What is autism: a devastating developmental condition, a lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more – and the future of our society depends on our understanding it.

Going back to the earliest autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path towards a more humane world in which people with learning differences have access to the resources they need to live happier and more meaningful lives.

kG3hWgJ__400x400Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose ‘little professors’ were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of ‘neurodiversity’ activists seeking respect, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and education, and the right to self- determination for those with cognitive differences.

About the Author

Steve Silberman is an award-winning investigative reporter and has covered science and cultural affairs for Wired and other major magazines for more than twenty years. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, TIME, Nature and Salon.

Grab your copy of Neurotribes here

For Dummies Month is over and we have goodies for six lucky Booktopians!


For Dummies Month is over. For six lucky Booktopians however, the celebration will last quite a bit longer.

During March, our For Dummies month, we had some awesome prize packs to give away. All you had to do to win was order a book from any For Dummies category before March 31st and go in the draw to win a prize pack!


And the winner of a Business & Finance prize pack worth $149.99 is….

E.Budas, Northam, WA

Here’s what you’ve won




And the winner of a Computing prize pack worth $158.64 is….

M. Cooper, Murwillumbah, NSW

Here’s what you’ve won

Dummies Month Computing prize pack


And the winner of a Health prize pack worth $158.10 is…

N.Dekan, Sunbury, VIC

Here’s what you’ve won

Dummies Month health prize pack


And the winner of a Humanities prize pack worth $155.94 is…

R.Jensen, Mawson, ACT

Here’s what you’ve won

Dummies Month Humanities prize pack


And the winner of a Lifestyle prize pack worth $159.10 is…

L.Anderson, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Here’s what you’ve won

Dummies Month Lifestyle prize pack


And the winner of a Sciences prize pack worth $143.64 is…

M.Johnson-Goeldner, Rural View, QLD

Here’s what you’ve won

Dummies Month Science prize pack

Congratulations to the winners!
Not a winner? Don’t worry, we have more prizes to giveaway! You could win an awesome
Mother’s Day gift. Check it out here.


For Dummies Month is here and we have goodies to give away!


It’s For Dummies Month and to celebrate we have some awesome prize packs to give away! Just order a book from any For Dummies category before March 31st and go in the draw to win a prize pack.

*Terms and Conditions apply.


Order from the For Dummies: Business & Finance collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Business & Finance prize pack worth $149.99.

Here’s what you’ll win




Order from the For Dummies: Computing collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Computing prize pack worth $158.64.

Here’s what you’ll win

Dummies Month Computing prize pack


Order from the For Dummies: Health collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Health prize pack worth $158.10.

Here’s what you’ll win

Dummies Month health prize pack


Order from the For Dummies: Humanities collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Humanities prize pack worth $155.94.

Here’s what you’ll win

Dummies Month Humanities prize pack


Order from the For Dummies: Lifestyle collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Lifestyle prize pack worth $159.10.

Here’s what you’ll win

Dummies Month Lifestyle prize pack


Order from the For Dummies: Sciences collection by March 31st and go in the draw to win a Sciences prize pack worth $143.64.

Here’s what you’ll win

Dummies Month Science prize pack

Check out all our For Dummies collections here

7PM INTERVIEW: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on his brilliant new book, climate science, and the big questions

Now there’s a reason why we call Dr Karl, Dr Karl. Taking on his last name is, well, fraught with danger. We are not all SBS news readers. Some of us stumble when faced with complex surnames. And Kruszelnicki is a doozy. But when John Purcell sat across from Dr Karl and prepared to pronounce Karl’s full name, the ever helpful educator leant forward and walked him through it. Think you know how to say Dr Karl Kruszelnicki? Think again.

house-of-karlsHouse of Karls

by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Australia’s favourite popular scientist returns with a new book of scintillating science. His latest book is packed with fun facts and breakthrough science to thrill, amuse and entertain. Dazzling and daring, the inimitable Dr Karl has all the answers to the questions you never thought to ask!

Prepare to discover the truth about Green Tea; why crime pays (but not very well); how you can out-run a deer; the world of Big Data; why Space is the Hostile Frontier; and just what takes the title of the world’s most expensive book.

Click here to grab a copy of House of Karls 

Sir David Attenborough’s new book… Drawn from Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise

Drawn from Paradise is David Attenborough’s journey through the cultural history of the birds of paradise, one of the most exquisite and extravagant, colourful and intriguing families of birds.

From the moment they were introduced to the European mind in the early sixteenth century, their unique beauty was recognised and commemorated in the first name that they were given – birds so beautiful must be birds from paradise.

In this unique exploration of a truly awe-inspiring family of birds which to this day is still shrouded in mystery, David Attenborough and Errol Fuller trace the natural history of these enigmatic birds through their depiction in western works of art throughout the centuries, featuring beautiful illustrations by such luminary artists as Jacques Barraband, William Hart, John Gould, Rubens and Breughel, to name but a few.

Experienced ornithologists and general nature and art enthusiasts alike will delight in this journey of discovery of the world’s most beautiful and mysterious birds.

About the Author

David Attenborough is one of the world’s leading naturalists and broadcasters. His distinguished career spans more than fifty years, and his multi-award winning films and series have been broadcast around the world.

Click here to order your copy of
Drawn from Paradise
by David Attenborough from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada and when I was five my family moved to Peterborough, a small city two hours East of Toronto, so my father could pursue his career as an electrical engineer with Canadian General Electric. Peterborough is in the heart of the Kawartha Lakes district so I grew up hiking, canoeing, camping and learning to love and appreciate the outdoors. My parents were avid readers and so I grew up surrounded by books and a love of reading.  Many a time I would open a book and escape into another world.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have for as long as I can remember been fascinated by learning and why for some people learning is easy and not for others (like myself for the first 26 years of my life) so I always knew my vocation was in the field of learning.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Nothing comes to mind. I was raised in a family with strong humanitarian values and a belief in the importance of being of service in this world, and that has shaped me and remains unchanged.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Starting grade 1 and struggling with learning and overhearing a conversation between my teacher and mother in which I was diagnosed as having a mental block and my mother was told that I would never learn like other children.

Discovering and reading Aleksandr Luria’s book, The Man with a Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound. I could see the parallel between the problems of Lyova Zazetsky, the soldier who had a very specific brain wound, described in this book and the challenges I had had since birth related to my severe learning disability – for the first time I understood what was not working in my brain. If I could identify where the problem was, I felt I was significantly along the path of addressing the problem which became my life’s work.

Creating the first cognitive exercise for myself and after months of hard and determined work seeing such a shift in how I could understand the world around me, from grasping conversations, to understanding mathematics, to comprehending what I read the first time I read it.  I no longer lived in a fog of confusion. This demonstrated for me that the human brain was neuroplastic and capable of change.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books for me will never be obsolete. There is a depth and breadth to the material that can be explored and developed in a book which can not be covered in the shorter forms of information dissemination such as blogs, newspapers, etc.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

This book is a very personal story and also a very universal story. The personal was born out of my struggle to understand why I was the way I was – with very real and crippling learning deficits.

And it is universal as everyone has his or her own unique profile of brain strengths and weaknesses.  My life and this book is an exploration of the territory of the brain and how it makes us uniquely who we are, how understanding this territory can give us insight into our functioning and the functioning of others. And what is most promising is that through the application of the principles of neuroplasticity this book illustrates that not only does our brain shape us but that we can shape our brain.

In this book we meet and hear the stories of others with very specific cognitive deficits. We hear what living with these deficits is like and the transformation that occurs as the weakness is turned into a strength. We meet the ‘pile people’ who leave everything in line of sight because for these people out of sight is literally out of mind – they can not construct spatial maps or visualize their way into space so once something is put away, it can no longer be called to mind. We meet people for whom the visual world is flat and grey and uninteresting, who can not create pictures in their heads of what they have seen or where they have been or of the faces of people they know.  We meet the ‘klutzes’ who do not know where their body is in space because the brain is not supplying sensory feedback to tell the person how far or close they are to objects such as door frames. They trip over their own feet, vacuuming can be a dangerous contact sport as they trip over the vacuum or misjudge how close the hose is to their body and end up bruised. Their car is dented since by extension they can not judge where the side of the car is in space. We meet the person who is a transcriber who struggles with discriminating speech sounds so is exhausted at the end of the day after having to pay so much attention to listening over and over again to hear the words to be transcribed. We meet people who struggle with thinking and planning and for whom problems appear as an insurmountable wall since they don’t have the cognitive function in the part of the brain required for mental initiative. We meet people with a poor auditory memory who scribble notes on their hands or are lost without their ‘to do lists’ because they can not hold this information in memory. And the people for whom ‘10’ ‘100’ and ‘1,000’ all mean about the same, who run out of money and can’t schedule time – they are quantity blind.

We all have a brain and how it functions shapes who we are – it is our brain that mediates our understanding of the world, so yes our brain does shape us and what is, for me, so profound, is that we now have the knowledge and tools to shape our brains – to open doors of possibility to allow people to dream and to realize their dreams.

This is a book of compassion, inspiration and hope.

Click here to buy The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

To open a world of possibilities for people with learning disabilities by changing their brains through strengthening cognitive capacities so that they never have to take a path that is one they did not chose, but was chosen for them due to their learning challenges; so that these individuals can not only dare to dream but realize their dreams.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Aleksandr Romanovich Luria, who had to reinvent himself many times in his career through the era of Stalin, and who with his brilliant mind and compassionate nature contributed so much to our understanding of the human brain. I dedicated my book to Luria.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I am always looking at how I can take what I have learnt, the cognitive programs I have developed, and make them more widely accessible while maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of delivery so that the widest range of individuals with learning challenges can benefit. I would like to see cognitive programs be part of every child’s educational program in school so that schools are a place that children come not just to learn content but to work their brains, to improve their capacity to learn and to carry this with them throughout life.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write what you are passionate about.

Barbara, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Did you know? Barbara Arrowsmith Young’s journey of discovery and innovation to overcome her own severe learning disabilities,  were described briefly in Chapter 2 of the book, “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

It is certainly only a rumour at this stage, but Daniel Kahneman is an outside chance for the Sydney Writer’s Festival next year. This man is one serious thinker, so if you have the chance to be in a room with him, you should take it. Meanwhile, while the emails are going backwards and forwards, his latest book is racing off our shelves.

Think Malcolm Gladwell and then some. The reviews are amazing.


Israeli American Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology challenging the rational model of judgement and decision-making, is one of the world’s most important thinkers.  His ideas have had a profound impact on many fields – including business, medicine and politics – but until now he has not brought together his many years of research in one book.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices.  One system is fast, intuitive, and emotional; the other is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.  Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities – and also the faults and biases – of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behaviour.  The importance of properly framing risks, the effects of cognitive biases on how we view others, the dangers of prediction, the right ways to develop skills, the pros and cons of fear and optimism, the difference between our experience and memory of events, the real components of happiness – each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

Drawing on a lifetime’s experimental experience, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking.  He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our professional and our personal lives – and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.  Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you take decisions and experience the world.


‘There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.’ Financial Times

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a masterpiece – a brilliant and engaging intellectual saga by one of the greatest psychologists and deepest thinkers of our time. Kahneman should be parking a Pulitzer next to his Nobel Prize.’ Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

‘Daniel Kahneman is one of the most original and interesting thinkers of our time. There may be no other person on the planet who better understands how and why we make the choices we make. In this absolutely amazing book, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wisdom presented in a manner that is simple and engaging, but nonetheless stunningly profound. This book is a must read for anyone with a curious mind.’ Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics

‘Daniel Kahneman is among the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most important psychologist alive today. He has a gift for uncovering remarkable features of the human mind, many of which have become textbook classics and part of the conventional wisdom. His work has reshaped social psychology, cognitive science, the study of reason and of happiness, and behavioral economics, a field that he and his collaborator Amos Tversky invented. The appearance of Thinking, Fast and Slow is a major event.’ Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature

‘This is a landmark book in social thought, in the same league as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.’ Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan


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