House is a pleasure to read. Like Oliver Sacks and like Robert Sapolsky, who advised him at Stanford, House distills the details of psychiatry and neurology into digestible forms ... It is almost as if House’s kaleidoscope has not only refracted his view of the brain but also become his view of the brain. In his eyes, the brain is a scientific instrument eerily like those he uses to study it ... Evincing a soft ecumenicalism, House’s book is sprinkled with literary references that serve mostly as an entrée into scientific approaches their authors or inventors inadvertently foretold or confirmed ... Still, a few texts are conspicuous in their absence ... At times, his 19 ways click into place like an ingenious kaleidoscope; at others, they come apart in your hands, as if the only thing holding them together was House’s decision to dedicate a chapter to each ... None of House’s 19 ways intersect with religious, humanistic, or literary perspectives (despite his literary references). We never see consciousness as a point of contact with the divine, or as something that extends beyond the individual mind, as Chalmers himself proposes it might. Give House 19 more ways to look and he’d meet some surprising characters: ghosts, say, or government agencies. Neuroscience might get weirder, in a welcome way.
Here, as elsewhere, the striking phrase tips over beyond sweeping generalization to land askew ... When Eliot Weinberger chose 19 different translations of Wang Wei’s poem he also added his own trenchant commentary. Mr. House prefers to riff off the “various and sometimes contradictory theories' he presents without offering much in the way of critique, making it so'etimes hard to tell whether the author really buys the ideas he’s selling ... Mr. House seems both definitive and radically unsure ... The compressions and elisions of Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness are sometimes exhilarating and at other times exasperating, but this stylish, witty and insightful introduction to a frustrating discipline whets the appetite for more.
[House] uses extended anecdotes that put complex concepts into accessible terms even while acknowledging that there are no easy answers in the study of consciousness ... House makes an interesting detour to wonder if a society of blind people could deduce the existence of the moon, while other essays look at the functioning of memory and prediction, which takes up a remarkable amount of the brain’s capacity. There is also a theory that consciousness links to movement, which is one of the most essential, if often unconscious, aspects of brain function. Though the author occasionally gets lost in his own musings, he offers readers plenty of fascinating questions about the brain, the mind, and the soul ... Mixing science, metaphors, and philosophy, House provides elegant frameworks for ways to think about thinking.