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“Siddhartha’s Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment”

by James Kingsland

(William Morrow)

It’s a pleasure to read “Siddhartha’s Brain,” which comes from a science journalist with long experience of explaining ideas for readers of The Guardian and other publications. James Kingsland even includes guided meditation exercises throughout a book that explores mindfulness and its benefits.

“For contemplatives with a tendency to intellectualize — which would probably include people who read books about the science of enlightenment — mindfulness of breathing is strongly recommended,” he suggests at one point. Others might focus on compassion, or on the putrefaction of the body if easily distracted by sensual desire.

Kingsland draws from the life of Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhist philosophy and practice, and from research and personal exploration to show what lies behind the book’s striking first sentence: “ ‘We are all mentally ill,’ said the smiling monk in the wide-brimmed hat, as if this explained everything.”

Anyone familiar with meditation will know that it involves not avoiding uncomfortable feelings but focusing on them calmly and with detachment. But Kingsland wants to know how this came to be. “What has gone so wrong during the evolution of the human brain that it needs to be fixed by meditation? Curiously, no one I spoke to during my research for this book had given much thought to this question.”

This is a smart, accessible balance of philosophical teachings and brain science and how meditation can relate to everything from addiction to Alzheimer’s disease.

Whether you are comfortable with being alone with your wandering mind or avoid it at all costs, you’ll learn something useful from this book.

— Cara Anna

“The Last Mile”

by David Baldacci

(Grand Central Publishing)

After two decades in a Texas prison, Melvin Mars is about to be executed for the murder of his white father and African-American mother. He hears people approaching his cell and assumes they are his escorts to the death chamber. The door opens, and one of them intones: “Your execution has been called off.” A death-row inmate in Alabama has confessed to the crime.

So begins “The Last Mile,” David Baldacci’s latest — and utterly absorbing — novel.

Amos Decker, a former police detective in Ohio who made his debut in Baldacci’s 2015 novel, “Memory Man,” hears this amazing story on the radio and is intrigued. His wife, daughter and brother-in-law were also murdered. And Mars isn’t a total stranger. Decker played college football against him in a nationally televised game.

Decker, now a member of the FBI’s new and unconventional investigative team, is in a good position to find out if there was miscarriage of justice in the Mars case. He peels off the layers of deception and uncovers a horrific crime hidden behind the killing of Mars’ parents.

In the best Baldacci tradition, the action is fast and furious. But “The Last Mile” is more than a good action thriller. It sheds light on racism, a father-son relationship and capital punishment.

Both Mars and Decker are substantive, solid characters. Although their football dreams were shattered in their youth by their respective tragedies, they hold their heads high and forge ahead.

Entertaining and enlightening, “The Last Mile” is a rich novel that has much to offer.

— Waka Tsunoda

Best-sellers

Week ending 4/17/2016.

Hardcover fiction

1. “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts (Berkley)

2. “As Time Goes By” by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster)

3. “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)

4. “Fool Me Once’ by Harlan Coben (Dutton)

5. “Most Wanted” by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press)

6. “The 14th Colony” by Steve Berry (Minotaur)

7. “Miller’s Valley” by Anna Quindlen (Random House)

8. “Private Paris” by James Patterson, Mark Sullivan (Little,Brown & Co.)

9. “World of Warcraft” Illidan” by William King (Del Rey)

10. “Property of a Noblewoman” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte Press)

Hardcover nonfiction

1. “Hamilton: The Revolution” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (Grand Central Publishing)

2. “The Rainbow Comes and Goes” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (Harper)

3. “It’s All Easy” by Gwyneth Paltrow (Grand Central Life & Style)

4. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi (Random House)

5. “The Third Wave” by Steve Case (Simon & Schuster)

6. “Dark Souls III Collector’s Edition” (Prima Games)

7. “Cravings” by Chrissy Teigen and Adeena Sussman (Clarkson Potter)

8. “The Longevity Book” by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark (Harper Wave)

9. “Quench Your Own thirst” by Jim Koch (Flatiron)

10. “Dream Home” by Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott (HMH)

— Publishers Weekly

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