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Book Review: You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. – by Ben Carson

October 12, 2015
Book Review for Ben Carson’s You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.

Author: Ben Carson

Length: 240 pages

Intent/Focus: A THINK BIG guideline for teens, incorporating Talent, Honesty, Insight, Niceness, Knowledge, Books, In-depth learning and God

What You Will Learn: How a teenager can overcome obstacles and achieve personal greatness, by applying Dr. Carson’s THINK BIG approach. 

Why We Recommend It: As educators, our careers are centered on helping to develop the potential inside our students. Dr. Carson’s book provides real-life examples as well as a neuroscientist’s insight to optimizing the use of our brain and our learning opportunities.


“No super computer on earth can come close to the capacity of the average human brain.”

~ Dr. Ben Carson

Earlier this year, Dr. Benjamin Carson, emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins (also a 2016 presidential candidate) added another accomplishment to his impressive record – a book entitled You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to Think Big. The inspiration for the book sprang from the advice Dr. Carson’s mother gave him when he was young: “You have a brain. Use it.”

Dr. Carson’s difficult childhood provided additional inspiration, as his narrative describes the ways in which he managed to overcome significant obstacles, such as growing up in inner-city Detroit without a father figure. He also contended with his own violent temper and the attitudes of his classmates, who thought he was stupid. Rather than succumbing to circumstance, he developed a philosophy he termed T.H.I.N.K.  B.I.G., an acronym standing for: Talent, Honesty, Insight, Niceness, Knowledge, Books, In-Depth learning and God.

The book is built on anecdotes from Dr. Carson’s life, and influential role models who brought real meaning to the THINK BIG qualities. As a youth, he came to believe his mother’s assertion that effective use of his brain could enable him to rise above the challenges presented by life and adolescence, including peer pressure.

The inspiring stories in this book demonstrate the need for teens to use and develop a love of learning, to be all they can be. Dr. Carson himself pursued multiple interests throughout his adolescence and found that each of them, whether art, music, science, or the military, contributed to his professional success and enjoyment of life.

Reviewers of this book enjoy both its message and its easy reading style. “This book should be given to every high school and college student!” one reviewer writes. Another applies the teachings in this book to her own children, saying, “It is absolutely urgent that my boys be aware of the impact their magnificent brains can have on their own future success.”

The Personal Talent Assessment provided in the appendix is a series of though-provoking discussion questions that serve as a helpful tool for annual heart-searching and goal-setting. Dr. Carson also shares some of the fascinating scientific facts he’s learned throughout his career, in which he performed more than 15,000 brain surgeries:

  • Your brain has approximately 86 billion neurons, interconnected by more than 100 trillion synapses
  • Sensory signals move along an alpha motor neuron in your spinal cord at a speed of 268 mph
  • Your brain generates enough electricity to keep a low-wattage light bulb fully lit

For more on the science at work in the human brain, see our series, The Science of Learning:

Dr. Carson has written six best-selling books, including two New York Times Bestsellers. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

LEARN MORE - Visit our Chase the Race 2016 website for information about our customized election curriculum, live onsite campaign events, coverage from students across the U.S. and much more!



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