You caught the news last night and it was enough to make your head pound.

More unemployment, fewer people able to pay their bills. Higher interest on credit, lower worth of the dollar. Bigger CEO profits, smaller paychecks for their workers.

Chances are, the economy is the reason for your naggin’ noggin and it’ll go away eventually. But for some, a pained brain is way more serious.

That’s when people make an appointment with Keith Black, M.D. He’s one of a small handful of neurosurgeons nationwide who specializes in tumors of the brain, and in his new book “Brain Surgeon” (c.2009, Wellness Central, $24.99 / $27.00 Canada, 226 pages) (with Arnold Mann), you’ll read about his life, his research, and some of his best-remembered patients.

When he was growing up, Keith Black’s parents were supportive of his inquisitiveness. Education was highly valued in the Black household; both Black’s parents were educators and were patient with his learning methods. Before the age when most kids were learning to read, Black was dissecting frogs. Before he was old enough to drive, he had blown up the kitchen with his chemistry set and decided that he was going to be a medical researcher.

After a high-school job in a laboratory and once he was accepted for a competitive accelerated program that would allow him to finish medical school faster, Black began to realize his dream.
Racism occasionally became an issue, though: some administrators were skeptical that an African American could become a surgeon. But Black was less interested in surgery and more interested in finding a cure for brain tumors. (Black is responsible for several medical breakthroughs over the course of his career.)

Though cures aren’t always possible, Black says that he always does surgery if it will give his patients even a half-year to be with their loved ones. Those precious months, he notes, are when people “truly focus on what is important.”

“I believe that the human brain is the most beautiful thing in the world,” he says. “There is nothing I know of that God has created that is more beautiful, that is more intricate, and that gives us more insight into what God is than the human brain.”

And in the medical memoir genre, there are few things more beautiful than this book.

Author Keith Black has a wonderful bookside manner. He’s humble, yet self-assured. He’s careful, yet willing to be a renegade by undertaking surgeries that are “ten out of ten” on the difficulty scale. His analogies are easy to follow (brain surgery is a bit like being in Tiger Country), but he doesn’t “talk down” to his readers. Black includes in this book amazement, joy, operating-room tension, respect, and cautionary notes on current theories and research into who gets brain cancer and why.

If you’re up for some unique drama or if you love a good memoir, you’ll love “Brain Surgeon.” In fact, you may need your head examined if you miss it.