The Voices Within

The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves


By Charles Fernyhough

Formats and Prices




$35.99 CAD



  1. Hardcover $27.50 $35.99 CAD
  2. ebook $18.99 $24.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 4, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A luminous exploration of the nature of thoughts, from daydreams to the voices in our heads

At the moment you caught sight of this book, what were you thinking? Was your thought a stream of sensations? Or was it a voice in your head? Did you ask yourself, “I wonder what that’s about?” Did you answer? And what does it mean if you did?

When someone says they hear voices in their head, they are often thought to be mentally ill. But, as Charles Fernyhough argues in The Voices Within, such voices are better understood as one of the chief hallmarks of human thought. Our inner voices can be self-assured, funny, profound, hesitant, or mean; they can appear in different accents and even in sign language. We all hear them-and we needn’t fear them. Indeed, we cannot live without them: we need them, whether to make decisions or to bring a book’s characters to life as we read. Studying them can enrich our understanding of ourselves, and our understanding of the world around us; it can help us understand the experiences of visionary saints, who might otherwise be dismissed as schizophrenics; to alleviate the suffering of those who do have mental health problems; and to understand why the person next to us on the subway just burst out laughing for no apparent reason.

Whether the voices in our heads are meandering lazily or clashing chaotically, they deserve to be heard. Bustling with insights from literature, film, art, and psychology, The Voices Within offers more than science; it powerfully entreats us all to take some time to hear ourselves think.


  • "Talk to yourself? We all do, all the time, and the voices persist even when you'd rather they shush. The 'inner voice' is becoming a prime-time topic in brain studies, and Fernyhough's book is a solid entry in the discussion. It provides enough science to ground the argument, but the real achievement here is the writing. The author is a psychologist and a novelist, and his prose has a narrative feel that separates it from most books on the psych shelf."—David DiSalvo,, Best Brain Books of 2016
  • "Fernyhough has built up an interesting picture of inner speech and its functions." —Jerome Groopman, New Yorker
  • "In The Voices Within, [Fernyhough] has rendered complicated mental experience without losing its human texture, as so often happens when psychological questions are addressed in the lab.... [It's] an intriguing and deeply humane book."
  • "A must-read for those seeking to understand the voices in their heads."—Discover
  • "The author's investigations, at once scientific and humane, represent the discipline of psychology at its rare best.... After reading The Voices Within, you may never again be quite as thoughtless about the fact that you think."—Raymond Tallis, Wall Street Journal
  • "The Voices Within...intriguingly challenges conventional assumptions about the self as unified and coherent, while also posing the question: how might that which we deem pathological be shaped by the mores of our times?"—Christine Gross-Loh, Guardian, Best Books for Summer 2016
  • "[Fernyhough's] account is fascinating, not only for the ideas he raises but also for his vignettes of historical thought and research."—Lancet
  • "This sophisticated and appealing work scrutinizes a tangled topic with aplomb and will leave readers permanently observing their own thought processes differently. Perfect for readers of Oliver Sacks and Malcolm Gladwell." —Booklist, starred review
  • "Fernyhough's book is a valuable addition to the literature surrounding the unending human quest to understand the location--and the creation--of the self." —Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Oct 4, 2016
Page Count
320 pages
Basic Books

Charles Fernyhough

About the Author

Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Pieces of Light, shortlisted for many prizes, and A Thousand Days of Wonder. He directs Hearing the Voice, a project on inner voices based at Durham University. He lives in County Durham, United Kingdom.

Learn more about this author