Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor PhD

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours-Taylor alternated between the euphoria of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace, and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.

For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by "stepping to the right" of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by "brain chatter." Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah's online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.

My Review

This was the last book I read during the Read-a-Thon, a recommendation from my boyfriend.  It was a short book and it looked like the geeky non-fiction perfect subject to finish my quest and go to bed happy. Sadly I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, is not a bad book. But I was expecting (once again, my fault, having high expectations kills sometimes the experience) some more insight. 

The author tells us a little bit about her life before the stroke and then my favorite chapter was the one that tells us how she got the stroke. That part I really liked; her description of feeling the lost of her brain functions is so scientifically thorough! How she knew what was happening and yet couldn't do anything about it; how somehow she managed to communicate with someone and hence save her life. How she got to the hospital and some people were less than kind and how she would've preferred being treated...except that this part started being repetitive...a little bit too much. 

And then it got (somehow) spiritual...the power of well being, and self healing...things I was not expecting. I am not against this at all, I believe in the fact that if you feel well you have better chances of getting better, but I cannot accept people telling me that they "cure" themselves from cancer through prayer, or through star bathing...I'm sorry if I offend anyone by saying this, is not something against religion or any type of believes, is simply that I am a scientist, and hence believe in medicine as much as traditional as what is called "eastern" medicine. I do not believe in over medication either, but I'm drifting of subject.

All of the sudden my "scientific geeky" book turned new age, and Dr. Bolte Taylor started talking about angel cards, and positive energy...again, here I was expecting to learn about how she reformed her neuron paths for fine synchronization; how she retrained motor skills; how her X hemisphere compensated for the other one being damage...instead I got a self help book in disguise (I do not like self help books in case you didn't notice)

I love my right side of the brain, is the one that gets all tingly when I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's Violin concerto in D (Op 35); is also the one who controls all my left side body. But I felt the book turned into a selling brochure for embracing your right side and how we are one with the universe...that's when my left side started complaining...a lot. I know is going to sound a bit mean, but I think her right side took over a little bit too much, pushing aside one of the things I like the most: Scientific Thought.

Then why 3 mushrooms? Because the part that was kept strictly scientific was very nicely written; because at the end of the book with the appendixes I finally learned, I felt that if anyone close to me had a stroke I was actually better prepared to be there for them; because of the nice, well explained intro to brain biology. And finally because of this lovely quote:

         Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think


  1. Reading the summary, I would expect a scientific geeky book. Summaries are sometimes a bit misleading. If I started a scientific book that then turned into the opposite, my left side would complain too.

    1. I know right? but in this case it wasn't only the summary, it was also the recommendation :(