My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey Info

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The astonishing New York Times bestseller that
chronicles how a brain scientist's own stroke led to
enlightenment

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.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey:

3

Sep 17, 2008

Jill Bolte Tayor was a 37-year old neuroanatomist when she experienced a massive stroke that severely damaged the left hemisphere of her brain. My Stroke of Insight is her account of what happened that day, her subsequent 8-year recovery, and how these events changed her life for the better.

The most interesting part of the book for me was Bolte Taylor’s discussion of what happened to her on that morning in 1996. With her scientific background, Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to observe the Jill Bolte Tayor was a 37-year old neuroanatomist when she experienced a massive stroke that severely damaged the left hemisphere of her brain. My Stroke of Insight is her account of what happened that day, her subsequent 8-year recovery, and how these events changed her life for the better.

The most interesting part of the book for me was Bolte Taylor’s discussion of what happened to her on that morning in 1996. With her scientific background, Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to observe the progressive breakdown of her own functioning as the blood from her burst AVM spread throughout her brain. As new areas were affected, different functions were lost, and reading about her experience is a strange kind of real-world brain anatomy lesson.

A significant portion of this book is devoted to the process of Bolte Taylor’s recovery. She realized early on that the attitude and pacing of her caregivers made a big difference in how willing and able she was to respond, and she speaks in detail about what she, personally, found was most effective in helping her heal. There is some useful information in this section for those involved in stroke victim care.

What has catapulted this book onto the bestseller list, however, is the spiritual message underlying Bolte Taylor’s experience. When the language processing areas of her brain shut down, Bolte Taylor found herself bathed in a kind of peace and bliss that was previously unknown to her. With the section of her brain that controls physical boundaries offline, she felt fluid, open, and one with everything around her.

Bolte Taylor considers these experiences to be the result of her right brain suddenly being given the chance to run the show while her left brain was incapacitated. She speaks quite a bit about how she made a conscious decision during her recovery to retain access to these states and to keep these pathways open as she brought her left brain back online. In the latter section of the book, she offers a list of techniques she feels anyone can use to help open up pathways to the expanded capacities of their own right brains.

I learned a number of interesting things while reading this book, and there is no question that Bolte Taylor’s story is a very inspiring one. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed by a number of things about this book. To start, it would have benefited from better editing. Some sections are highly repetitive, I was confused about certain aspects of her level of functioning and recovery, and the flow of the narrative was very uneven. Hers is a great story, and good editing would have made that even more obvious.

My main criticism of this book, however there is a very sloppy blending of hard, scientific information about the brain with Bolte Taylor’s anecdotal experience and personal theories about what happened to her. It was not always obvious which was which, and I suspect many readers will be confused and assume her personal theories are more scientifically grounded than they actually are.

Though Bolte Taylor does not specifically mention religion in the book, her numerous allusions to prayer, visualization, energy, and oneness make it clear that she subscribes to a certain kind of belief system that her experiences are filtered through. While this is to be expected, her inability to see the contradictions in her beliefs was frustrating to me. For example, she speaks about how, after the stroke, she floated in a place of bliss, at one with everything. Yet just a few paragraphs earlier, she refers to a harried, inexperienced medical student as an “energy vampire.” She does not address why her feelings of being at one with and connected to everything did not extend to this person. In addition, she is critical of how the judgmental function of the left brain keeps us shut down from the more expanded perspective of the right brain, yet doesn’t seem to notice her own preference for right-brain dominated experiences seems, well, kind of judgmental.

I’ve had personal experiences of peace and bliss that are similar to what Bolte Taylor describes, so I can certainly understand her preference for them. I also think she gives some good advice to help people find those states themselves without having to have a stroke to get there. But I think this book would have been much more valuable had Bolte Taylor used her scientifically trained left-brain to more clearly separate her anecdotal experience and beliefs what science actually tells us about our fascinating brains.
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2

Jun 27, 2008

I closed this book today with such a sense of relief. This is, in essence, a self help book marked by the author's inflated (with due reason, I know) sense of self and a few interesting tidbits about brain chemistry.

Let's get a few things straight:
1. I love reading about the brain.
2. I was really, really wanting to love this book.
3. I, like the author, believe that--in most cases--happiness and peacefulness can be choices for every person and that our brain can become wired to react more I closed this book today with such a sense of relief. This is, in essence, a self help book marked by the author's inflated (with due reason, I know) sense of self and a few interesting tidbits about brain chemistry.

Let's get a few things straight:
1. I love reading about the brain.
2. I was really, really wanting to love this book.
3. I, like the author, believe that--in most cases--happiness and peacefulness can be choices for every person and that our brain can become wired to react more positively to the world.

What I didn't like was the author's tone/attitude, her need to italicize the word "one" whenever she used it (as in, "I was _one_ with the universe," a sentiment repeated seventy-six times each chapter), and the way she skimmed over information about the brain as if she were approaching third graders.

Maybe I'll have more to stay about this book once I have a book club meeting about it in a couple of weeks. Or else I'll just put it out of my head forever and sell my copy online.

Here's what I wrote a few days ago:

I'm halfway through and the woman is driving me batty. Batty, I say...

I hope to change my mind, especially since I brought this up as a book club suggestion and now at least five other people are reading it because of me!

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4

Feb 01, 2009

The author, an accomplished neuroanatomist, suffers a massive CVA at the age of 37. She takes the reader through the events of her stroke and the recovery. (8 long years of recovery!) She gives basic brain science for understanding, and speaks from the heart.

The grouch in me wanted to poo-poo the whole book when she started in with how she uses "angel cards" to start her day. I ignored the alarm in my head, screaming, "New age kook! Abort! Abort!" But it was too late. I was suckered in. And The author, an accomplished neuroanatomist, suffers a massive CVA at the age of 37. She takes the reader through the events of her stroke and the recovery. (8 long years of recovery!) She gives basic brain science for understanding, and speaks from the heart.

The grouch in me wanted to poo-poo the whole book when she started in with how she uses "angel cards" to start her day. I ignored the alarm in my head, screaming, "New age kook! Abort! Abort!" But it was too late. I was suckered in. And really, if those cards help her start her day with a clear intention, and bring her comfort and peace, more power to her. Maybe more of us need to do that.

Or not.

Anyway, this book gets 5 stars alone for Appendix B in the back. The list of "forty things I needed the most" should be printed out and handed to family and friends of stroke/brain injury patients. Heck, maybe it should be mandatory reading material for all medical professionals as well. (you know, respect that the patient is wounded, not dumb. Don't treat them as if they are deaf unless they are. Protect them, but don't stand in the way of progress)

My favorite on the list is #23: Trust that my brain can always continue to learn.

Because they can.
And do.

Jill Bolte Taylor is living proof.








18 min. video of Jill speaking... Thanks, D2!

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_...

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5

Apr 08, 2017

I read this years ago --- still own it. I thought the insights were amazing --and a fascinating story. --
Emotional too....This was a woman's 'life'.

Interesting how books pop into our space when we are meeting new friends on Goodreads....
Brings back memories of books we read!

A treasure in itself! -- make a new friend = re-visit books we have read.............nice deal!

2

Nov 29, 2008

I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I wanted this book to be several other books than the one it actually was. I found it alternately fascinating and incredibly irritating.

Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke and recovered enough to write about it. The chance to learn about what that experience was like seemed compelling enough to me to start reading the book. When her left brain went offline due to the stroke, she experienced only living in her right brain --what she I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I wanted this book to be several other books than the one it actually was. I found it alternately fascinating and incredibly irritating.

Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke and recovered enough to write about it. The chance to learn about what that experience was like seemed compelling enough to me to start reading the book. When her left brain went offline due to the stroke, she experienced only living in her right brain --what she describes as a blissful nirvana. She's spent years getting her left brain back, and as a result has a unique perspective on the relationship of the two halves.

I stuck with the book because I'm sympathetic to at much of what she was saying -- that if you can turn down the volume on the ego's chatter to attain a sense of calm, your life is better off. It's just that most of us approach that goal through meditation, yoga, spiritual practice, or philosophy. Her writing resolutely avoids any such discussion. So it was kind of like reading a book about God written by an autistic person -- it seemed incredibly flat, devoid of emotion, even when she was talking about feelings.

I suspect that this book is the result of divided intentions about its goals and audience -- perhaps between the author and her editor, or between the author's two brain halves, I don't know. It's one part pop-science, 1 part survival memoir, 1 part oddly cold narcissism, and 1 part new age metaphysics. The audiences for these things are really different, and to successfully blend them would take a much more compelling writing style than Taylor's. It's unfortunate that a book that should be the demonstration of her recovery kept making me wonder whether she was expressing herself so badly because of her brain injury.

There are grains of interesting stuff in here, and it's a quick read. It's definitely been on my mind for the past few days, despite my irritation with it. I've heard from friends that audio interviews with Taylor are very warm and charming, which is the exact opposite of my impression from reading the book. Maybe that would be a better place to start if you're curious. ...more
1

Jul 16, 2008

whoa. i probably should have paid more attention to the little tagline under her name that proudly proclaims "the singin' scientist" and put it down immediately. but that wasn't how it worked.

see, the author is a brain scientist who had a stroke. i heard her speak on NPR and she was insightful and funny and had very interesting things to say about the brain, so i put the book on hold at the library and a eagerly picked it up a few days ago.

i loved the section of the book that gave us an intro whoa. i probably should have paid more attention to the little tagline under her name that proudly proclaims "the singin' scientist" and put it down immediately. but that wasn't how it worked.

see, the author is a brain scientist who had a stroke. i heard her speak on NPR and she was insightful and funny and had very interesting things to say about the brain, so i put the book on hold at the library and a eagerly picked it up a few days ago.

i loved the section of the book that gave us an intro course on the science of the brain. it was well written and engaging. AND it totally fooled me into thinking that the rest of the book would be more of the same.

not so. i felt invested after reading the first 30 or so pages of brain science and then her minute by minute description of what was happening when she suffered a stroke, which is the only somewhat logical reason that i didn't actually throw this book across the room.

it was her sappy, polyanna, and ridiculously one-dimensional tale of recovery that made me actually hate this book. her insanely upbeat self-narrative was too much for me. in the words of another reviewer on this site "The information in this book could have been stopped at phamplet size. Instead we have to read chapter after chapter of 4th grade happy talk."

yep. only now YOU know, so you don't have to. ...more
2

Feb 24, 2013

I'm a neurologist, so I approached this book from a different angle than most readers, I imagine.

In short, it was not what I expected. Although she was a neuroanatomist prior to the stroke, the book is not science-y at all. That is both good and bad.

The good:
A first-hand account of being afflicted by a brain bleed (with aphasia, or inability to produce language, and other losses of function) is priceless. In medicine, we have a great deal to learn from knowing what our patients are going I'm a neurologist, so I approached this book from a different angle than most readers, I imagine.

In short, it was not what I expected. Although she was a neuroanatomist prior to the stroke, the book is not science-y at all. That is both good and bad.

The good:
A first-hand account of being afflicted by a brain bleed (with aphasia, or inability to produce language, and other losses of function) is priceless. In medicine, we have a great deal to learn from knowing what our patients are going through. She describes her route fantastically well, including her frustrations with the medical field. Her insights into how she feels, and what functions she lost (and gained!) from her stroke are excellent.

The bad:
Unfortunately, intertwined with her narrative is an explanation of how the brain works that is suspect, to be sure. She compartmentalizes "right brain, left brain" in a way that isn't accurate. She teaches a "this is what I felt, so this is what must be true" kind of doctrine, which is the kind of thing that can be incredibly misleading. She gets very metaphysical, and to me it seems like she takes her internal sensations as facts. Granted, she attests to not being particularly scientific anymore after her stroke, and this shines through.

All in all, I'd like to hear accounts of other left-brain stroke survivors, to see if they had similar experiences to her. I am curious whether all would have similarly nirvana-like, extrasensory perseptory, left-brain-is-evil ideas and experiences. ...more
2

Jun 29, 2008

This book wasn't what I was expecting. I expected to read a memoir of sorts. Maybe a before and after or even a during the process what was happening. And JBT does write "lightly" about those things. But mainly she is writing a self-help book that seeks to influence the rest of us to embrace the right side of our brains. As a brain scientist, she has a stroke then discovers she is one with the universe. Her brain and her cells are beautiful! Oh how lovely the world and everyone in it! The This book wasn't what I was expecting. I expected to read a memoir of sorts. Maybe a before and after or even a during the process what was happening. And JBT does write "lightly" about those things. But mainly she is writing a self-help book that seeks to influence the rest of us to embrace the right side of our brains. As a brain scientist, she has a stroke then discovers she is one with the universe. Her brain and her cells are beautiful! Oh how lovely the world and everyone in it! The information in this book could have been stopped at phamplet size. Instead we have to read chapter after chapter of 4th grade happy talk. I can imagine most people aren't as masochistic as I and will quit mid-book on this one . . . ...more
2

Mar 12, 2011

Oh, gag. Yes, really. I'm glad the author used her stroke to find nirvana, but honestly, stroke just ain't this pretty.

The first half of this book, more or less, was a page turner and I was fascinated. Dr. Taylor was a successful 37-year-old neuroanatomist who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke as a result of a congenital condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Partly because of her training and knowledge and partly, I suspect, because of the way the stroke's effects developed and Oh, gag. Yes, really. I'm glad the author used her stroke to find nirvana, but honestly, stroke just ain't this pretty.

The first half of this book, more or less, was a page turner and I was fascinated. Dr. Taylor was a successful 37-year-old neuroanatomist who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke as a result of a congenital condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Partly because of her training and knowledge and partly, I suspect, because of the way the stroke's effects developed and progressed, she was able to observe herself and analyze the process as it was happening (and somehow remembered or recovered this information later -- which seems to me the amazing part (perhaps a little too amazing?). She was functioning enough (barely) to be able to call for help when she realized she was having a stroke. I would guess this is highly atypical. The book is about the events of that day, as well as Dr. Taylor's slow recovery with her damaged brain.

I particularly liked the earlier chapters and Taylor's recounting of what she experienced when the stroke occurred (she was alone in her apartment) and the immediate aftermath, the progressive loss of function. There's also a great deal of valuable information about recognizing signs of a stroke, as well as how to treat people who have sustained a stroke. (Patience, patience, patience. And don't holler. They're not deaf.) The book also teaches us about the brain's plasticity and resilience.

I felt the book got a bit redundant after a while, but it's hard to fault the author for wanting to underscore her points. She's not just a memoirist. She's a teacher and advocate for people with mental impairment.

But after the first few chapters, Taylor wanders off into the la-la land of pseudoscience, pop psych mythology, personal opinion, and belief. Another Goodreads reviewer (Lena) has said: "[T]here is a very sloppy blending of hard, scientific information about the brain with Bolte Taylor’s anecdotal experience and personal theories about what happened to her. It was not always obvious which was which, and I suspect many readers will be confused and assume her personal theories are more scientifically grounded than they actually are." I concur and find this irresponsible and troubling.

Unfortunately, this led me to have more and more doubts about the veracity of the story she recounted in the early chapters. (How much is accurate, how much a plausible reconstruction? And really, how plausible is it?) Her pop-psych perspective isn't informed by science. Her views on right brain / left brain function are vastly oversimplified and just not consistent with contemporary cognitive neuroscience. I expected more from a PhD neuroanatomist! But perhaps she hasn't kept up with the field since her 1996 stroke.*

Of course, some specific functions are lateralized. Most notably, the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. Linear thinking, logic, language, and math skills are primarily grounded in the left hemisphere. Broca's area (language production) and Wernicke's area (language comprehension) are in the left hemisphere. But many language processes take place in the right hemisphere, along with visual, spatial, and auditory functions. Many other cognitive functions are bilateral.

However, the notion that a person is right-brained or left-brained (or that one's personality is right-brain or left-brain dominant) is largely a pop psych myth that derives from research in the 1960s on split-brain patients (people whose corpus collosum connecting the two sides of the brain had been severed). The conclusions of this research were later found to be premature. The two sides of the brain are far more interdependent than once thought. There's a lot of good science and high-tech brain imaging to support this. All complex cognitive function and information processing require complex interactions of various regions of the brain in both hemispheres. This has been well known for over a decade now.

The only left-brained or right-brained people are those who've had one of their brain hemispheres removed.

By the last few chapters, I felt as though Taylor were just making stuff up. It's a lot of New Age blathering -- a mishmash of personal opinion and belief based on memory and subjective experience, which we well know to be poor indices of objective reality.

Most, or certainly many, people who have strokes end up with physical and mental disabilities that are not so easily overcome. And I'm not saying Taylor had an easy time of it, but she does romanticize the whole process which culminates in her ability to be "one" with the universe. If she tells us once, she tells us a hundred times.

Where did I throw the book across the room?** Maybe when she started talking about how she uses angel cards every day. Or no, maybe here:

"I unconditionally love my cells with an open heart and grateful mind. Spontaneously throughout the day, I acknowledge their existence and enthusiastically cheer them on. I am a wonderful living being capable of beaming my energy into the world, only because of them. When my bowels move, I cheer my cells for cleaning that waste out of my body. When my urine flows, I admire the volume my bladder cells are capable of storing. . . ."

No Oliver Sacks.

Quick, quick! I need an antidote!

___________________________________


* The modern understanding of brain hemisphere function is not exactly new. In 1999, John McCrone wrote in New Scientist

"Many a myth has grown up around the brain's asymmetry. The left cerebral hemisphere is supposed to be the coldly logical, verbal and dominant half of the brain, while the right developed a reputation as the imaginative side, emotional, spatially aware but suppressed. Two personalities in one head, Yin and Yang, hero and villain. To most neuroscientists, of course, these notions are seen as simplistic at best and nonsense at worst."

**Not really. I'd have thrown it had it not been a library book.
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4

May 25, 2008

For me, the most fascinating part of this book is the description of the actual stroke and the immediate aftermath. To have suffered such a traumatic brain injury and live to tell about it in such detail is amazing. Doubly amazing for verbalizing what a brain is like when it goes non-verbal.

One funny detail during the stroke is that, while she's rapidly losing the ability to conceptualize numbers and language, somehow part of her brain still knew she needed HMO approval prior to using emergency For me, the most fascinating part of this book is the description of the actual stroke and the immediate aftermath. To have suffered such a traumatic brain injury and live to tell about it in such detail is amazing. Doubly amazing for verbalizing what a brain is like when it goes non-verbal.

One funny detail during the stroke is that, while she's rapidly losing the ability to conceptualize numbers and language, somehow part of her brain still knew she needed HMO approval prior to using emergency services -- and found the HMO card and called her HMO doctor without really knowing what a doctor or numbers really were. Fear of medical bills is apparently deeply entrenched in our neural circuitry. Which is also the only reason I can think of to explain her medical collegue not calling for an ambulance after she contacted him. Oh, the brain cells that were lost simply because he drove over rather than letting paramedics quickly deal with the situation.

But that's just my left brain talking. While I loved the perspective of what it's like to be temporarily without your left hemisphere, by the end of the book, I felt she was overly left-brain negative. Once the narrative is no longer propelled forward by illness and recovery, the language becomes too cutesy puppies, rainbows, and ponies, pseudo-spiritual for my taste. Lovely message but true spirituality balances the good with real issues, rather than pleasant platitudes.

Five stars for the fascinating insight into strokes and brain function minus one star for the overly cutesy writing towards the end. ...more
1

Feb 09, 2009

Warning: This is long, contains ranting, and is rather harsh at times.

From a biology perspective, this book was crazy cool, as are most things biological. The brain is ridiculously amazing. It completely blows my mind whenever I think about it. However, from a writing perspective, I was not a fan.

I would now like to preface the rest of my analytical, left-brain comments by saying that: The author had a stroke, it is absolutely incredible how well she has recovered, and I have no idea whatsoever Warning: This is long, contains ranting, and is rather harsh at times.

From a biology perspective, this book was crazy cool, as are most things biological. The brain is ridiculously amazing. It completely blows my mind whenever I think about it. However, from a writing perspective, I was not a fan.

I would now like to preface the rest of my analytical, left-brain comments by saying that: The author had a stroke, it is absolutely incredible how well she has recovered, and I have no idea whatsoever how the stroke may have affected her writing capabilities. Also, I really did approach this expecting to really, really like it, so this one can't be blamed on a negative attitude. That said, I found the book ridiculously redundant. I'd read one paragraph, move on to the next, and then have to return to the previous paragraph to try and find the difference between the two (other than word order). This frustrated me, and I felt she could have condensed things from 20 chapters to about 8. The parts that I really appreciated were her account of the actual experience of having a stroke and the initial chapters that explained some basic brain science. I'm sure the description of her recovery is very helpful to those dealing with a stroke or helping someone else deal with it, but this was the point where the repetition got out of control. After about page 100, it took serious effort for me to finish (and that rarely happens).

Also, I was unaware when I began the book that the second half would be filled with motivational, self-help type crap. Had I known that, I probably would not have read it. That kind of thing drives me insane (and yes, I DO realize that I'm allowing myself to be driven insane) because they try to make it sound easy, and it's not. What particularly bothered me in this instance was that only after the author suffered tremendous brain trauma was she able to "step to the right [side of her brain:]" and, to simplify, let a bunch of crap go. I, however, have not suffered from a stroke, still experience the two hemispheres of my brain as a single consciousness, and am generally much harder-pressed to "step to the right." So back off, lady!

Some other notes: When I first heard the title, I thought it was very clever. However, I began to worry after the 5th or so time she used it in the first 2-3 chapters. And sure enough, the phrase didn't go away. It instead became so overused that it practically triggered my gag reflex by the end of the book. Also, the purpose of having an editor is to make a book better, especially by adding/removing things that will drive people to want to burn the book. This editor was either asleep, drunk, or high, as evidenced by the truly apalling and nauseating over-use of italics and exclamation points. ...more
5

Apr 22, 2018


5 stars means, to me, that everybody should read it, not that it's necessarily a perfect book.

Everybody is fairly likely to have a stroke, watch someone who is having a stroke, know someone who is recovering from a stroke, or at least visit a rehabilitation clinic or nursing home. The recommendations at the end are important. First there's a page that reminds you what a stroke feels like, and tells you to get help immediately.* Then there's a list of advice on how to help someone who is in
5 stars means, to me, that everybody should read it, not that it's necessarily a perfect book.

Everybody is fairly likely to have a stroke, watch someone who is having a stroke, know someone who is recovering from a stroke, or at least visit a rehabilitation clinic or nursing home. The recommendations at the end are important. First there's a page that reminds you what a stroke feels like, and tells you to get help immediately.* Then there's a list of advice on how to help someone who is in therapy to recover.

*Dr. Jill did not get help immediately, and by the time she realized she needed help, she was almost incapable of calling for same, which further delayed her treatment.

Ok, here's the thing. The narrative is 177 pages. I put in 8 bookdarts. Let's see how many I have the energy to share with you. But first, let me tell you more about what's so valuable about this book. It's not just about strokes, or even about general brain injuries.

For example, you know how there's a bunch of current pop psychology books about how train our brains and how to break bad habits and develop good habits? Dr. Jill, while talking about how she worked toward recovery, gives us a really good, really short, version of the content of those books. Another example: there's the 'insight' Dr. Jill experienced. It's a little bit spiritual, a tiny bit 'new-agey.' But it also makes sense to this atheist.

Ok, anyway, on to the bookdarts:

"I think it is vitally important that stroke survivors share and communicate about how each of their brains strategized recovery.... [O]ur medical professionals could be more effective during those initial hours of treatment and assessment. I wanted my doctors to focus on how my brain was working rather than on whether it worked according to their criteria or timetable. I still knew volumes of information and I was simply going to have to figure out how to access it again."

At home, Jill's mother, G.G., was an amazing therapist. Since much information was lost, G.G. worked to fill in the gaps.

"'For lunch, you can have minestrone soup [and I found the file in mind and remembered what that was] or a grilled cheese sandwich [found it] or tuna salad.' Since I could not find the file for tuna salad, that's what we chose for lunch. That was our strategy if I couldn't find the old file; we made it a point to make a new one."

G.G. also guided Jill by giving her toddlers' toys. A 12 piece jigsaw puzzle enabled two days of teachable moments. Jill learned 'face-up' and 'edge' and 'insies & outsies' but was still not making matches, until G.G. noted, "Jill, you can use color as a clue." "I could not see color until I was told that color was a tool I could use. Who would have guessed that my left hemisphere needed to be told about color for it to register? I found the same to be true for seeing in three dimensions."

... Point of clarification: do know that different stroke victims have different parts of their minds damaged. Most of Jill's book applies to any person who has experienced brain trauma, but some specific details will vary.

Jill wants us to know that doctors are *wrong* to say that "If you don't have your abilities back by six months,... you won't."

"I needed my visitors to bring me their positive energy.... I appreciated when people came in for just a few minutes, took my hands in theirs, and shared softly and slowly how they were doing, what they were thinking, and how they believed in my ability to recover... nervous, anxious, or angry people were counter-productive."

Here's advice to anyone who feels vulnerable to moods like fretfulness, resentment, or self-pity. "Although there are certain limbic (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream.... If I remain angry [for example] then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as fleeting physiology."

To help her break that circuit, Dr. Jill says "I wait 90 seconds.. and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, 'I appreciate you ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feeling these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up."

"In extreme situations of cellular disregard, I use my authentic voice to put my language center's Peanut Gallery on a strict time schedule. I give my story-teller full permission to whine rampantly between 9-9:30... If it accidentally misses whine time it is not allowed to reengage in that behavior until its next allotted appointment.... I am serious about not hooking into those negative loops of thought."

Instead, she keeps a handy list of good things to think about: "1) I remember something fascinating that I would like to ponder more deeply, 2) I think about something that would bring me terrific joy, or 3) I think about something I would like to do."

Whew. Those are all the bookdarts. But I'm glad that I took the time to type them all up. So valuable. :)

Yes, I know this a long review of a short book. Still, Dr. Jill writes clearly and concisely - there's a lot of benefit to you to read the book yourself ...more
1

Feb 14, 2012

I absolutely couldn't stand this book. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until I was over a third of the way into it, at which point I had to finish it, detesting myself the entire time.

The woman who wrote this book is a neuroanatomist who had a unique and amazing opportunity to document the experience of having a hemorrhagic stroke from someone who understands how different parts of the brain function.

That being said, she is not a brain surgeon. She is not a clinician. And yet from the way I absolutely couldn't stand this book. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until I was over a third of the way into it, at which point I had to finish it, detesting myself the entire time.

The woman who wrote this book is a neuroanatomist who had a unique and amazing opportunity to document the experience of having a hemorrhagic stroke from someone who understands how different parts of the brain function.

That being said, she is not a brain surgeon. She is not a clinician. And yet from the way she writes this book, she acts as though she knows more than everyone who took care of her, without a real understanding of practical application.

For example, she criticizes the nurses who wake her up on an hourly or near hourly basis to do neuro exams--not realizing that is, in fact, a safety check designed to save her life if her bleed became worse. She criticizes doctors for asking questions that she could not answer such as "Who is the president?" and felt they should have asked questions that she would have actually been able to answer--such as who the president was married to--not recognizing that the point of asking a simple question such as "who is the president?" is not an effort to make her feel good about herself, but to recognize deficits and thus help her to work past them. It would be fruitless to only ask questions she knew she could get right.

I felt that the entire book was her outcry to the world, her defense about her embarrassment of being a stroke victim and to show how actually competent she was the entire time. She writes as though she is the only person ever who this has happened to. Although hemorrhagic strokes are the least common kind of stroke, we see them all the time where I work. We don't judge people who are having strokes because they cannot speak properly--we care for them, we monitor them, we help them. No educated medical professional would accuse a stroke victim of being stupid--and yet she seems to feel the need to show everyone how smart and aware she is.

Instead of taking this opportunity to truly examine the human condition of stroke victims everywhere, she makes a narcissistic, egotistical, and what I view as a dangerously false view of the stroke experience. I would be highly concerned for family members of my patients and what they may take away from reading this book. The author, although very well versed in brain anatomy, has a poor understanding of how intensive care and hospital care really work--but because of her degree and viewpoint, people may mistake her opinions for truth.

The good things I took away from this: a reminder of what it is like to be the patient (always important to keep in mind. ) I agreed with her about the importance of sleep and healing the brain--with the caveat that a patient's safety (you know, ensuring they don't herniate their brain)--should come first, depending on the gravity of the situation. I enjoyed her contrast of left and right brain. Other than that, I wish I hadn't my time and highly recommend that you don't waste yours. There are other, better, and more accurate materials out there for your reading pleasure.

PS: This is the only negative book review I have ever added to this website. That's how concerned I am about the spread of misinformation delivered by this book.

PPS: You would think that someone with a PhD with a career in brain science would have known better than to get on a treadmill and take a shower while being actively aware that she had stroke symptoms. This should discredit her story from the start. Time is brain, people! If you have stroke symptoms, call 911! ...more
3

Mar 27, 2009

You couldn't invent a more interesting premise: Dr. Taylor, a brain scientist, has a major stroke and goes through years of rehabilitation after the left hemisphere of her brain is severely damaged. She ultimately recovers and records her detailed memories of the stroke and its aftereffects.

Dr. Taylor has given a talk on this subject at a TED Conference -- see the video at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ji...

This is what drew me to reading My Stroke of Insight, and the book does deliver on You couldn't invent a more interesting premise: Dr. Taylor, a brain scientist, has a major stroke and goes through years of rehabilitation after the left hemisphere of her brain is severely damaged. She ultimately recovers and records her detailed memories of the stroke and its aftereffects.

Dr. Taylor has given a talk on this subject at a TED Conference -- see the video at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ji...

This is what drew me to reading My Stroke of Insight, and the book does deliver on its promise before it veers off into territory that I couldn't quite appreciate.

Dr. Taylor begins with some basic, fundamental brain science, to set the scene. It's written to be understandable to the layperson, and succeeds on that account. She then describes the day of her stroke, combining recollections of her experience with reminders of the science behind the events that occurred.

This is fascinating stuff, allowing us to satisfy our curiosity and learn something at the same time.

Then, Dr. Taylor spends the rest of the book sharing her recovery experience, including the epiphany that she had as a result of the stroke. She explains that her damaged left hemisphere gave her right hemisphere a chance to flourish, and thus taught her the value of her right hemisphere. She contrasts her blissful experience of right-brained living with our culture's emphasis on the left hemisphere's reason, task-orientation and linear thinking.

She has a point -- but I didn't really appreciate the feeling that I was reading a self-help book with no clear path to actually helping one's self! This part of the book features too much repetition, and too many shiny promises of bliss awaiting us, if we only knew how to get there. Short of having a stroke, all we get is advice that amounts to: meditate, and tell your left hemisphere to be quiet. Prune it back. It sounds good in theory, but this is slippery stuff.

I recommend this book for its unique look into how our brains work and what happens when they go wrong. Just know, going in, that you may or may not appreciate the unusual combination of science, memoir and self-help. ...more
5

Nov 01, 2008

Everyone who has ever had a stroke must have this book read to them, slowly. Everyone who ever knew anyone who had a stroke must read this book. The author was a brain scientist with a Ph.D. in neuroanatomy. She described her experience of having a stroke, the loss of her faculties, her surgery, and recovery over a period of almost a decade, to someone like the woman she was before the stroke.

Her description of how to help a stroke victim on their return from a hospital are remarkable. The Everyone who has ever had a stroke must have this book read to them, slowly. Everyone who ever knew anyone who had a stroke must read this book. The author was a brain scientist with a Ph.D. in neuroanatomy. She described her experience of having a stroke, the loss of her faculties, her surgery, and recovery over a period of almost a decade, to someone like the woman she was before the stroke.

Her description of how to help a stroke victim on their return from a hospital are remarkable. The relationship between herself and her mother, who taught her how to see and think and read and move again, is remarkable and touching. Most important, it offers proof and hope to stroke victims and their families for as complete a recovery as is possible.

If someone you know has a stroke, or if a family member or close friend has a stroke, but this book for them and the people who love them ASAP. I keep a couple of spare copies on hand to give away. There is one in my car in case I need one while I am at a hospital. ...more
3

Aug 23, 2015

There's great value here - but you have to wade through a lot to get to it. Taylor's step-by-step recalling of her hemorrhagic left-hemisphere stroke was both enlightening and tedious. She was so acutely aware of what was happening - enough to describe in full detail here - but unable to really do anything about it. Once discovered, completely unable to comprehend and communicate, she goes through months of recovery, including a surgery to clear the blood clot. Her mother gently and There's great value here - but you have to wade through a lot to get to it. Taylor's step-by-step recalling of her hemorrhagic left-hemisphere stroke was both enlightening and tedious. She was so acutely aware of what was happening - enough to describe in full detail here - but unable to really do anything about it. Once discovered, completely unable to comprehend and communicate, she goes through months of recovery, including a surgery to clear the blood clot. Her mother gently and compassionately cares for her, and over time and with a team of help, she learns to speak, read, move, and drive again.

I wasn't expecting such a metaphysical post-stroke synthesis in the second-half of the book, but I quite liked it - copying quotes down for future reference. (It was because of this section that I decided to go with 3-stars for the review - the beginning was 2-star territory for me.)

Since the hemorrhage, my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears.

Taylor describes neuroplasticity in the simplest of terms. She describes the power to exert control over what areas of her brain to "turn back on" after the stroke. She chose to leave the anxiety "circuitry" unwired, along with the negativity and ego-centers of the left hemisphere. It's an interesting account, but I feel that there is a lot more to the story. I am curious, as this stroke occurred 20 years ago now in 1996, how Taylor's life continued to change after this altering event.

It was a quick read, and I found the section on caring for someone who is in this non-verbal state especially helpful.

...more
4

Jul 16, 2018

This book is an amazing story of a neuro-scientist who experiences her own stroke. She not only recognizes obvious symptoms like loss of speech and one-sided paralysis, but she can envision what is happening on the cell level in her brain.

Fortunately, with the extreme patience and love of her mother, she eventually regains enough function to live on her own and resume work. Some parts of her job are too stressing and now too difficult, so she works out a different job description with her boss. This book is an amazing story of a neuro-scientist who experiences her own stroke. She not only recognizes obvious symptoms like loss of speech and one-sided paralysis, but she can envision what is happening on the cell level in her brain.

Fortunately, with the extreme patience and love of her mother, she eventually regains enough function to live on her own and resume work. Some parts of her job are too stressing and now too difficult, so she works out a different job description with her boss. Part of her job before involved travel and speaking. She moved into that role full time. I watched some videos of the author online, and she is clearly highly intelligent and very articulate. She considerd herself fully recovered at eight years post-stroke.

Taylor's "stroke of insight" (a phrase used over and over in the book) mainly refers to her decision not to allow any negative thoughts, ego, or stress that normally generates from the left brain (the side assaulted by the stroke) to enter her life post-stroke. She makes a conscious effort to verbally thank the cells, organs and systems in her body for doing a good job. She also relates a lot of her understanding of how the right brain works to negative or positive energy that she is now able to intuit to guide her life. ...more
5

Aug 16, 2013

When this fascinating book, My Stroke of Insight, came into my life...my husband picked it up at the library...I thought, Nice title! and that was that. I wasn't up for a book about a person having a stroke. Even when I heard that the author, Jill Bolte Taylor, is a brain scientist, I didn't appreciate how riveting and instructive her narrative could be. Fortunately, after a barrage of raves from my husband, I finally started to read it. Taylor was 36, and alone at home, when she had her stroke. When this fascinating book, My Stroke of Insight, came into my life...my husband picked it up at the library...I thought, Nice title! and that was that. I wasn't up for a book about a person having a stroke. Even when I heard that the author, Jill Bolte Taylor, is a brain scientist, I didn't appreciate how riveting and instructive her narrative could be. Fortunately, after a barrage of raves from my husband, I finally started to read it. Taylor was 36, and alone at home, when she had her stroke. It took her about the same number of minutes (35) to piece together the images in her right brain (her left was hemorrhaging) in order to call her colleague at Harvard. She wasn't able to talk, but he recognized her sounds. It took her eight years to make a full recovery. Not only did she return to teaching, she wrote this book--an intimate account of her brain, during the stroke and during her recovery, AND the by-far best description of right and left brain activity. I am going to recommend this book to all my friends interested in recovery issues (Taylor has a lot of good advice), all the moms in my life (Taylor lays out in detail the left brain/right brain phenomenon), and all the caregivers I know (Taylor has a lot to say about caregiving too). ...more
5

Dec 06, 2011

From the anatomically correct stained glass brain on the front (which the author made, a second version displayed at Harvard) to the back cover praise, this is an intriguing, educational, dually mindful book about the 50 trillion cells that make a human being go. Dr. Bolte Taylor's journey back into both sides of her brain, after the left hemisphere of her brain took an unauthorized 8 year sabbatical is a story that needs to be required reading for staff at nursing homes, assisted living From the anatomically correct stained glass brain on the front (which the author made, a second version displayed at Harvard) to the back cover praise, this is an intriguing, educational, dually mindful book about the 50 trillion cells that make a human being go. Dr. Bolte Taylor's journey back into both sides of her brain, after the left hemisphere of her brain took an unauthorized 8 year sabbatical is a story that needs to be required reading for staff at nursing homes, assisted living centers, hospitals and in homes with anyone living with a mental/cognitive impairment. Her Recommendations for Recovery in the back ought to be posted in all healthcare facilities. This memoir is a personal and scientific account of how our brains function, how we can help improve that function just by being aware of the neurocircuitry and physiological effects of how we think. Did you know the left brain is the storyteller? Given not enough information, the left hemisphere will make stuff up and make us believe it's true. And we can instruct it what to pay attention to. She calls it tending our garden. Dr. Taylor offers the reader the power to create the human being the reader wants to be. Awesome, heady territory. I appreciate her sharing this gift to humankind, and me personally. ...more
3

Dec 01, 2010

This book had quite an interesting effect as soon as it entered the house. My other half, who doesn't read this kind of thing, immediately picked it up and read the first few chapters. Then he got quite agitated. It appeared it was a very accurate account of what it's like to have a stroke from the inside. He should know because he's had one. I haven't. However, he didn't read the whole book.

I read the whole book. It is extremely interesting. Not just because of the account of having a stroke This book had quite an interesting effect as soon as it entered the house. My other half, who doesn't read this kind of thing, immediately picked it up and read the first few chapters. Then he got quite agitated. It appeared it was a very accurate account of what it's like to have a stroke from the inside. He should know because he's had one. I haven't. However, he didn't read the whole book.

I read the whole book. It is extremely interesting. Not just because of the account of having a stroke from the inside -- which I could closely relate to. I'm not a scientist but I imagine that in this situation I too would be watching and wondering about what was happening to me.

The most interesting point of the book, I guess, is the way Jill Bolte Taylor gains access to the deep peace part of her brain, through the experience of damage. She stops being her everyday functional self. That means she can just be, and being is a blissful experience for her. I want to think this sense of ourselves is there, so I'm halfway to liking this book from the start.

As it went on, the simplicity of the division between "the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive right brain" and "the logical awareness of the left brain" began to irritate me somewhat, much as it does in any simplified right brain left brain stuff. Towards the end -- and this is not at all a rational reaction to the book -- I began to wonder how much I liked the author as a person.

There was something that made me a bit uneasy. I still don't quite know what it was. It is probably to do with the way she writes, which to me is part of who she is. Something about the phrase "my two hemispheric personalities" does not agree with me.

When traumatic events happen to us we interpret them according to our lights, our instincts, our hemispheric personalities. This book is reassuring in many ways. I loved the idea that the author lost herself "as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated [her] from the entities around" and instead "understood that at the most elementary level" she was "a fluid". That thought interests me enormously. The point at which our sense of ourselves as individuals seeps into whatever we are as life forms.

Towards the end I thought she got a bit repetitive. She had said what she had to say, which was mainly an account of a true experience, but then she kept commenting on it, kept commenting, kept commenting. And she uses an awful lot of exclamation marks. I am English, living in Scotland, a place where exclamation marks only happen in high drama or comedy. I like understatement and this book doesn't do a lot of that.

However, I'm extremely glad I read it. It is life-enhancing and thought provoking, two things you don't get every day. ...more
4

Jan 03, 2011



In a nut shell: I control my brain, my brain controls how I interpret the world - I am in control of my world.
(so choose a good world - for everyone's sake)

I thought this book was really great. It had moments of greatness, and moments of "really?", but I thought the message was solid and something worth being reminded of. Particularly Dr. Taylor's experience while her stroke was happening was really an intense and one of the powerful sections i have read in a long time. The physiology and

In a nut shell: I control my brain, my brain controls how I interpret the world - I am in control of my world.
(so choose a good world - for everyone's sake)

I thought this book was really great. It had moments of greatness, and moments of "really?", but I thought the message was solid and something worth being reminded of. Particularly Dr. Taylor's experience while her stroke was happening was really an intense and one of the powerful sections i have read in a long time. The physiology and knowledge was informative and I thought I learned a lot about my own biology.
"I may not be in total control of what happens to my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience." 127

"What a wonderful gift this stroke has been in permitting me to pick and choose who and how I want to be in the world. Before the stroke, I believed I was a product of my brain and that I had minimal say about how I felt or what I thought. Since the hemorrhage, my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears." 128

"And to complicate matters even more, have you ever noticed how negative internal dialogue can negatively influence how you treat others and, thus, what you attract?" 145

"[painful thoughts]...it is freeing to know that i have the conscious power to stop thinking those thought when I am satiated."154

"Peacefulness should be the place we begin not the place we seek to acheive" J. Jesseph 157

Truth be told there are lots of other dog eared pages in my copy of this book of pieces that struck a specific cord in my cabeza. Of course it is pretty much what my father has said to me my whole life (and what I catch myself consistently reminding Oliver of these days):

You don't control what happens around you, but you DO control how you react to it.
I am anxious for my wife to read this book so we can talk about the parallels in this book and to her recent study of yoga and meditation... ...more
4

May 14, 2015

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I finished this book today and I actually had to sit down and sift through my feelings trying to decide whether I like it or not. (My left hemisphere and right hemisphere were probably debating. Ha. Ha.)

So here's WHAT I ENJOYED: My absolute favourite part was the author's description of the post-stroke morning. It was like peeking into an alternate world only a few are privy to. I was also fascinated by her account of the first few hours spent in a hospital bed- where we first witness the result I finished this book today and I actually had to sit down and sift through my feelings trying to decide whether I like it or not. (My left hemisphere and right hemisphere were probably debating. Ha. Ha.)

So here's WHAT I ENJOYED: My absolute favourite part was the author's description of the post-stroke morning. It was like peeking into an alternate world only a few are privy to. I was also fascinated by her account of the first few hours spent in a hospital bed- where we first witness the result of the damage acquired, clearly shown in the eccentric (and freakishly mind-blowing) way her brain experienced and processed colours, voices and people.

WHAT I DISLIKED: I've read this in other posts and I totally agree- it needed a lot more editing. The second half of the book was very repetitive and the thoughts were disorganized and erratic. I would have focused way more on the factual chronology of her recovery (why I started reading the book in the first place) rather than just include bits and pieces of information drowned in an emotional sermon of spiritual discovery.

Despite all this, I rated the book 4 stars. Why? Well... how many of us are actually gonna live through a stroke and write about it with the knowledge and accuracy of a neuroscientist? Pretty darn cool. ...more
4

May 04, 2012

While I found the anatomical explanation of a stroke interesting and the tour of how the brain works equally engaging, the remaining chapters on the possibility of obtaining peace through the right brain fascinated me. IMO,this is Bolte-Taylor's stroke's biggest contribution to science. The impact provides more help to us, average joes and jills than millions of dollars in donations to brain research. I like the author's means of sharing her insight in a practical and understandable way.

What While I found the anatomical explanation of a stroke interesting and the tour of how the brain works equally engaging, the remaining chapters on the possibility of obtaining peace through the right brain fascinated me. IMO,this is Bolte-Taylor's stroke's biggest contribution to science. The impact provides more help to us, average joes and jills than millions of dollars in donations to brain research. I like the author's means of sharing her insight in a practical and understandable way.

What keeps this from being a 5 star book is the repition of certain phrases and thoughts especially in the first half. She may be wanting to emphasize a point, but it would have been easier to listen to if the delivery of the sentiment were varied, not using the exact same words. The second problem I had was that the author was the narrator for my audio book and her voice grated on me.

However, neither of these things could dull my appreciation of the information she shared. I am thankful that she took the pains to record what happened to her in order to share the benefits with others. ...more
4

Nov 28, 2011

Four stars for the accessible explanations of brain function and warning signs of stroke. Four stars for the fascinating walk through the day of Dr. Taylor's stroke, and for her descriptions of the recovery process. Four stars for her observations about medical care and the attitudes of doctors and nurses and visitors. Three stars for the lengthy exercises in right brain exploration, which were fascinating but a little too fluffy for me. I listened to the audio version on a lengthy drive, and Four stars for the accessible explanations of brain function and warning signs of stroke. Four stars for the fascinating walk through the day of Dr. Taylor's stroke, and for her descriptions of the recovery process. Four stars for her observations about medical care and the attitudes of doctors and nurses and visitors. Three stars for the lengthy exercises in right brain exploration, which were fascinating but a little too fluffy for me. I listened to the audio version on a lengthy drive, and the second half of the book functioned as a yoga nidra meditation. It turned itself into background while Dr. Taylor went on and on about how she chooses to remain positive. There were definitely some lessons to be taken from that section as well - about our ability to purposefully shift out of bad or useless states of mind, in particular - but a lot of it seemed to be insights that were particularly possible for her because she had been shifted so far out of her left mind. ...more
3

Aug 21, 2014

My takeaway learning moment from this is Jill's idea that a powerful emotion, once triggered, only remains a pure physical process for about 90 seconds. After that time, we make a conscious decision to "hook" into that emotion to prolong it or not. We can chose to react a different way if we desire. I found that to be empowering.

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