Friday, July 30, 2010

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

In which the author enjoys, survives and recovers from a stroke.

Taylor was a brain scientist and activist for brain donation before she woke up and had a massive stroke. About a decade later, she was able to write this book about her complete experience from the perspective of a brain expert. I bought the book because it was on sale at the book store, looked interesting, and was something I don't normally read. I wasn't disappointed!

I think the most valuable insight Taylor offers is what it feels like to have a stroke. She described it vividly, from her first realization that something was seriously wrong to the recovery stages. More than what she feels or where she hurts, Taylor describes her thought processes as her brain freaks out. It is really fascinating! I obviously hope I never have to find out first hand, but she made the stroke itself sound like an incredible experience.

Taylor apparently wrote her book in an attempt to help other stroke victims. If people can figure out what is going wrong and get help quickly (more difficult than you might think!) when they have a stroke, it improves their outlook. Taylor also describes what factors helped (and impaired) her recovery in an attempt to improve the lives of other stroke victims.

What I didn't like about this book was where it delved in to what I would consider pseudo-science. It was very much reminiscent of the movie "What the Bleep" in a questionable blend of science and fantasy. For example, she continuously referred to people she didn't relate well to in her stroked condition as "energy vampires" because apparently they sucked the energy out of her brain. Okay. The last few chapters of the book focus extensively on visualizing stuff to make your brain cells work better. Meh. And thinking about things to improve all kinds of bodily functions. Blah. Not the type of fantasy I enjoy reading.

I would recommend this book, although I wish I could redact chapters 16 through 20. They were just a waste of time. I greatly enjoyed the first 15 chapters though. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to someone who was close to a stroke victim, or was otherwise curious, particularly if they had a higher tolerance for pseudo science than I do.


  1. my stepfather had a severe stroke about a year and a half ago. Afterwards he read several books on the topic in his long slow journey towards recovery and this was one of them. although he enjoyed the book, he said her description of the stroke sounded a lot more like an acid trip and he really wasn't even convinced she'd really had a stroke at all. just a thought.

  2. Weird! Apparently she had a strange kind where blood vessels broke rather than the clot kind. Maybe that type is more acid trip like? It's true that it did not sound like any account of a stroke I had ever read.

  3. I really enjoyed What the Bleep, though I haven't seen it since it was in theaters, so my opinion might be different nowadays. I've always kind of wondered if people having strokes were aware of it at the time.


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