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on March 13, 2008
This is, indeed, a first-person description of stroke by a scientifically and dare I say it -- spiritually -- sophisticated person. The author describes a range of experiences that make sense given our knowledge of localization of function. I'm not sure that such a detailed and consistent report by a scientist is available anywhere else. As such, this story is unusual and important. Moreover the author reports how she turned her stroke into an opportunity for profound wisdom and insight. Amazing stuff! And this may save lives.

Personally, I don't share all the author's ideas about strict functional localization in the brain... but that is secondary and doesn't detract from my admiration of her remarkable contribution.

My enjoyment of this book was enhanced considerably by the material and links at the author's website. She has posted a number of video and audio presentations, radio shows, etc.
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on December 2, 2008
I first came across Jill Bolte Taylor, Phd when her speech at TED (an annual conference devoted to Technology, Entertainment, Design) went viral. In it, she describes how she witnessed herself having a stroke and the subsequent feeling of peace that enveloped her when her logical left brain shut down and her right brain became dominant. I became intrigued after watching the video and then read the book.

The book expounds on her experience while having the stroke and her subsequent recovery. It was amazing on many levels:
(1) She gives a 1st person narrative of her experience of the stroke and recovery but she doesn't portray it as something we should all pity and feel sorry for. Instead, she lays it out not unlike an explorer discovering new territory, full of suspense and wonder.

(2) She gives incredible tips on how to communicate with and care for stroke victims. For e.g., some people would yell at her after they saw she didn't understand what they were saying. However, she wasn't deaf. She could only process one word at a time. If those people would have spoken more slowly rather than loudly, she would have been able to understand them. This is something that would never have occurred to me if I hadn't read this book.

(3) She takes us on a tour of the 'mystical' right side of her brain which little is known about and whose capabilities in today's world seem to be dismissed. She says the right side of the brain is the gateway to enlightenment and nirvana. She shares tips on how to 'tend the garden of your mind' and to interrupt or stop those stories we all tell ourselves over and over again (usually about how we are deficient, not good enough, etc.). She calls them loops.

Dr. Taylor's tips about how we can all achieve nirvana by accessing the right side of the brain as a conscious process is worth the price of the book many times over. We all have a "loop of deep inner peace" wired into our neurological circuitry in our right brain and we can consciously choose to run this loop whenever we wish.

Closely related to this topic are books by Ariel & Shya Kane. They've written three outstanding books: Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life, How to Create a Magical Relationship: The 3 Simple Ideas that Will Instantaneously Transform Your Love Life & Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment. The Kanes have been teaching about accessing the magic of the right-side of the brain for over 20 years and their book is chock full of tips, and stories on how to recognize those loops Dr. Taylor talks about and how to bypass them. If you're serious about getting enlightened, get Dr. Taylor's and the Kanes' books NOW!
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on June 15, 2008
My wife is a "massive" stroke victim. Her survival and recovery themselves were miracles. We are very fortunate. But one of the god-given gifts that has not returned is her speech. And while as a husband of 45 years when asked how she is doing often facetiously say that her loss of speech "is not all bad", I feel for her occasional frustration as she stumbles in her attempt to convey her feelings - fortunately, it is only occasional. We were warned it would be much, much worse.

But the bottom line, this book has restored her faith in the possibilities of even further recovery. It should be required reading for all stoke victims whose speech was affected. Likewise, for all caretakers of those victims. For just to see the light shine in her eye as she showed me many passages in the book that still gave her hope was well worth the price and time involved.
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on June 10, 2009
I was expecting an Oliver Sacks sort of experience, in which she both provided us with a great deal of scientific information regarding the brain, thoughts and consciousness while simultaneously weaving us a larger narrative in which she pondered more existential questions about the nature of being and consciousness itself. That's not this book. Rather, the book has an odd sort of disjointed feel to it.

The first chapter explains how own unique perspective on the stroke experience. SHe was both a researcher in psychology and anatomy at harvard University, and an individual with a great deal of personal experience in the fields of psychology and consciousness. She describes growing up with a schizophrenic brother who was a mere year and a half older than herself -- thus, from the beginnings of her life, she has been fascinated with questions about how our brains work, what we perceive and why as humans sometimes perceive things so differently.

By far the best chapter in my mind is the second, where she describes what actually happened the morning she had her stroke -- on both a physiological and emotional level. In essence, she reconstructs the event, noting that "I was feeling this while this was happening in this section of my brain." She explains, for example, why it was impossible to dial 911, since during the experience she would have been hard pressed to understand what a phone was, what one did with it, what numbers were or how they related to the telephone.

The chapters on her recovery are where the book starts to get weak. Her overall message in the last half of the book is admirable, but somewhat poorly executed. However, her overall message, that she chose to reconstruct many of the skills and experiences of her earlier life, but that she enjoyed the "blessing" of leaving the emotional baggage behind, of grabbing hold of the experiences without grabbing hold of the emotions which they engendered, is excellent -- and fascinating. It calls into question big issues like "who am I and where does my identity come from. If I change my history, my past and how I feel about situations, am I in essence now a different person?" But it's a message that shouldn't have taken seventy some pages to convey, nor will everyone else's experience necessarily parallel her own. Worth a quick read, but not the solid, weighty analysis I was expecting.
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on August 2, 2008
I debated over whether to give this book three, four, or five stars. The information that Dr. Taylor presents about the brain and stroke is worth five stars, without question. But I have a few complaints about how she presents this information; and lots of complaints about the "self-help" aspects of this book. I almost wish I could post two reviews of this book -- a five-star review for the information about the brain and stroke; and a two-star review for everything else about the book. I ended up giving the book a (somewhat charitable) compromise rating of four stars (but in some ways the four star rating is too low; and in others it is way too high).

Let's start with the positives: This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the human brain and how it functions, any health care professional or caregiver who deals with stroke patients, anyone who has a friend or family member who has had a stroke, and anyone who is concerned about the possibility that they might someday suffer from a stroke (a statistical possibility, since about 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year). If you want to know about what it's like to have a stroke and to recover from it, this is the book to read. Dr. Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke and lived to tell her story of survival, recovery, and rehabilitation. The information she provides about her personal experience is priceless for anyone who wants to better understand what happens when someone has a stroke, and what is needed for recovery and rehabilitation. This information is also of extreme value for anyone who wants to better understand how the brain works to make us who we are. Five stars for the information on the brain and stroke.

But now I must deal with the negatives, and comment on the "two-star" aspects of this book. First of all, the writing style is a bit amateurish; but we can excuse Dr. Taylor for that, since she's a brain scientist, not a professional writer. But I do have a bit of a problem with how she tells her story. What bothers me about her account is her description of what was going on in her mind while she was having the stroke and during her recovery. She describes herself as having certain thoughts that just don't seem plausible given her description of the mental impairments she was suffering at the time. She makes a point of saying that the language centers of her left cerebral cortex had been impaired, silencing the inner voice in her head, leaving her mind in a state of peaceful quiet. Yet she goes on to describe thoughts that were running through her mind. (How could she have such thoughts without that inner voice?) I got the feeling that she was actually describing the thoughts that went through her mind years later as she was recalling her stroke experience. (But, given the fact that our minds actually "construct" our memories as we reflect on our past experiences rather than simply recording our experiences and playing them back for us with perfect accuracy, this sort of thing is to be expected.)

But what really annoyed me about this book was that, in the last few chapters, it turned into a sappy, shallow, self-help book of the "learn-to-love-yourself-and-think-happy-thoughts" variety; and includes what has to be the single corniest sentence ever written in the English language: "When my bowels move, I cheer my cells for clearing that waste out of my body." (p. 156) In these later chapters, the book even delves into "New Age" stuff like "energy dynamics", Feng Shui, and "Angel Cards". I felt that this seriously compromised the integrity of the valuable information that Dr. Taylor presented about brain science and stroke recovery. This information is so valuable that I would still recommend the book in spite of its many shortcomings; but I would encourage you to take the last few chapters of the book with a grain of salt.
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on June 11, 2008
Dr Taylor shows there are many kinds of knowledge, but maybe only one kind of awareness. The specialjourney that "Stroke of Insight" chronicles is surprising. It's a lesson how new learning, understanding and benefit can come of an experience that most would consider a severe blow. If you have the courage to face it and see it.

The ability to experience something on several levels, beyond the daily vision of most of us, and then to share it in such a clear and thoughful account is rare. In this book, Dr Taylor shows her courage doesn't end with facing pain, loss or mortality, but she also now breaks convention and presents her ideas and experience in full view, with their emotional and philosophical content included. Not only was she inspired by her own journey, but she shares the inspiration directly with the reader.

More than just an interesting read, this is one of the books that lets the reader peek inside the mind of another and, in doing so, to learn more about the self and the nature of our existence. Well worth your time.
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on November 4, 2008
I had high expectation for this book, but it was far less interesting than I hoped. There were many redundant passages about being one with the universe and the state of nirvana that the author, Dr. Jill Taylor, achieved. A good editor would have shaved off at least 20 pages. I found myself skimming over more than a few pages. I expected more of the science; explanations were couched in simplistic terms. Although there are descriptions of normal brain function in the beginning, the scientific discussion waned when it came to her actual situation.

After her surgery and her recovery starts, Dr. Taylor glosses over the 8 years it took her to recover to focus on the spiritual aspect of her experience. The steady stream of new-age mysticism is attributed to right-brain function, making an argument that religious/spiritual/mystical experiences are nothing more than a few extra neurons firing here and a few less firing there. And who knows, maybe they are. What might be useful to hospital workers and caregivers is her need description of how their questions, demands, and posture were experienced. She needed questions repeated slowly, not loudly. (As she noted, she wasn't deaf, but folks would repeat a question louder as if it would make understand better.)

At the end of it, I was disappointed in this book. Even at the Kindle price of $9.99 I would recommend waiting to pick the paperback version up for less.
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on March 18, 2014
As someone that has intimate knowledge of what a stroke experience is like (I had mine in 2009) I found it very disappointing how little the author did to convey the realities of dealing with a stroke. I've been fortunate to cross paths with other stroke survivors and without fail someone that never had a stroke had given them this book (I'm sure with the best of intentions) and everyone that actually has had a stroke has been of the opinion that this story was a fanciful portrayal of the event. Yes, I understand everyones' experience is unique but for everyone that has been fortunate enough not to be affected by a stroke, please know what is described in this book is so not the typical stroke experience based on my CVA experience and conversations with other stroke survivors.
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on January 14, 2009
I am a cerebellar stroke survivor, who like Jill, had a stroke because of an AVM...I was VERY dissapointed that she only talked about two parts of the brain - left and right, when there are FOUR areas that affect our neuro funttioning - the BRAIN STEM and the CEREBELLUM are completely ignored.

Her book has many good tips and indeed, I am nothing but admiration for her 8 years of oomph in recovery, and her impressive ability to present to is an easy to read book, but I was sorry her detailed explanations of the brain did not cover the entire story.

Other people have strokes in parts of the brain not discussed here...Truly, every stroke is different in what is damanged and what can be recovered...for a Harvard Brain scientist, I had hoped for more insight about the ENTIRE working of the brain. I guess that is a picky critcism. It's well worth reading, and Jill has spunk AND spirit...bravo for an inspirational recovery, and for the patience/guidance of her mother/incredible caregiver....caregivers make all the difference in our recovery as stroke survivors...
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VINE VOICEon December 19, 2008
My Stroke of Insight is a first person account of a neuroscientist's left hemisphere stroke. The opening chapters of the book are devoted to initiating the non-scientist reader into the basics of brain science so that they may fully appreciate the proceeding story. I found the introductory chapters and the narrative to be entertaining and interesting although together they only constituted roughly half of the book.

The following half quickly changed gears into more of a "self-help" book about finding your inner peace, being one with the universe and the like. Truthfully, after reading this book I would be hard pressed to shelf it as either medical lit. or science. Instead, I would probably put it over in the new age / self-help category.

Notwithstanding, its a well written book. I find the first half entertaining but, I don't entirely buy it. My education is in both psychology and chemistry and I find it hard to believe that this first-person minute-by-minute account of her experiencing the stroke is completely accurate. However, I do acknowledge that the book is insightful and could be a real inspiration for stroke survivors, their families and loved ones.
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