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Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel Hardcover – April 22, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a tale worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Padgett tells how a traumatic brain injury inflicted by muggers at a karaoke bar turned him into a “mathematical marvel.” At 31, the former math-averse underachiever turns into a hermit fascinated by pi. He gradually finds out that he is not like the other 1.7 million or so Americans each year who suffer from traumatic brain injuries. Instead, he learns that, while healing, he has become an “accidental genius” with sudden-onset savant syndrome, or acquired savant syndrome. He also finds out that he has acquired synesthesia—a blending of the senses that lets him see the world in beautiful geometric patterns. Padgett struggles with setbacks, including dependence on pain medication. But overall, he stays positive as he tells his tale with the help of coauthor Seaberg: “Cases like mine prove a far greater plasticity of the brain in its ability to heal itself than was previously thought.” This memoir sends a hopeful message to families touched by brain injury, autism, or neurological damage from strokes. --Karen Springen


"[Struck by Genius] travels seamlessly between the personal and the scientific in an engaging, finely rendered tale of a modern-day Phineas Gage—only instead of losing his sense of self, Padgett has gained a vision of the world that is as beautiful as it is challenging."
New York Times Book Review

"Deeply absorbing . . . It's that contagious enthusiasm, bursting off the page, that makes this tale of a man trying to understand himself so fascinating. A-"
Entertainment Weekly

"How extraordinary it is to contemplate the bizarre gifts that might lie within all of us."
People Magazine, 3 1/2 out of 4 stars

"A remarkable and wonderfully personal medical tale. It reminds us in equal measure about our possible capacities and our impoverished understanding about how to tap into them."
David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

"Jason Padgett’s story is an extraordinary example of the human capacity for adaptation and the immense importance of exploring the individual strengths hidden inside every person’s brain."
Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain and Thinking in Pictures

"Like Dorothy in Oz, Jason sees the man behind the curtain. Except in his case, the wizard is not a trickster but the normal operations of the brain that, in the rest of us, take place outside of consciousness. Struck by Genius is a journey of self-teaching—about what had happened to his brain, why he became a different person overnight, and what the meaning of it was."
Richard E. Cytowic, neurologist and coauthor of Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia

"Acquired savant syndrome is an incredible phenomenon which points toward dormant potential—a little Rain Man perhaps—within us all. Jason Padgett's experience affirms that medical marvel in a demonstrable and irrefutable way. His compelling story calls for even more urgent inquiry into that remarkable, optimistic manifestation which holds great promise for better understanding both the brain and human potential."
Darold A. Treffert, M.D., author of Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant

"Modern neuroscience, in spite of its tremendous progress, tends to ignore folk wisdom about the brain's remarkable potential for change and growth. Struck by Genius restores the balance and marshals evidence that there are astonishing abilities in all of us, presently unfathomable, waiting to be unleashed."
V. S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist and author of The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human

"A remarkable, heartwarming and unforgettable first-person account of one man's struggle to comprehend his sudden genius in the wake of a traumatic assault. This truly amazing incident opens up a whole new dimension for science to explore."
Berit Brogaard, Professor of Philosophy and Neurodynamics, University of Missouri, St. Louis

"A tale worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! . . . This memoir sends a hopeful message to families touched by brain injury, autism, or neurological damage from strokes."

"Padgett’s heartfelt story of learning to cope with his new faculties, the onset of OCD that accompanied them, the intensive clinical testing and research that continue today, and how his experience changed his life, will appeal to fans of the films Rain Man  and A Beautiful Mind, as well as the works of Oliver Sacks."
Library Journal

"Beautiful, inspiring and intimate . . . An exquisite insider’s look into the mysteries of consciousness."
Kirkus Reviews, *starred* review 


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544045602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544045606
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 123 people found the following review helpful By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on April 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One night at a bar the hard-partying 30-something author of this memoir was mugged. He was punched and kicked in the head, probably left with a concussion. As his brain healed from the trauma, the author found that he had a profound new interest in and understanding of geometry. Simply walking around outside came to be mesmerizing, as the patterns inherent in nature jumped out at him. Prior to his injury he was no student, but now the author enrolled in college and devoted himself to a study of math, in order to better be able to communicate the whole new world opening up to him.

The part of this story that discussed the science behind Padgett's injury and the amazing results of his recovery were fascinating. I would have loved it if this book were entirely focused on math and science--how Padgett experiences the world and why his brain interprets stimuli as it does.

Unfortunately, a larger portion of this book is about Padgett's personal life, which I found much less interesting. His narrative voice has a self-congratulatory tone that permeates every anecdote contained within this memoir. In high school it was only he who could befriend the dirty and abused outcast, bring him home, and rescue him. A falling out with his brother was the result of Padgett simply being better at everything, from winning games to getting the attention of girls. Even their stepmother preferred him to his brother.

After his attack, when the author became fixated on geometry, he continued to work in his family's furniture store while taking college classes. He talks about discussing math and showing his drawings to all who come into the store. According to him, customers universally love these discussions while they are trying to choose furniture.
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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jason Padgett is one of an estimated 1.7 million Americans who annually suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Jason's head trauma happened twelve years ago outside a karaoke bar where he was brutally and repeatedly punched and kicked in the head. After that, his life changed dramatically. Before the TBI, Jason's only goal was to live life 24/7 as an adrenaline-seeking, hard-partying extrovert. He describes himself at that time as a math and artistic dunce. He was an I-don't-care college dropout. He was the type of person who constantly needed something stimulating happening around him because he was incapable of just being quiet and entertaining himself from within his own mind.

After the TBI, Jason's whole personality and worldview was completely upended. Suddenly, he found an unlimited rich new world of numbers, geometry, and shapes; they endlessly fascinated him. He was completely entertained from within his own mind. He became a hermit-like introvert. He had little interest outside totally focusing on discovering and visualizing all the geometric fractal shapes he saw around him in everyday life. He started to draw these shapes and discovered he had a marvelous new ability to create artwork out of the shapes he saw all around him. He developed a keen new interest in math and, after going back to community college to learn some fundamental mathematical concepts, he started to delve into mathematical theory. He became a "mathematical marvel."

On the downside--and I learned from this book that there are always major downsides to TBIs--Jason developed an intense case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He also suffered the onslaught of frequent panic attacks. Perhaps most interesting of all, Jason became an extreme empath, i.e.
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87 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Jason Hornbuckle VINE VOICE on April 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My short review of this book is that it should have been a magazine article, but they padded it with completely extraneous material to make it the length of a short book and then published it like that. Supposedly "Struck by Genius" tells the story of Jason Padgett, an ordinary guy who is mugged and left with a traumatic brain injury that, when healed, leaves him with a strange new way of looking at the world. Ok great, that sounds like a pretty good story.

The problem though is that there really isn't all that much to the Padgett story. Enough to fill 75 or 100 pages, tops. So what do we get? Tons of filler along the lines of "I learned X. and that reminds me of the well known story about Einstein...." and then a page long anecdote about someone discovering something that isn't really related to anything Padgett is doing. This happens at least 15 times in a 200 page book.

Then you get filler like "and so i showed this guy at the deli my drawings, and explained to him how i see the world now, and *he* was amazed too!" about 45 times, literally. Every single person Padgett talks to is amazed at how awesome and special he is, no matter what/where/when he tells them about his new abilities. Jason works at a futon store, and instead of selling futons, he tells customers about geometry and various Discovery Channel specials he watched that week. NONE of them ever have a problem with this, which I find more amazing than anything else in this book.

Jason's co-author is a big fan of over-dramatic language, which doesn't help anything either. Jason self-diagnoses himself with PTSD and OCD, and then as a humorous aside he mentions that his step dad also had OCD, because he didn't like scuff marks on the carpet. That's not really OCD Jason, sorry.
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