Natalie's Reviews > My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
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Dec 08, 08

bookshelves: memoir-essay
Read in December, 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 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.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Rubi (new) - rated it 1 star

Rubi right on Natalie. this book was soooooooo boring. i can't believe i was able to finish it... unfortunately, the author don't know it, but i don't think she recovered. this is a damaged brain writing. endless repetitions, and on average 20 times a page "I" or "me" don't point to much right brain oneness or so realization.
horrible editing for sure.
sadly, she should have waited 8 more years before attempting to write that book.


message 2: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel Belle For a PhD neuro physicist, she sure dumbed it down. I agree that she speaks so much of the actual stroke, that it's funny and tragic at the same time, and I really was expecting more of her recovery process. At times it was very technical and clinical, and at other times it was like a trippy LSD experience.

As a 35-year-old stroke "survivor," I was recommended this book by a very nice man who thought it might give me some perspective and peace.

Watch her seminars on YouTube from Oprah etc. She's much better in person.


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