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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on stroke I've read
Since my brother had a stroke last year I've read several books in an attempt to understand what he's experienced and how best to help him up the long slope to recovery. This is definitely the best book I've read so far. It reads like a novel (even the two technical chapters are fascinating) and I can't put it down. It has a really good combination of science, an...
Published on 20 July 2009 by Maggie B.

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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor
Jill is a neuro-anatomist by training and began her working life determined to further our knowledge of what goes wrong in the brains of those with Schizophrenia. Her older brother was schizophrenic and she had often wondered what made his reality so very different from hers. However, the course of her life changed directions when she had a severe stroke in her late...
Published on 6 Nov 2010 by Ms. Anna C. Gleave


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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on stroke I've read, 20 July 2009
This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
Since my brother had a stroke last year I've read several books in an attempt to understand what he's experienced and how best to help him up the long slope to recovery. This is definitely the best book I've read so far. It reads like a novel (even the two technical chapters are fascinating) and I can't put it down. It has a really good combination of science, an account of what happened to her, how she felt and what she needed in order to recover. I finally feel I have some understanding of what has happened to him and what he may need from the people around him. This book has really helped me to feel a little less helpless. I agree with other reviewers that a)the last section is very American, "touchy feely" and a bit spiritual which some people might find offputting and b) it would have been really useful to have more information on the nature of the care and therapy (speech, cognitive and physical) which enabled her to recover.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring book, 8 July 2010
By 
Iona Main Stewart (Odense, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
This is a book about a neuroanatomist who suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Apart from the first three chapters, which explain to us in detail the structure of the brain, with its two halves, detail necessary for us to understand what happened to the author, the first part of the book reads like a thriller and is unputdownable.

She, Jill, wakes up early one morning to a sharp pain behind her left eye. This is the beginning of a blow-by-blow account of her haemorrhage. This takes place in the left, logical, side of her brain. The account is fascinating, in that we experience Jill's gradual awareness of the fact that something absolutely serious is happening, something she realizes she will have to do something about, get help with, while at the same time she is more and more being drawn into the euphoria and now-consciousness of the right side of the brain. The left side was gradually filling up with blood and her ability to move, talk, and think logically, was disappearing. Part of her knew that she had to act quickly, but she was constantly distracted by the wondrous feeling of being one with the universe (not to mention by the splitting headache). It was a struggle to focus enough to find out what to do to get help, and how to do it. Who to call, what number to call, and how to call a number.

Eventually of course, as we can figure out, she does manage to alert the world to her predicament. After a brain operation and aided by her loving mother and much sleep, she gradually returns to health, though it takes her eight years fully to regain her faculties. Of course she needs to learn how to walk, talk, read and understand numbers, the latter proving to be the most difficult.

Now, I believe that everything happens for a reason. And Jill herself later realized how fortunate she was to have the whole experience, that enabled her to release a number of negative characteristics and create a new Jill with a new understanding of the fact that we are all connected to each other and to the universe: all we have to do to contact "Nirvana" is to quieten the left half of the brain.

Owing to this personal experience of the very differing characteristics of the two sides of the brain, Jill obtains a new understanding of the field of her work, neuroanatomy.

Perhaps the most important part of the book are the final chapters, where the author explains her new-found insights, how she can control her thoughts (not continue to dwell on negative ones) and return to the now. She can thereby choose to be loving and peaceful (as exemplified by her right brain) no matter the circumstances.

She quotes a Dr. Jerry Jesseph as saying "Peace should be where we begin and not where we strive to get to." (I read this book in translation, so the wording of the quote may not be exactly correct.) This is practically the same thing as I have recently read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He quotes A. J. Muste as saying "There is no path to peace, peace is the path." (Same comment as previously as regards wording.)

Jill realizes that the way we think, what we say to ourselves, is decisive for our mental health. (Abraham, as revealed in the books of Esther and Jerry Hicks, goes much further and teaches us that the way we think is also decisive for our physical health, and in general for everything that happens to us in life.)

Jill's stroke (of insight) is thus veritably life-changing and this book, in which she communicates her insights to us, offers us all a chance to change our lives correspondingly without we too having to suffer a stroke first.

Deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. And peace is experienced in the now (again exactly as formulated by Thich Nhat Hanh).

The book contains two useful appendices designed to help others in the same situation as she was. The first appendix comprises questions by which to assess the state of your brain (to help to alert you to the possible necessity of seeking immediate help). The second appendix contains forty pieces of advice to caregivers attending to those who have suffered a stroke or the like, advice about how most respectfully to treat the patient.

I strongly recommend that you all read this book. Not only will it be extremely useful to all those with relations who suffer something similar, but will also in general help every-one to lead their lives more successfully.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real insight into strokes, 30 Aug 2009
By 
lilysmum "lilysmum65" (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
This book offers an insider's view of what it really feels like to have a stroke. By huge coincidence, the writer, who was 37 I think when she had her stroke, is a brain scientist, and so she is able to bring both perspectives to the book. There is a chapter with advice to medics on how to treat stroke victims, for example, that I think anyone who knew a stroke sufferer would find useful. There isn't too much medical detail and what is there is explained carefully so that even if you had no medical knowledge whatsoever, you wouldn't feel out of your depth.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, but worth reading, 6 Aug 2009
This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
Disclaimer: I haven't had a stroke, or known anyone who has. My understanding of it is that of a person with a degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences, but no personal stories.

I have mixed feeling about this book. Although I can related to the difficulties she faced, the fact the book is set neither as straight personal nor as a guidebook makes it fail as both. Let me explain: when I look at it as a guide, there are so many things I would like to have asked her caregivers about her recovery, because the book is vague about it. When I look at it as a personal account, it seems that she praises her past self a bit too much.

The one thing she does very well is to communicate how she felt; people's (medical or otherwise) inability, in general, in dealing with a person that is hurt, confused and unable to communicate was striking (no pun intended). If I were to deal with a person that had had a stroke I would be much more prepared and understanding now, because of the book.

I had an irresistible urge to skim through the book and look for the parts with more content (i.e. actual problems and she and her caregivers faced them). Maybe it is my practical nature, I don't know.

Finally, she had a spectacular recovery, and I am sure that a big part of it was because she understood, even mentally wounded, what she needed to do to recover, and had caregivers that really 'cared' for her. This is probably why I feel the book could have been so much better, with more detailed information. If in doubt whether to read this book, search for her interview on NPR; it is very interesting and it will make you want to buy this book.

Overall, I think it is a worthwhile read.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor, 6 Nov 2010
By 
Ms. Anna C. Gleave (Dorset, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
Jill is a neuro-anatomist by training and began her working life determined to further our knowledge of what goes wrong in the brains of those with Schizophrenia. Her older brother was schizophrenic and she had often wondered what made his reality so very different from hers. However, the course of her life changed directions when she had a severe stroke in her late thirties leaving her severely incapacitated in many areas.

The book starts with a short section on the brain and her early pre-stroke career. The middle section describes the actual stroke and how it affected her on all levels, followed by her subsequent recovery and re-engagement with normal life. The final part of the book is a mixture of advice for others, her personal take on life and further information on how she used and uses certain techniques to rewire her brain and to control her state of mind.

I found myself feeling somewhat frustrated throughout this book because, although it is well written and in many ways delivers on its promise, she clearly has a religious belief that is not declared on the dust cover. At times I felt that I was reading a book written by a Buddhist monk and his Anglican friend. I am an atheist and found much of her interpretation of her stroke experience flawed, especially her belief that she can choose to live in a state of inner joy and peace at all times. Many people who have epilepsy, bipolar, and other brain disorders as well as those on drugs will have feelings of ecstasy, visions of heaven etc that they feel are proof of God. In reality, I believe that it is their brain chemicals and wiring or dying brain cells that are behind these feelings. By the end of the book it is clear that she feels, like a Buddhist, that we create our reality. Although she comprehends that if you damage a brain the reality changes, she then seems to contradict herself by believing that you can retrain the brain to become whatever you desire. She cites science, but it is selective. I found some of her views offensive to people who have mental and developmental disorders because there is already enough prejudice around such conditions. A belief that we can and should control our own brains and that we can consciously choose to rewire the brain, plays into the prejudice of those people who feel we can make ourselves whatever we wish. She fails to mention the research that demonstrates that neuro-plasticity is more available to some people than others. This explains why some people can re-learn not taking drugs and build new circuitry but others, despite trying as hard, cannot. To be fair she does at one point make it clear that we need to use a variety of tools to help people to change their brains which does include drugs and dietary influences.

In the final part of the book she mentions her belief in angels with which I have no problems but the book is marketed as a neuro-anatomist's observations of herself when suffering a stroke not as `my spirit beamed, free, enormous and peaceful' which is surely more `My Religious Awakening.' Many of the techniques she uses are from the Buddhist discipline but also draw on cognitive psychology which has its roots in the philosophers `I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience'

I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of the brain and how the damage done to during the stoke affected her. It caused her to experience changes of perception, affected her ability to talk and perform many basic tasks leaving one in no doubt that we are our brains. I also liked her sense of observing herself as a scientific experiment ` It really was fascinating for me to watch and experience myself during those earliest stages of recovery...I intellectually conceptualized my body as a compilation of various neurological programs'. I think that this would help anyone who was feeling out of control as a result of their stroke take charge. By assuming an objective approach some of the frustration, fear and anger of the sufferer's predicament is dissipated. It also helps everyone to see what needs to be done and to get on and do it. There are some useful guidelines for family and friends of stroke sufferers as well as assessment questions.

If you are already religious then I have no hesitation in recommending this book and you will no doubt find it both interesting and inspirational. However if, like me, you are an atheist then one has to cherry pick the relevant bits. My biggest gripe is that I feel it is mis-marketed as the importance of religion in her experience is not declared on the cover.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 3 Jan 2010
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
This is a short book and it's also easy to read. Being quite the hypochondriac, I liked it because Jill Bolte Taylor portrays strokes as nothing to be afraid of. In fact, for her it was a lifechanging, almost spiritual experience.

Essentially the book is in three parts. The first part is a simple explanation of how the brain functions and what happens when you have a stroke. I have no great scientific knowledge but I found this quite easy to follow. The second part (most of the book) is about Jill Bolte Taylor's personal experience of having a stroke (specifically, a haemorrhagic stroke in her left cerebral cortex) and going through the recovery process. Her account of the stroke is fascinating because she is able to describe very specifically what was happening to her brain as well as how she felt and how it affected her as it was happening.

This section also has a lot of information about how you can best communicate with and help someone who's had a stroke to recover. There are lots of tips on basic things that you can do, for example: speak quietly but slowly and clearly, don't hurry them, don't overwhelm them with stimulation (no TV or radio), keep visitations brief.

One thing that I found very interesting in terms of her recovery process was how long it took: after four years of work her brain became capable of multi-tasking, after six years she could climb two steps at a time etc.

In the final part of the book, Dr Taylor takes what she learned from her experience and explains how she believes that better understanding of the ways that our brains operate can allow us to choose what thoughts we will give attention to and to consciously override the negative aspects of left brain thinking. This section of the book is quite closely aligned to ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). While I found this section interesting, I also felt it was too drawn out. When she started talking about how she thanks her bladder everytime she passes urine I felt like shouting "enough!"

Nevertheless a truly fascinating book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, 18 Aug 2009
By 
A. Cowie "Rexluna" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
This is an easy book to read, however it is very American - touchy feely. The book is split into 4 parts, and is worth getting for the first 3 parts.

The intro is well written and interesting. The next part covers the science of the brain. This is slightly heavy going, but worth reading if you are interested in the subject (why else would you buy a book about strokes?!). The author encourages you to read this to understand the next part, and it is useful but certainly not essential.

The next part of the book is what you are buying it for, the description of what happenned to Jill and how it affected her and her insights to this and understanding of what was happening, followed by her recovery and her personal take on the differing support she got from different people. It is a thrilling and scary journey, and for this part I would absolutely recommend anyone to read this book to help undertand brain injury a little and the support required. I feel that I have learnt a great deal from this book.

The final part, is more about what Jill has learnt about how to control her brain and return to her nirvana whenever she wants. She has certainly turned what could so easily have been a tragedy into an asset that has made her a happier person and she encourages us to enter that same mental space. This bit was for me the touchy feely self help spiritual guidance bit. I didn't get it, but if you are looking for that, it is a nice extra - possibly would have been worth putting into a seperate book though.

All in all, this is two books in one, and the book about the stroke is excellent and well worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Painful insight, 14 Aug 2010
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
This book was recommended to me by a colleague who had seen the author on Oprah and had then read the book inflight from America. She was so enthusiastic about it and I could see why when I read it myself. At times painful it will evoke emotions in anyone who has relatives affected by stroke or other serious illnesses.

In the early chapters as she described what happened I found myself saying; "just ring the emergency services, why are you trying to remember your work number!" And this sense of frustration obviously mirrors what she was feeling/thinking at the time. She also includes sections on the brain anatomy and what the stroke actually did to her.

The author has a unique take on the subject as a brain scientist who suffered a stroke at age 37 and was able to analyse it as it happened. She was also a musician and an artist so may have have had better use of both sides of her brain than most of us but it took her 8 years to recover, particularly her mathematical ability, and get back to where she was. In the meantime she experienced a sense of one-ness with the universe and I wondered if this is what zen adepts and people practising mindfulness also experience.

I was interested in her advice for helpers eg believe in recovery, don't bring negative energy into my life (and how that must resonate with anyone undergoing hospital treatment). She also wanted people not to ask closed questions ie Yes/No but multiple choice ones to force her to think and create new connections in her brain.

She doesn't say much about her personal life except to talk about her brother who suffered mental illness which influenced her career decision and the support she received from her mother. You get the impression she didn't have anyone else close to her. The trauma also wiped out lots of memories which meant she could start over again and she made conscious decisions about the kind of things and people she wanted to have in her life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Important Book, 11 Aug 2010
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
Jill Bolte Taylor was a neurologist who, at the age of 37, suffered a stroke which affected the left side of her brain. Despite part of her brain shutting down & not being able to speak, she incredibly managed to call for help. She was subsequently hospitalised before being taken home where her mother looked after her & help her rehabilitate, before undergoing brain surgery, which combined with years of therapy, helped her get back to 'normal'. This is her autobiography of that time.

As probably the only brain-scientist who has experienced a stroke & recovered well enough to tell the tale, Jill provides unique insight into exactly what was happening in her brain & most importantly, what it felt like first-hand. She clearly describes hardly being able to understand words or process information logically but also becoming incredibly sensitive to peoples' emotions. Also, boundaries became blurred, people & objects seeming to flow into one another like energy. This is bound to be very useful & reassuring to relatives of stroke victims, as it will help them see what their loved on is going through. Further to this, it describes how her mother helped rehabilitate her - a process requiring great patience, sensitivity & most importantly, peace & quiet. Jill tells us that sadly, many stroke victims are put into nursing homes & shoved in front of the TV in the hope that this will 'stimulate' them into waking up - this, she categorically explains, is the exact opposite of what worked for her.

As well as being invaluable to families & medical professionals looking after stroke victims, this amazing book gives some interesting but not overly complicated insight into how our brains work & affect our perceptions. Plus it's simply an interesting story! As such, this amazing book delivers on a number of levels.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Stroke of Insight, 2 Sep 2009
By 
A. Rea (Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
I wish I had read this book when I was working as a Nurse. In my work with stroke victims I found it often hard to understand their behaviour and what they were going through. This book makes all the aspects of stroke clear, from the stroke itself, what it felt like, what was happening physically and psychologically right through to total recovery 8 years later. I loved reading the book, I have learned so much, I will recommend it to everyone I know and no doubt read it again and again.
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My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (Paperback - 4 Nov 2006)
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