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Editorial Reviews

At the age of 37, Jill Bolte Taylor had reaped the benefits of a life passionately devoted to neuroscience. Motivated by her brother's struggle with Schizophrenia, Taylor often traveled to advocate for the donation of brains to science; and her work had paid off. She was successful, independent, and self-sufficient. So when she woke up on a seemingly ordinary day with a pain behind her left eye, it's little surprise that she attempted to go about her morning routine as usual. Taylor explains in detail the nuanced changes in her mental activity as her ability to grasp the world around her fades, and she slowly realizes she is having a stroke.

Taylor's narration of her memoir alternates from calm and steady to exuberant with insight. Her confidence and clarity as she recounts that morning in December of 1996 reflect her familiarity with the functioning of the brain. She articulates the gradual shutdown of her brain's systems, as her disposition transitions from indifference to panic. Taylor's description of the sensations of a brain losing its functionality is at once fascinating and utterly terrifying. To hear the terror unfold in her own voice makes this story especially intimate and moving. Taylor flickers between two contradictory modes of thinking; her left hemisphere, drowning from a ruptured AVM, tries to remind her she is suffering from stroke, while her right hemisphere, devoid of the normal chatter from the left-brain, experiences an increasing sense of nirvana and oneness with the universe. Taylor's narration reflects these opposing states of mind as her voice oscillates from a calm ambivalence to extreme distress and horror.

My Stroke of Insight is both an intense intellectual and spiritual work, with Taylor guiding her listener to a more self-conscious understanding of the way our minds construct our sense of reality. The book focuses on the morning of the stroke and the days and months following, with Taylor outlining what made her recovery possible. Undeniably the work of a scientist, Taylor remains as devoted to the study of the brain as she was before her stroke, while explaining the complexities of her subject with a clarity that makes it accessible even to those without a background in science. Her book is a rare look into stroke from the perspective of a woman uniquely qualified to describe it, and an inspirational and spiritual story of her journey to recovery. —Erin Ikeler

Publisher's Summary

On the morning of December 10, 1996 Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours.

As the damaged left side of her brain - the rational, grounded, detail and time-oriented side - swung in and out of function, Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely.

In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and most of all an amazing mother, Taylor completely repaired her mind and recalibrated her understanding of the world according to the insights gained from her right brain that morning of December 10th.

Today Taylor is convinced that the stroke was the best thing that could have happened to her. It has taught her that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away. By stepping to the right of our left brains, we can all uncover the feelings of well-being and peace that are so often sidelined by our own brain chatter.

A fascinating journey into the mechanics of the human mind, My Stroke of Insight is both a valuable recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury, and an emotionally stirring ...

©2008 Jill Bolte Taylor (P)2008 Penguin Audiobooks

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  • Overall

Excellent description of stroke experience

I had a hemorrhagic stroke in 2002 and this book mirrored so many of my own experiences. I am so deeply thankful to Jill Bolte Taylor for her help in bringing some of my own memories back to me in a way that was very healing. In addition I gathered much strength from her thoughtful examination of the mind body connections. I am deeply grateful for her insight. We still have so much to learn.
It is a huge gift to have this book on Audioble for those of us who have had a stroke and still find reading print a laborious and slow task.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 05-11-15

Tending The Garden of Your Mind

I found this audiobook to be a very unique, rewarding, and surprising experience. I don't think the book could have been written as effectively by anyone other than a brain scientist such as Jill Bolte Taylor. No one else could be coming from the same unique perspective or have the same awareness and deep knowledge of what was happening during and after a catastrophic stroke. Audible provides a very thorough description of what happened to Jill. However, you simply must listen to her story and keep an open mind as you yourself experience one surprise after another.

You may wonder what it felt like during her stroke, did she know what was happening, how did she get help, how did she rehabilitate so successfully while so many others are permanently affected and damaged? You will find out through the author's own voice and words. I found myself fascinated with how it felt to the victim immediately after her stroke and through the recovery process. I never once imagined that stroke damage could feel wonderful and that anyone would have to make themselves choose recovery over status quo! How could that be? Don't we all want to be the way we were before the damage occurred?

Be aware that in the last parts of the story, Bolte Taylor, feeling fully recovered, discusses much of her personal philosophy about her mind and the mind in general. I think her recommendations are immensely helpful if one is able to ponder what she says both during and after the audiobook experience. This seems to be the challenge for us all, giving up the hustle and bustle of our current lives and taking the time to still and ponder our present. I am very inspired by this book which turned out to be an unexpected gem for me.

As far as narration, as I listened I kept hoping it was Jill narrating. It was. How could anyone else capture the right inflections and feelings as well as the author/stroke victim, herself? No, she is not a professional narrator and her voice will reveal that, but there is something to said for someone narrating their own personal experience. What you may lose from lack of professionalism, you gain from authenticity.

Highly recommended for the thoughtful and the curious.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Roslyn
  • Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
  • 06-25-12

Brain Candy for those interested in Enlightenment

Would you consider the audio edition of My Stroke of Insight to be better than the print version?

Unsure only listened to it so can't compare

What three words best describe Jill Bolte Taylor’s voice?

honest, mildly annoying

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I found the author's descriptions and explanations about how her stroke affected her mind both in the moment and after during recovery particularly engrossing. As someone who is interested in meditation, calming the mind and developing strategies for improving brain function her discussion of the right and left brain and her experiences with language loss and reprogramming her brain were fascinating.

Any additional comments?

It is a quick listen but very thought provoking.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A fascinating look into the brain

I LOVE the description of the temporary loss of the left brain. I love when a scientist has the ability to describe at first hand what happens in our bodies. The scientist in question is somewhat flat as a reader, but I prefer flat to melodramatic. And, of course, since she's the author, she does justice to the text.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lisa
  • Santee, CA, USA
  • 04-21-10

very, very illuminating!

This was a facinating book, because for the first time I was able to understand the source of self-chatter and other symptoms of my left brain, as well as why I sometimes get the "at one with the universe" feelings that I now understand are coming from my right brain. What a gift the brain truly is, and what a wonderful book. The author's experience reminds me of Eckhardt Tolle's description of what happened to him in his first book's preface; he may have gone through a mild version of this type of stroke.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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The Why of the Review

If you could sum up My Stroke of Insight in three words, what would they be?

Interesting , Informing, and Insightful

What was one of the most memorable moments of My Stroke of Insight?

The why of this review, My father, 85 years old suffered a stroke on Oct 20, 2011. He was and is still a mentally sharp individual. He was an independent business man, WW II naval veteran, hard working water well drilling contractor. With his own capital, managed his own multimillion dollar retirement and business assets, he was a self made man’s man. Shortly after the stroke my oldest sister started to exert undue influence over my mother and has convinced her that my father is basically dead, and they should not provide certain types of health care for my father. As far as they are concerned he is a vegetable .They made the comment that there was no need to waste any of ( their) money on his health care.
The other four siblings realized dad needed (help) in a big way. We also needed some answer about his health care, about his rehabilitation, and above all understanding his condition.
Thank God Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. wrote the book (My Stroke of Insight). In this book, Jill explains the experience of going thru a stroke from a Medical professional’s perspective. She also tries to understand why certain things were happening to her own brain. She also explains the recovery, the feelings and thoughts of a recovering patient, from the perceptive of a very well educated doctor. Jill would be well served to do another book; she is very well educated in the medical field. Ph. D. And it would be very helpful for her to work with a lay person to communicate and connect with the non-medical community. I strongly recommend this book; we all need to learn more about our brain and how it functions, and multi- illnesses associated with strokes. Again I want to thank, Jill for this book we look forward to learning more about your vast experiences.

PS: The simple joys of hearing my father laugh after six months brought tears to my eyes. Please read this book and share it with others, it is very helpful.
PSS: We are not done with my sister and mother.
Thank You , Larry
Robinson , IL.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jayram
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 08-14-10

An audiobook of a special kind

Dr. Boylte Taylor's unique audiobook gives a first hand description of her thought process before, during and after her stroke. I got very much moved by her 20 minutes TED talk and I thought I should read her book. When I found out about the audiobook (also read by her), I thought I must purchase it and listen.

It gives an extremely detailed/vivid account about stroke and stroke victims life. At times, the details were too much for me. But, I think these might be useful insights to people who need to know more about the stoke and its recovery process.

Some of the messages that remain in my mind after listening to this talk are (1) how remarkable is human brain that is able to recover from such traumatic injury (2) the dedication and efforts of Dr. Taylor's mother to help her daughter (3) Last but not least, the singing doctor Dr. Taylor. She shows how one can get back in life after such traumatic injury due to shear will power, love of friends/family, and inner confidence.

Life will become more meaningful after you listen to this audio-book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • 06-11-12

Incredibly interesting!

Absolutely fascinating to hear a first-person story of a young person who had a stroke and understood exactly what was happening. Great explanation of why she was totally unable to dial 911 when it happened.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Frank
  • Winter Park, FL, United States
  • 12-19-11

Subjectivity void of presupposition

Where does My Stroke of Insight rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

On a scale of 1 - 10 about a 9.7

What was one of the most memorable moments of My Stroke of Insight?

When she talked about dealing with fear

What does Jill Bolte Taylor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Her real life interpretation of the best way to navigate through a world full of crisis

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The fact that it took her so many years to write and rewrite the novel

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Fascinating book!
It is really incredible to learn about how a stroke affects the mind and body from the mind and voice of the woman affected. As someone studying medicine professionally (and for fun!) this book is excellent.
Jill Bolte Taylor does an excellent job narrating, you can hear her enthusiasm for the field of neuro-science even when it's her own brain affected!
If you are interested in learning about strokes, how they affect the patient, how they impact the family's life, this is the book for you!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful