Odd: It's about a Harvard educated brain scientist who discusses brain science, her experience of both having a stroke and recovering from one, and her quasi-religious experience resulting from being (temporarily) brain damaged. This sells?
Oddly hopeful: See the above! Intelligent yet accessible. Rooted in science but open-minded enough to understand the limitations of science. Sounds better than the latest Dan Brown.
Still Alice, a novel about a (again) Harvard educated woman's descent into Alzheimer's disease, is another title that has been burning up that charts. There's some sort of cultural obsession afoot with the disintegration of one's mind. It's almost like we want to peek around the door of Death - what's it's like for a part of us to die. A test run for Death. The closest you can get to the fire without being burned up.
Upon closer examination, though, My Stroke of Insight's popularity probably stems from the fact that contains a similar message to monster bestseller The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Live in the now. Forgo the ego of your conscious mind for what is higher, purer - the spiritual plane, where peace is to be found. Bolte Taylor similarly champions balancing the brain chatter of the logical left brain for the silence and peace of the intuitive right brain.
Despite the pop spirituality parallels, Bolte Taylor has a lot to say that blew my mind, so to speak. Top picks:
- Recounting the morning of her stroke in frightening detail, Bolte states: "For the first time in my life, I understood that I was not invincible. Unlike a computer that could be turned off and then rebooted..." A terrifying fact I'd rather not face up to.
- "In the absence of the normal functioning of my left orientation association area, my perception of my physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air...The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria." Shutting down her left brain connected Bolte Taylor with her right brain, the side that fully appreciates interconnectivity.
- My favourite tidbit about right/left brain capabilities: "I have heard of many stroke survivors who, although they could not speak (left hemisphere), they were capable of singing their messages (both hemispheres).
- The author had to relearn all of the labels for emotion, such as 'joy'. She became dedicated to only relearning those emotions that brought her peace - old emotional baggage was carefully scrutinized for its usefulness. She says, "I learned that I had the power to choose whether to hook into a feeling and prolong its presence in my body, or just let it quickly flow right out of me."
My Stroke of Insight / Jill Bolte Taylor / Plume / Trade PB, 2009