Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Stroke of Insight (2009)

In My Stroke of Insight: a brain scientist's personal journey, Jane Bolte 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 testimony that deep internal peace truly is accessible to anyone, at any time.

Also see Dr. Taylor's TED talk (viewed almost 19,000,000 times).

Until Further Notice, I am Alive (2012)

by Tom Lubbock


In 2008, Tom Lubbock was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour and told he had only two years to live. Physically fit and healthy, and suffering from few symptoms, he faced his death with the same directness and courage that had marked the rest of his life. As the Independent's chief art critic, Lubbock was renowned for the clarity and unconventionality of his writing, and his characteristic fierce intelligence permeates this extraordinary chronicle. With unflinching honesty and curiosity, he repeatedly turns over the fact of his mortality, as he wrestles with the paradoxical question of how to live, knowing we're going to die.

Defying the initial diagnosis, Tom survived for three years. He savoured his remaining days; engaging with books, art, friends, his wife and their young son, while trying to stay focused on the fact of his impending death. There are medical details in the book - he vividly describes the slow process of losing control over speech as the tumour gradually pressed down on the area of his brain responsible for language - but this is much more than a book about illness; rather, it's a book about a man who remains in thrall to life, as he inches closer to death.

Old Age, A Beginner's Guide (2016)

-->by Michael Kinsley

Reviewed by Shay Bintliff, M.D.

The author has tackled two not very pleasant topics according to the title. In the beginning he is blatantly honest about both topics and even adds humor to parts that are not very funny at all. He continues to weave humor even in the chapters about his brain surgery. His mentioning remembrance after death is a painful truth, however a bit off-center when stretching it to 'long term'. There surely are logical connections to almost everything discussed, even remembering Jane Austin.  

The difficult part of his book, for me, was when he ventured into grandiose political topics like Baby Boomers being the 'grandest generation'. He jumped too quickly from an individual personally speaking, to the group as a whole. This is a little too abrupt and much beyond the scope of the rest of the book.

In summary, he tries to solve the world's problems when he could have expanded on individual ways of coping better with old age and Parkinson's disease.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Black Man in a White Coat (2015)

by Damon Tweedy

"On one level the book is a straightforward memoir; on another it’s a thoughtful, painfully honest, multi-angled, constant self-interrogation about himself and about the health implications of being black in a country where blacks are more likely than other groups to suffer from, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer. “Being black can be bad for your health,” he says."

DJE: This is a delightful book that has memorable anecdotes and teaching points.  If you are not convinced, see Sarah Lyell's review in the NY Times.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Heart

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. Returning home, exhausted, the driver lets the car drift off the road into a tree. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one is sent through the windshield. He is declared brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. His heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved--grieving parents, hardworking doctors and nurses--as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, Maylis de Kerangal's The Heart has mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Death of Cancer (2015)


by Vincent DeVita

This is a very readable and informative book by a medical scientist who has been in the field for the past 50 years.  It is blends facts and anecdotes in an entertaining and educational manner.  It will appeal to patients, their families. educators and practitioners.

In her NY Times review, Abby Zuger wrote:
Now 80, a professor at Yale and one of the nation’s premier oncologists, Dr. DeVita has produced, with the help of his daughter, an utterly absorbing memoir, fierce and frank. Ears will burn, memories will doubtless differ on a few counts, and even his take on the particulars of cancer treatment may provoke debate. But the average reader will come away from the book with a superb basic education in all things oncological, from events on the cellular level to those in the rooms where research agendas are settled and checks are written.

The Death of Cancer is a great companion piece to Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday). Love it or not, this was one of 2015’s big books, a dense and hefty drama following a close-knit group of male friends through triumph and adversity. Mostly adversity: The book’s universe revolves around Jude, a mysterious wounded bird who has been hurt so deeply that it takes Ms. Yanagihara 720 pages to explain him. Overwrought but indelible.

(This was a hard book to read.  However, it gives much insight into what Anna Luis Kirkengen calls, "The Lived Experience of Violation.")