Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Book Review!

I'm a big reader. Last year I read 40 books. In 2012 I competed with my dad to see who could read the most. I finished with 63, beating him by a single book. I'm glad I didn't compete with him last year as he set a new personal record - reading 89 books by the year's end - the most he's read in a year since he started keeping track.

I'm not in the same competition this year although my dad and I always compare our lists when we Skype each weekend. We summarise where we're at, what we're reading currently and what we have coming up.

This regular chat we have is something I love and it got me thinking. I would say probably every fifth or sixth book I read is so incredibly influential that I want to share it with my parents and anyone else willing to listen. Anyone who knows me knows I won't shut up when I've read something particularly good.

So I'm always looking for stuff to write about in this blog and it occurred to me: Why not book reviews?!

What a great way to share something I've discovered!

To start off I'm going to review the first book I finished reading in the New Year:

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist, inspired to study the brain after her brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic. 

At 37 she suffered a massive stroke on the left hemisphere of her brain. As a brain scientist she grew very curious about her experience and she attributes her recovery to her knowledge and understanding of the brain's elasticity and ability to create new neural pathways when old ones have been damaged or destroyed. 

I don't want to reveal any spoilers so that's all I'll tell you about the contents. 

I love this book. I love this book so much I'll probably re-read it this year. I love this book so much people who know me will probably soon own their own copies. That's how amazing I found it. 

As someone who meditates I believe very strongly in the power of the mind and the present moment. I have done Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with my psychologist and believe wholeheartedly that working to change habitual thoughts patterns does change how we feel about and respond to life. 

Bolte Taylor's writing confirms all of this and shares it in language that's easy to understand. Reading the experience of someone who has medical training on how the brain works is both fascinating and affirming. The way she breaks down the role each hemisphere plays and how they communicate together is wonderful. Her subsequent revelations based on the experience of 'reconnecting' that communication opened my own mind to new ways of thinking. 

I feel her most profound revelation was that we control our brains, rather than the other way around. This was a discovery she didn't make as a brain scientist but as a stroke patient in recovery. As a result she has developed some incredible tools to ensure a sense of happiness and wellbeing and discourage negative patterns of thought.   

I have been using some of the tools she describes to work with my own thoughts, with profound results. Her insight is incredible and I'm extremely grateful to her for sharing her story. I appreciate that she shared it largely to assist people in recovering from or supporting someone recovering from a stroke, but I think it would be beneficial to anyone willing and interested in working with their mind.

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