Synopses & Reviews
The astonishing New York Times
bestseller that chronicles how a brain scientist's own stroke led to enlightenment.
On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old, Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life — all within four hours — Taylor alternated between the euphoria 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 she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.
For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by stepping to the right of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by brain chatter. Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah's online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.
"In 1996, 37-year-old neuroanatomist Taylor experienced a massive stroke that erased her abilities to walk, talk, do mathematics, read, or remember details. Her remarkable story details her slow recovery of those abilities (and the cultivation of new ones) and recounts exactly what happened with her brain. Read proficiently by the author, this is a fascinating memoir of the brain's remarkable resiliency and of one woman's determination to regain her faculties and recount her experience for the benefit of others. Taylor repeatedly describes her 'stroke of insight'-a tremendous gratitude for, and connection with, the cells of her body and of every living thing-and says that although she is fully recovered, she is not the same driven, type-A scientist that she was before the stroke. Her holistic approach to healing will be valuable to stroke survivors and their caregivers, who can pick up suggestions from Taylor's moving accounts of how her mother faithfully loved her back to life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Transformative....[Taylor's] experience...will shatter [your] own perception of the world." ABC News
"[Dr. Taylor] brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities." The New York Times
"Fascinating...invaluable...fearless....This book is about the wonder of being human." Robert Koehler, Tribune Media Services
"Transformative...[Taylor's] experience...will shatter [your] own perception of the world."
"[Dr. Taylor] brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities."
-The New York Times
"Fascinating...invaluable...fearless...This book is about the wonder of being human."
-Robert Koehler, Tribune Media Services
andldquo;If bad things are going to happen, we are lucky when they happen to someone with the wit, humanity and sweetness andmdash; to say nothing of an eye for detail and a gift for pacing andmdash; that MacLean brings to this wrenching tale . . . Readers who flip open the book will find MacLean, preserved between pages, goofy and serious, lost and found.andrdquo; andmdash; Chicago Tribune
andldquo;A deeply moving account of amnesia that explores the quandary of the self . . . MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styronandrsquo;s Darkness Visible, the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatjeandrsquo;s Running in the Family, and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with.andrdquo; andmdash; Los Angeles Times
andldquo;[MacLean] writes eloquently about the bizarre and disturbing experience of having his sense of self erased and then reconstructed from scratch.andrdquo; andmdash; The New Yorker
andldquo;As harrowing as this territory is, MacLean makes an affable, sure-footed guide . . . Thanks to his raw, honest, and beautiful memoir, readers will already have a clear idea what his experience was like. We can be grateful MacLean has remembered so much, and so well.andrdquo; andmdash; New York Times
andldquo;[A] vivid reflection on the ten years following the Lariam-induced break with reality and the memory problems that persisted in its wake . . . One author, a writer by trade, tells his story because it is a good one: dramatic and unique. The other tells a story, no less arresting, because she has a point to make. Both succeed impressively.andrdquo; andmdash; New York Times Book Review
andldquo;Written in terse, vivid prose spiked with blackouts and violent hallucinations reminiscent of a Ken Kesey classic, MacLeanandrsquo;s story of the yearlong quest to regain his life reads like fiction, and reminds us that while memories may be painful, truth is all too often elusive.andrdquo; andmdash; Mother Jones
andldquo;Incandescent . . . MacLeanandrsquo;s account is raw and unsparing, and will surely take you out of your comfort zone andmdash; the reader is immersed in the writerandrsquo;s oblivion and his vertiginous journey of recovery andmdash; but the reward for sticking with it is the privilege of reading MacLeanandrsquo;s profound and finely nuanced meditation on memory and identity.andrdquo; andmdash; Seattle Times
andldquo;MacLean fearlessly explores his journey to the edge of madness and his subsequent return to sanity in an unsettling, sometimes riotous, memoir.andrdquo; andmdash; Publishers Weekly
andldquo;Mesmerizing.andrdquo; andmdash; Kirkus Reviews, starred review
andldquo;Riveting, sad, and funny . . . Both a sharply written autobiography and an insightful meditation on how much our memories define our identities.andrdquo; andmdash; Booklist
andldquo;A gripping medical mystery, a heartwarming personal journey, and a chilling indictment of the commonly prescribed drug that upended MacLeanandrsquo;s life andmdash; but left his superb literary skills intact.andrdquo; andmdash; Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
andldquo;A mesmerizing, unsettling memoir about the ever-echoing nature of identity, written in vivid, blooming detail.andrdquo; andmdash; Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
Praise for The Answer to the Riddle is Me
"A gripping medical mystery, a heartwarming personal journey, and a chilling indictment of the commonly prescribed drug that upended MacLean's lifeand#8212;but left his superb literary skills intact."
and#8212;Rebecca Skloot, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
"A mesmerizing, unsettling memoir about the ever-echoing nature of identityand#8212;written in vivid, blooming detail."
and#8212;Gillian Flynn, New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl
"MacLean fearlessly explores his journey to the edge of madness and his subsequent return to sanity in an unsettling, sometimes riotous, memoir."
"A deeply moving account of amnesia that explores the quandary of the self . . . MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styron's and#8216;Darkness Visible,and#8217; the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatje's and#8216;Running in the Familyand#8217; and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with."
and#8212;Los Angeles Times
"incandescent...MacLeanand#8217;s account is raw and unsparing, and will surely take you out of your comfort zone and#8212; the reader is immersed in the writerand#8217;s oblivion and his vertiginous journey of recovery and#8212; but the reward for sticking with it is the privilege of reading MacLeanand#8217;s profound and finely nuanced meditation on memory and identity."
and#8212;The Seattle Times
"What does it mean to be the person you are? How much can be stripped away before you are no longer you? This is a fascinating book that resides in the mind as if you lived it yourself. "
and#8212;Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown
"Thoughtful, terribly honest, often funny, and utterly un-self-indulgent, this is a riveting work of narrative art."
and#8212;Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me
"A compelling personal account and a frightful caution to physicians and travelers who continue to place their faith in a very dangerous drug."
and#8212;Dr. Remington L. Nevin, MPH, Mefloquine expert
"Brilliant and painful and hilarious."
and#8212;Antonya Nelson, author Some Fun
"David Stuart MacLean is a writer who can break your heart, terrify you, and make you laugh all on the same page. The Answer to The Riddle is Me is a masterful exploration of the funhouse of identity."
and#8212;Mat Johnson, author of Pym
"While MacLean's experience is unlucky indeed, the luck becomes ours as he takes us with him on his harrowing journey, which is rendered with exactitude, humor, and lyricism."
and#8212;Maggie Nelson, author of The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
A brain scientist's journey from a debilitating stroke to full recovery
becomes an inspiring exploration of human consciousness and its possibilities.
About the Author
Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who teaches at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington, Indiana. She is the National Spokesperson for the Mentally Ill for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Brain Bank) and the Consulting Neuroantomist for the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute. Since 1993 she has been an active member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Her story has been featured on the PBS program Understanding Amazing Brain, among others. She was interviewed on NPR's Infinite Mind and ABC News, and was named one of The 100 of the World's Most Influential People of 2008 in Time Magazine.