by Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke of Insight

A must-read for every stroke survivor. Recovering from a stroke is such a bizarre experience, many survivors think they are the first and only ones to ever walk that path. However, in this book they will find a clear and complete description of that journey. And thus not feel so alone. This is not like the more common clinical view of a ship-in-a-bottle. Rather, it’s like being on that ship’s deck. Several key issues are covered. They include: the basic anatomy of the brain and various types of strokes, the concept of left versus right brain, the importance of neuroplasticity, the importance of patience, love and understanding (always good things, but vital in stroke recovery and not available to many unfortunates), and the danger of just accepting current dogma. There is also a good deal of metaphysics – an interesting, personal, and courageous addition. However, it’s the first-person account that makes this a compelling and necessary read. Only an experienced brain anatomist could accurately explain the neurology. Only a stroke survivor could tell the story ‘from the inside out’. Only an intelligent and compassionate author could put it in words for others to learn from. The author is all of these. One word of caution: reading this account can be an intense and emotional experience. Public places should be avoided until you’re finished the book. This is not a shallow plug, but an actual lesson learned through cruel experience.

by Douglas Hofstadter

I Am a Strange Loop

Douglas Hofstadter is a Professor of Cognitive Science (thinking) and the son of a Nobel-winning nuclear physicist. An earlier book won him the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. Although famous for thoughts in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Hofstadter is actually skeptical about AI and considers the modern world far too enamored of computers in general. This book is intended to flesh out the concept of human consciousness as a kin d of ‘strange loop’ or self-referencing feedback loop. This construct is related to ideas in fractal geometry (particularly self-similarity at different hierarchical levels), molecular biology (particularly protein synthesis), cybernetics (particularly, recursion) and is demonstrated in the more mathematically rigorous Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. These theorems point to the inherent and ultimate limitations of arithmetic computability. Purely symbolic representations can never be complete (and thus dies traditional AI). However, this is not a math text book. It is rather more personal and biological. This book is richly laden with stories of himself and others and how they think. He gradually moves from machine to mind to soul, increasing in mystery and non-computability along the way. AI researchers may find this book discouraging. Philosophers may find it encouraging.
The surprising and even shocking idea that pieces of one’s soul can outlive the body (in the minds of others) may appeal to spiritualists. Readers will find this book intriguing, thoughtful, and even funny.

by Norman Doidge

The Brain That Changes Itself

What if the human brain, instead of being ‘hard wired’ from early childhood, was actually capable of change — even improvement?
This fascinating idea is explored through a series of accounts of both patients’ struggles and scientists’ work. The concept is called neuroplasticity.
The patients’ problems range from balance to perception to stroke recovery to basic learning. Their stories tell of improvements bordering on resurrection. The reader is brought along on their personal journeys, these patients treated almost like characters in a novel. Modern neurology is both described and challenged, as Dr. Doidge is a researcher, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Possible causation and process are discussed, in addition to clinical study. The importance of imagination and ‘mental exercise’ are covered. However, it is far more than a cold, logical review of neurology. This is an emotional and passionate tale, an urgent quest for knowledge that could improve, redeem, and even save lives. One doesn’t need to be a medical doctor or scientist to appreciate it, but only a human being.
Written as a compelling mixture of neurology, mystery, and personal triumph, this book will change the way you think – literally.