SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: My Stroke of Insight
Author: Jill Bolte Taylor
Page Count: 183
Genre: Medical Memoir
Tone: Fast-paced, popular science
1. Why did the Jill Bolte Taylor want to write My Stroke of Insight? What response do you think Taylor wants out of her readers?
2. Who can benefit from reading this memoir (or other medical memoirs)? Do you think medical memoirs are important, why or why not?
3. What are other must-read medical memoirs?
4. What was the most surprising thing you learned about having a stroke in My Stroke of Insight?
5. Do strokes only affect the elderly? How old was Taylor when she had her stroke?
6. What made Taylor want to go into brain science? How did she continue her brain science career after her stroke?
7. What did you think of the pace of this book? Was it a fast read for you?
8. Were there any chapters you would cut? Was there anything about Taylor’s stroke or recovery you wanted to hear more on?
9. Have any of you seen Jill BolteTaylor’s Ted Talk? How was hearing her story live a different experience than reading it?
10. What are the warning signs of having a stroke? (p. 26)
11. When and how did Taylor realize she was having a stroke? (p. 37) How big did her blood clot end up being? (p. 35)
12. At one point, Taylor talks about her thinking process like this:
“…I visualize myself sitting in the middle of my brain, which is completely lined with filing cabinets. When I am looking for a thought or an idea or a memory, I scan the cabinets and identify the correct drawer. Once I find the appropriate file, I then have access to all of the information in that file.” (p. 48)
Do you have a similar thought process? How does your thought process differ from Taylor’s?
13. Taylor sometimes refers to thoughts as “brain chatter”. How do you calm your mind when your brain chatter is going in overdrive? Has My Stroke of Insight given you any techniques to quiet brain chatter?
14. How long did it take Taylor to call for help, once she realized that she was in physical harm? Why did it take her so long to call for help? Who does she end up calling?
15. When Steve and Taylor arrived at Mount Auburn Hospital, staff put Taylor in a wheelchair and then put her in the waiting room. Were you surprised by this? Did Taylor have to wait long, why or why not?
16. Taylor says, “Despite the overwhelming presence of the engulfing bliss of my right mind, I fought desperately to hold on to whatever conscious connections I still retained in my left mind.” It is a striking realization, that something that feels beautiful and light could be so harmful. Were there any other passages in this book that felt powerful to you?
17. What does the right brain mainly control? What does the left brain mainly control? How are they different?
18. How many years did it take for Taylor to recover from her stroke? (8 years – p. 35)
19. Who helps Jill Bolte Taylor recover from her stroke? Does this person live-in with her? How would Taylor’s outcome been different if she did not have a support system?
20. What other lucky breaks did Taylor have in her recovery? (Rose Hulman Institute of Technology hired her to teach anatomy in her 2nd year of recovery, p. 126)
21. What are a few of the 40 things Jill Bolte Taylor said she needed most when she was recovering from her stroke? (Appendix B)
22. Taylor said, “…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.” (p. 120) and then goes on to explain that it takes 90 seconds for a feeling to physically run through your body, causing a negative or positive response. If it takes only 90 seconds for a first wave of anger to exit the body, why do so many people stay angry for years?
23. Does Jill Bolte Taylor see herself as completely recovered? (p. 131)
24. Have you ever felt a deep inner peace like Taylor talked about? What helps you get to that mindspace?
25. Did Jill Bolte Taylor have a typical stroke experience? Does a typical stroke exist? Do you think this book will help stroke victims and their friends/families?
26. Are you an organ donor? Would you consider donating your brain?
My Stroke of Insight website
Jill Bolte Taylor’s TedTalk
Jill Bolte Taylor’s list of 40 Things Need for her Recovery
If you liked My Stroke of Insight, try…
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova