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Book Discussion Questions: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke of Insight book cover

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?

 

Other Resources

My Stroke of Insight website
Jill Bolte Taylor’s TedTalk
Oprah interview
RealitySandwich interview
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

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly book cover     The Brain That Changes Itself book coverLeft Neglected book cover

By Readers' Advisor on April 9, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew

De-Textbook book coverSteve from Research Services recommends The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew by Cracked.com:

The De-Textbook is full of lists that will blow your mind. You’ll find out how little you know about real ninjas, Puritans, Thomas Jefferson, why you lay awake at night, and velociraptors. One interesting fact is that the symbol of the modern anarchist movement is Guy Fawkes, a supervillain who wanted to blow up the English king and Parliament. You’ve seen his pointed moustache on a thousand protest masks. In actuality this man was no anarchist. Guy Fawkes wanted to install a much more conservative government ruled by the Pope. He’s been misappropriated by a movement that doesn’t understand what he wanted. But then, most everything any of us think we know about most anything is probably wrong, and this book will astound you out of ignorance.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on April 7, 2014 Categories: Books, Humor, Nonfiction, Staff Picks

Staff Pick: My Pinterest

Joyce Staff Picks photoLooking for ideas on deck designs, weddings, or gluten-free cookies? Pinterest is your friend! It is a visually-oriented social network used to collect and share ideas for your projects or interests. Check out Michael Miller’s book My Pinterest for tips on navigating or enhancing your Pinterest experience.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on April 1, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Picks by Joyce, Staff Picks

Movies and TV: Blackfish

Blackfish DVD coverTilikum is a 12,000 pound bull orca. He is blamed for the deaths of three people. Blackfish is a hypercritical documentary against SeaWorld and other marine parks like it. It explores Tilikum’s story through trainers and whale experts with a notable lack of involvement from SeaWorld executives, who refused to participate. With commanding cinematography Blackfish doesn’t shy away from showing the bleeding, living situations, and mental distress that leads these highly social creatures to turn dangerous. Though SeaWorld denies Blackfish’s claims, this documentary will force viewers to choose between attending and supporting marine-parks or boycotting them for their alleged animal abuse. If you liked The Cove or movies that make you reexamine your beliefs, try Blackfish.

By Readers' Advisor on March 27, 2014 Categories: Movies and TV, Nonfiction

New: Fiction and Nonfiction

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Fiction Books

Tempting Fate book cover The Land of Steady Habits book cover The Cairo Affair book cover

     –  Tempting Fate by Jane Green

     –  The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

     –  The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

     –  Four Friends by Robyn Carr

     –  Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

     –  Citadel by Kate Mosse

     –  The Wicked by Douglas Nicholas

     –  Bone Deep by Randy Wayne White

New: Nonfiction Books

The Hippest Trip in AmericaA Nice Little Place on the North Side book cover Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy book cover

     -  The Hippest Trip in America by Nelson George

     –  A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George Will

     –  Wolfgang Puck Makes it Healthy by Wolfgang Puck

     –  Parentology by Dalton Conley

     –  The Age of Radiance by Craig Nelson

     –  The Crusades of Cesar Chavez by Miriam Pawel

     –  The Thing with Feathers by Noah Strycker

     –  The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu 

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 21, 2014 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Nonfiction

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Five Days at Memorial book cover

Looking for something a little more substantial in your reading diet?  Check out the newly-named honorees of the National Book Critics Circle Awards.  The NBCC “honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature.”

NonfictionFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina–and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.  Also available in audio, e-book, and e-audio.

FictionAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected.

AutobiographyFarewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz
Describes the author’s long and painful relationship with Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake, tracing the country’s turbulent history and its status as a symbol of human rights activism and social transformation.

John Leonard PrizeA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in December 2004 Chechnya, a failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
Also available in large print, audio, and e-book.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 19, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Books, Lists, Literary, Nonfiction

Audiobook: Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

Salt, Sugar, Fat book coverThere are foods that, when eaten, activate the same part of the human brain that heroin does. Food scientists have developed our edibles to have “bliss points”. Arguably, the obesity epidemic may not only be about personal willpower, but also about processed foods being highly addictive. Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Moss examines the development and advertisement of processed foods in his bestseller Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Narrated by the straightforward – and sometimes incredulous – Scott Brick, the audiobook is a phenomenal read. If you liked The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food, Inc., or Fast Food Nation, definitely give Salt, Sugar, Fat a try.

By Readers' Advisor on March 6, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Patty staff picks photoWhy are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum is a must-read, conversational sociology book that lays out the structural racism inherent in the United States. In a non-combative manner, Tatum defines racism and reveals ways to talk about it, especially to children.

By Readers' Advisor on March 4, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Staff Picks

Nonfiction: Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him by David and Joe Henry

Furious Cool book coverRichard Pryor once said, “What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.” Pryor pushed the boundaries of topics that comedians explored. He could make people laugh – and, by proxy, talk about – everything from love to racial inequality. Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him explores the flaws and genius of Richad Pryor. National Book Award-winner Colum McCann says of Furious Cool, “Part memoir, part biography, part poem, part history, part ballad, it manages to sing a wake song for an incredible American.”

When you’re done with Furious Cool, have a listen to Is it Something I Said? Released in 1975, it was Pryor’s first comedy album for Warner Brothers.

By Readers' Advisor on February 27, 2014 Categories: Books, Humor, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: Infidel
Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Page Count: 353
Genre: Political autobiography
Tone: Candid, thought-provoking, impassioned

 

1. Was this book what you expected?  How so? How did it surprise you?

2. The publisher’s description reads, “Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.” Is this a fair representation of the book?

3. In your opinion, who is the intended audience for this book?

4. The Guardian published an article entitled, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Taking the Fight to Islam” in which it addresses the claim that Ayaan moved from one extreme to the other primarily because she was ‘traumatized’ by her upbringing. Ayaan responded that she finds this idea patronizing and wrote Infidel partly to combat that assumption. In her words, “People can see that there is not much trauma in my story.”

a. Is there trauma in her story?
b. Does it surprise you that she would characterize her experiences this way?
c. How does the way she relates difficult events illustrate her perspective?
d. She even acknowledges that her account is subjective, that her family may remember things differently. Do you trust Ayaan’s story?
e. Do you think her past experiences color her present activism? Even if so, does that make her points any less valid?

5. Were there actions Ayaan took at any point in her life that you questioned or that made you uncomfortable? If so, does that color your opinion of her character or politics?

6. What stood out about her family relationships?

7. Contrast the character arcs of Ayaan and her sister Hawaye.

8. Did Ayaan have friends?

9. Did the events of Ayaan’s life shock you? Did they seem real? Does reading about this have impact for American readers?

10. What would you say are some of the more memorable scenes or events from her life?

11. Are there any respects in which you might say Ayaan has had a fortunate life?

12. Was there a country or setting that seemed a little more vivid to you? Was it her depiction of the area or the events that happened there?

13. Would you go so far as to characterize Ali as a role model? For whom?

14. The fact she lies on her application for Dutch citizenship becomes a recurring issue. Do you agree with her decision to do so? Would you have done the same? How did you feel when that was explained away – both at the time and when it caused difficulty as a political leader?

15. Hirsi is a self-described rationalist. How is this evident in her life and relationships?

16. How did you react to her inclusion of her father’s letter?

17. What would you say is her “big idea(s)”? What argument is she trying to advance?

18. Even Ayaan’s allies and friends tried to caution her that she was being too provocative; too explosive in her comments and criticisms. Why didn’t she just back off a little, espouse a little more tact? Should she have? Does she help the cause? Harm it?

19. The event that brought her notoriety outside of her home was the brutal murder of Theo. Discuss him, their project, the reaction, and the repercussions of his murder.

20. How did you feel about the security issue – the around-the-clock bodyguards, housing issues, loss of freedom. How did Ayaan adjust?

21. Did you find the style of writing to enhance the narrative? How would you characterize it?

22. Is this a personal story? Do you feel you know her?

23. Maria Golia, an Egyptian-based academic, wrote in the NYT supplement that “Hirsi Ali seems far more interested in indicting Islam than helping damaged women, whose horror stories she conveniently trots out whenever she needs to bludgeon home a point.” Based on what you know, is there any truth to this?  Does it matter?

24. Does she speak for Muslim women? Does she believe she does?

25. Is there room for feminism in Islam?

26. At a time when we are urged to embrace tolerance, especially as Americans, Hirsi Ali seems set on exposing Islam as flawed [at least in current state]. On Colbert, “I want us to judge.  We should say that one religion is better than another; one culture is better than another.” How do you feel about this?

27. Does the fact that she was devout when younger give her the right to criticize Islam? The credibility?

28. In your opinion, does her persona advance or inhibit her agenda? Would her ideas be received the same (pro or con) if she were male? Older? Less forthright? Less striking?

29. Did you like Ayaan?

30. Infidel spent 31 weeks on the NYT bestseller list. What explains the interest? The appeal? Do you think it has/had/will have a lasting impact? In what way? Is it a positive contribution to the ongoing conversation?

 

Other Resources
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Wikipedia page
AHA Foundation
AHA Foundation reading group guide
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Interview with the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne
Interview with the Boston Phoenix
Infidel reviews on Goodreads
Infidel review by The New York Times

If you liked Infidel, try…
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
The Road to Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Iran Awakening book cover     Road of Lost Innocence book coverPersepolis book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 26, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction