6 Unforgettable Medical Memoirs – Stories Of Resilience And Renewed Hope

MyStrokeOfInsightBookCover

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback

Imagine if you had been trained for years on the exact inner workings of your brain, only to experience the most devastating medical problem that a human brain can face -a stroke – first-hand. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who experienced a stroke at only 37 years old. As she can feel her brain lose its function on that fateful morning, Bolte Taylor focuses on all the pertinent medical knowledge she can about what is happening to her to try marshall her brain to call for help. Her story of recovery is unlike any other, as she’s intimately knowledgable of the biology of what she’s experienced.

 

GhostBoyBookCover

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback

At only age 12, Martin Pistorius was hit by a mysterious degenerative disease that left him unable to speak, eat and move. His family, believing him to be barely conscious, installed him in various institutions for the disabled during the subsequent 14 years. But only 4 years after his initial decline, at age 16, Martin reawakens, trapped inside his unresponsive body. This is the incredible story of Martin’s efforts to reconnect with the world around him and to demonstrate to others that he’s still present. You’ll be amazed at the progress he has made by the end of the book.

 

OnMyOwnTwoFeetBookCoverOn My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life by Amy Purdy 

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

Amy was only a young woman of nineteen when bacterial meningitis led to the partial amputation of both her legs. Her harrowing illness led to a slow recovery that initially seemed to be within the norm – like any person would after such a traumatic change, Amy struggled with her image, her moods, and with finding the right prosthetics. Her incredible spirit showed through, however, in her ability to go further than most of us would ever dream in her place. Believe it or not, she is now a Paralympic snowboarder and former Dancing With The Stars contestant. This is her story.

 

 

BrainOnFireBookCoverùBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Amazon Kindle      Amazon Paperback

At 24 years old and starting her career as a reporter for the New York Post, Susannah Cahalan had her whole life ahead of her. Previously extremely healthy, Susannah started out of nowhere to hallucinate and experience boughts of amnesia. This is the story of her downward spiral into ‘madness’, being diagnosed as insane and potentially schizophrenic. If it hadn’t been for a miraculous last-minute diagnosis of her mysterious but curable disorder, Susannah may still be locked up in a mental institution, having forfeited her personality and her ability to have her story heard. This book was scary, beautifully written and luckily with a happy ending.

 

UnmeasuredStrengthBookCoverUnmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback

On the morning of 9/11, Lauren Manning was standing at the foot of one of the World Trade Center towers, when a flood of flames from the impact of an airliner above burned her over 80% of her body. On a day when so many perished, Lauren was given the chance to survive, though she had to resort to every ounce of her inner strength to get through the 10 years of recovery and the mental anguish that resulted from her injuries. An inspiring story of patience in the face of incredible pain, true love and the power of faith.

 

 

 

51sXaN3ereLA Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller

Amazon Kindle      Amazon Paperback

Unlike Susan Calahan, Lori Schiller actually suffered from full-blown schizophrenia since about 17 years of age. She spent years of her life between suicide attempts, bouncing from one medical institution to the other, battling drug addictions and being closed in ‘Quiet Rooms’ to decompress and for her own safety. Her story is hard to read, as the voices in her head, which she faithfully relates to the reader, are profane, hateful and unremitting. Lori was ultimately able to escape her demons in part through the advent of new more effective medication, which has allowed her to experience a relatively normal from middle age onwards.

 

Do you have a favorite medical memoir to recommend?

Here are a few of the past book lists you can find on my blog:

Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology

Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

August 2016 Book Releases To Look Forward To

This post contains affiliate links.

National Book Lovers Day And The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense In Milan

I’m in Milan for a few weeks visiting my family and I almost forgot it was National Books Lovers Day today!

The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense – a beautiful historical library in Milan – is currently closed through the 16th of August, but I had the chance of visiting it last Saturday before it closed and it was absolutely breathtaking.

I thought National Book Lovers Day was a perfect day to share images of this special library and memories of my visit.

salamariateresa

 

The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense is a public library founded by Maria Theresa of Austria, which opened in 1786 in the Palazzo Di Brera, a beautiful city palace constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th Century.

The various halls of the library are elaborately decorated and it has that unmissable, comforting old-book smell. Aside from the towering, wooden, two-story bookcases, the most stunning aspect of each of the library’s rooms were their vaulted and often painted ceilings, and decadent chandeliers.

salateologica

Currently, the library is one of 47 Italian state libraries and houses over 800,000 volumes, including historical and literary works like the manuscripts and correspondence of famed italian writer Alessandro Manzoni of the Promessi Sposi.

salacat

If you’re ever in Milan, make sure to check it out after spending a couple hours at the Pinacoteca Di Brera art museum, which is located in the same building.

What beautiful historic libraries have you visited around the world?

Author Spotlight: Robert K. Massie’s Biographies On Tsarist Russia

When I discovered Robert K. Massie’s books on tsarist Russia’s Romanov family I realized I had struck historical nonfiction gold.

Tragically, the author’s interest in the Romanov dynasty began with the discovery that his own newborn son suffered from hemophilia, a disease which also affected tsar Nicholas II’s son Alexis Nikolaevich.

You might expect a pedantic writing style from a Yale and Oxford educated Rhodes Scholar, but Massie brings his training as a journalist to his prose. What results is highly-accessible and still richly-evocative portraits of some of Russia’s most storied tsars and tsarinas.

51gOv6GbUML

Nicholas And Alexandra: The Classic Account Of The Fall Of The Romanov Dynasty

Published: 1967, reissued November 2011
Length: 673 pages

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

Though published in the 1960s, Nicholas and Alexandra remains the definitive account of the lives of the last Romanov Tsar and Tsarina. It starts with the improbable story of how a Princess from a small German state was selected to become Empress of Russia. Alexandra’s strong, overbearing personality is contrasted to her husband’s relatively weak demeanor, and her influence essentially directs his political decisions. The happiness of the couple at producing a male heir (after four daughters) is short-lived with the discovery he suffers from the then deadly disease of hemophilia. As mystical faith healer Rasputin’s influence on Alexandra increases due to her distress over her sons’s illness, the Russian people’s disaffection with their distant monarchs propels the country towards a revolution that will ultimately spell a bloody end for the Romanov dynasty. I couldn’t put this book down.

 

51Eyocv01uL

The Romanovs: The Final Chapter

Published: 1995, reissued February 2012
Length: 320 pages

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

Considered in part a more recent update to Nicholas and Alexandra’s story, The Romanovs: The Final Chapter also stands on its own as a chilling scientific account of the efforts to recover and identify the purported remains of the Romanov family.

After the demise of Soviet Communism brought to light the prior 1979 discovery of the possible grave of the Romanov royals, an examination of the remains was conducted by an international team of forensic specialists to determine their authenticity. Massie adds details to the tragic story of the capture, prisony and assassination of the Romanovs and of the expert effort to determine the provenance of these remains. Interweaved is also a thorough analysis of Anna Anderson’s claims to be Nicholas and Alexandra’s remaining living daughter Anastasia.

 

51aCH9YCAoLCatherine The Great: Portrait Of A Woman

Published: November 2011
Length: 656 pages

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence In Nonfiction in 2012

Though empress Alexandra’s story of rise from unknown German princess to Russian tsarina is remarkable, Catherine The Great’s similar beginnings led to an even more incredible result. After being plucked from relative obscurity and married to Russian heir to the throne Peter III, Catherine quickly realized her husband was no match for her strength of character or intelligence. Unable to count on him as an effective ruler on his ascension or even as a viable partner to produce an heir, Catherine took matters into her own hands. While Peter was still alive, she took a lover to secure the royal family’s line of succession and then orchestrated a coup d’etat after his assassination, installing herself as empress. She became the longest ruling female monarch in Russia and her reign is often considered as the Golden Age of the Russian Empire.

 

51wQgxZTMfL

Peter The Great: His Life And World

Published: 1980, reissued February 2012
Length: 928 pages

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize For Biography in 1981

Peter The Great’s rule established the Romanov dynasty, preceding that of all other tsars and tsarinas covered in Massie’s books. Through significant territorial gains, Peter turned Russia into an empire and speerheaded a series of Enlightenment inspired reforms that modernized the country’s military,its educational system and its government, transforming Russia into a great European nation in its own right.

This is actually the only one of Massie’s books on tsarist Russia that I have yet to read. Now that I’ve been reminded of how much I loved reading his other works, I’m adding it to my short term list.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Links I Loved This Week

Links I Love (2)

  • I really liked this post about how to create your Zen-Den on Best Kept Self. My morning yoga and meditation routines have been feeling a little haphazard, and I think some of these suggestions might help with getting in the right mood.
  • Starbucks granitas now available after 3PM. Coffee granita? Don’t mind if I do.
  • Orecchiette may just be my favorite shape of pasta and this simple summer recipe that pairs them with cherry tomatoes and arugula looks dee-licious.
  • This white hydrangea iphone background. Changing mine immediately.
  • A VERY tongue-in-cheek article about how hard it is for women in the workforce to strike the right balance between being assertive and pushy – 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies For Women.
  • This is worth a rewatch. Michelle Obama, ladies and gentlemen.
  • I’m always looking for a new easy toast idea to make for lunch or dinner, and A Cup Of Jo’s Tomato And Hummus Tartine is making me salivate.
  • Pretty much my exact workout philosophy, so I really connected with this article. Dance parties in your room 100% count as exercise.
  • This wonderful art print. Make sure to always water your own garden first.

1000 Novels Series: Bleak House and Rebecca

Though I’ve read most of the usual suspects as far as literary classics are concerned, I wanted to broaden my reading to less known classic titles, including more modern novels as well.

I searched online for a good comprehensive book list to work from and found The Guardian’s list of 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.

Two by two, I’ll review as many books as I can from this list, while I get through them. I’ve unbelievably only read 64 so far though there were several on the list that I *thought* I read a long time ago but wasn’t sure.

Here are the first two reviews – I absolutely loved both novels.

51OSlFe0I+L Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Available for free on Amazon Kindle!

I confess that the only novel I’d read by Charles Dickens before this one was A Tale Of Two Cities. Bleak House felt very different both in topic and in tone. My main reason for tackling Bleak House was that I really wanted to see the TV series (available on Amazon Prime), but not without first reading the original.

The story is based on the intertwining destinies of three orphans – Esther Summerson, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone – and their guardian John Jarndyce. The legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce serves as backdrop and heavily weighs on their futures, involving Ada and Richard directly as potential heirs. The mystery of Esther’s birth and the scandal that follows its revelation add considerable tension, while she’s also kept busy dealing with multiple suitors for her hand.

The result is a suspenseful saga of perdition for some and revelation for others – which, with its ‘bleak’ English weather would make a great rainy day read. Any fans of George Eliot or Thomas Hardy will find themselves right at home.

 

41ufEpPh-WL._SY346_Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback

Rebecca tells the story of a young and naive 20-something woman who falls in love with and marries affluent widower Maxim De Wintour. What starts as an oddly matched love story builds into a thrilling mystery as the figure of Maxim’s former accidentally-drowned wife Rebecca hovers over the newlyweds’ relationship. As our heroine tries to settle into a routine in Maxim’s Cornwall estate of Manderley, the reader learns more about each of our characters – both dead and alive – and they morph like figures in a fun-house, until the final resolution of the mystery.

I didn’t research what to expect from Rebecca before diving into it, and I was definitely surprised at how dark the book ended up being in parts. It’s also full of lusciously beautiful descriptions of the gardens and ocean coves at Manderley though, which act as counterpoint to the tenseness of the atmosphere between the characters and the spookiness of the story. It made me want to read more from the author soon. Her other popular novels include My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn.

 

The next two books on the list I’m planning on tackling are Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood if you’d like to read along with me.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

30 Things To Do On Staycation

TEXT HERE (2)

On Friday I’m heading home to visit my family in Milan. For most people this wouldn’t count as staycation, but I actually grew up in Milan, so visiting my family there is like going home for me.

I don’t know about you but I almost like staycations better than actual vacations. Sometimes you really need to either do nothing, or catch up on all the little things you wish you had time for but never do.

During a typical two-week vacation in Milan, I wander around the city (in the sweltering August heat) in a way I rarely have the chance to do in LA. Of course, I also spend a hefty amount of time reading, catching up with family, and reconnecting with some habits I may have neglected.

 

If you’re taking some time off for a staycation this summer or fall, practice slow living and let yourself indulge in some of the suggestions below:

 

  1. Bake a treat for someone you love
  2. Have a gelato (or some frozen yogurt)
  3. Try a new restaurant (order in for extra lazy points)
  4. Do an extra long meditation (try Buddhify)
  5. Hit the mini golf course
  6. Go hiking
  7. Watch your favorite childhood cartoon
  8. Read your heart out (bonus points if outdoors, on a blanket in a park)
  9. Download some new podcasts (like The Paper Year)
  10. Journal every day
  11. Stroll slowly through your local Farmers market
  12. Buy yourself some flowers and take time arranging them
  13. Explore your neighborhood and try a new bakery or coffee place
  14. Volunteer (The LA Regional Food Bank is my favorite option)
  15. Visit a museum
  16. Have an extra long conversation with a family member you miss
  17. Get your bowling shoes on
  18. Find an outdoor movie to watch
  19. Try that yoga video you never got around to (I follow Yoga With Adriene)
  20. Give yourself a Mani-Pedi
  21. Drive out to an amusement park for the day
  22. Board game night (if there’s Rummikub or Apples To Apples I’m there)
  23. Go to an aquarium
  24. Clean out your wardrobe (ahhh, doesn’t that feel better?)
  25. Do a crossword or four
  26. Color like you’re five again (The Secret Garden coloring book)
  27. Walk through every aisle at Target
  28. Start a bullet journal
  29. Tackle a home project you’ve been avoiding (filing anyone?)
  30. Learn the constellations and look for shooting stars

 

And as a bonus, here are a few of the books I’m planning to read during my staycation (links below).

 

 

The Amazing Journey Of American Women From 1960  To The Present by Gail Collins

The Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennet

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Margaret Thatcher: The Authobiography by Margaret Thatcher

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalnithi

I Forgot To Remember by Su Meck and Daniel De Visé

 

Please note this post contains affiliate links

%d bloggers like this: