The best books about brain dysfunction

Who am I?

I am a radiologist specializing in emergency room and breast imaging and a lifelong book nerd. Though I chose radiology as my medical specialty, I have always been fascinated by the complicated workings of the human mind. I majored in psychology in college and strongly considered careers in both psychiatry and neurology. Books exploring the fragility and fallibility of the human brain never fail to catch my attention. These stories explore the essence of what it means to be human and highlight the resilience of the human spirit.  


I wrote...

Better to Trust

By Heather Frimmer,

Book cover of Better to Trust

What is my book about?

When trust is violated, can it ever be recovered? Alison Jacobs needs brain surgery and places ultimate trust in her sister's husband, Grant Kaplan, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and expert in treating her condition. But Grant is hiding a dark secret which threatens the outcome: an addiction to prescription pills. As Alison struggles to rebuild her life, she’s also harboring her own secret, an extramarital affair with a woman. Her close call with mortality spurs her to take a closer look at her marriage, explore her newfound sexuality and figure out what she wants for her future. Secrets swirling around drug use and sexual identity must be dealt with in order for the family to learn to trust each other again.

The books I picked & why

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Inside the O'Briens

By Lisa Genova,

Book cover of Inside the O'Briens

Why this book?

I adore stories about medical ethics and weighted decisions, those which cause me to ponder what I would do if faced with a similar choice. 

Joe O’Brien, a veteran police officer, is devastated to receive a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease. With a fifty percent chance of inheriting the disease, each of his four adult children must decide whether to get tested. Will they decide to learn their fate and face the consequences or roll the dice and take their chances?


With or Without You

By Caroline Leavitt,

Book cover of With or Without You

Why this book?

I am fascinated by the idea of how an assault to the brain can change a person not only physically, but also on deeper emotional and spiritual levels.

Stella emerges from a drug and alcohol-induced coma to find her personality, identity and relationships have completely changed. Before her coma, Stella was an exceptional nurse, but afterwards, she no longer finds fulfillment in her chosen career. Will Stella ever get back to the person she used to be? 


The Lobotomist's Wife

By Samantha Greene Woodruff,

Book cover of The Lobotomist's Wife

Why this book?

There is nothing more satisfying than a well-researched story about the history of medicine. 

This shocking story takes place in the mid-twentieth century and centers on Ruth, a hospital administrator whose husband invented the ice pick lobotomy for the treatment of psychiatric illness. As the surgery gains popularity, Ruth soon learns of debilitating complications from the procedure. Could the touted miracle cure be doing more harm than good?


Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home

By Jessica Fechtor,

Book cover of Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home

Why this book?

This touching memoir reminds me of my father who was hospitalized in midlife with a new diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. Unable to tolerate food, he watched The Food Network from his sick bed, ultimately becoming an accomplished, amateur chef.

Jessica Fechtor was twenty-eight years old graduate student when an aneurysm suddenly burst in her brain. Left with multiple disabilities which made her life challenging to navigate, Fechtor turned to cooking to nourish her wounded soul. Will exploring the world of food help heal her broken brain?


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

By Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt (translator),

Book cover of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

Why this book?

I am a sucker for true stories about people who’ve faced unthinkable adversity and yet, found ways to survive and ultimately thrive. 

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of the French Elle magazine, suffered a brainstem stroke resulting in the rare condition known as locked in syndrome. Completely paralyzed with the exception of his left eyelid, Bauby summoned incredible determination and bravery. Using a system of eye blinks, he wrote this memoir about his experience, serving as a remarkable example of the resilience of the human spirit.


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