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Sonderbooks Book Review of

Struck by Genius

How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel

by Jason Padgett and Maureen Ann Seaberg

performed by Jeff Cummings and Kate Rudd


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Struck by Genius

How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel

by Jason Padgett and Maureen Ann Seaberg
performed by Jeff Cummings and Kate Rudd

Review posted January 20, 2015.
Brilliance Audio, 2014. 7 hours, 29 minutes, on 8 compact discs, including one bonus disc with illustrations by the author.

The subtitle of this book explains what happened. Jason Padgett suffered traumatic brain injury in a mugging -- and immediately started seeing the world differently. It turned out that he had Acquired Synesthesia and Acquired Savantism. And his life changed dramatically.

Before the attack, he was interested in nothing more than partying and having a good time. Afterward, he spent years inside his house, thinking about the nature of the cosmos. He had a sudden interest in math and the geometry underlying all things. He figured out how to draw what he saw naturally.

This book tells the story of his life and the dramatic changes. It tells about the process he went through to find out what had happened to him and trying to make sense of it all.

Jason's case is unique. There aren't many synesthetes who acquire it as an adult, and the same is true for savants. So his case gives fascinating insights into the brain and consciousness. As well, his visions of the geometry underlying the world may also bear fruit in math and physics.

Now, I have to say that the book felt repetitive, and I got tired of hearing about Jason's excitement every step of the way. Some name-dropping went on, too. Mostly, he didn't need to tell us every time he got super excited -- we could figure it out from the extraordinary things that happened to him. I think the book could have been cut down to about a third of the length.

However, I was listening to it on my commute, and it was more interesting than just sitting in traffic. If it was repetitive? Well, I never felt like I'd forgotten what went before.

Above all, Jason's story is fascinating. Do we all have those kinds of amazing abilities covered up by our other brain functions? How did a brain injury enable him to think more clearly on certain topics? Why did it change his whole personality? There's plenty of food for thought in Jason's story.

The audiobook included a CD with images Jason had drawn, and they are indeed amazing. The only catch to listening to the book was not having those images alongside, so I made sure to look at them afterward. There are even more images now available on fineartamerica, so you can take a look before reading the book. The crucial and amazing point you need to know is that all the images were drawn by hand.