Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me aMathematical Marvel is a non-fiction book along the lines of A Beautiful Mind, which I loved, and The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, which I did not love as much. Padgett suffers through a violent mugging that leaves him seeing things most people can’t see- the very structure of the universe. After a period of depression and seclusion, he finds himself fascinated with math and geometry in ways that make the average person’s brain hurt. He instinctively knows theories that he’s never before encountered, with no education to back them up, and without the vocabulary to describe them. He can draw fractals. He is eventually diagnosed with acquired savant syndrome and acquired synesthesia. In exchange he also gets a healthy dose of OCD, paranoia and PTSD.
I found the majority of the book to be incredibly fascinating. It’s nearly impossible for me to comprehend the idea of looking at a flood light and seeing pi. Fractals and imaginary numbers and math theory seem more like fiction than reality (and I say that having taken years of calculus in college.) Padgett not only understands these things instinctively, he literally sees them. The math talk isn't so heavy that you can't follow along, nor is it at all boring. I wish there had been a little more about how this affected his personal life once he left his house, and I think the last chapter took a philosophical turn that was absolutely unnecessary but otherwise I'd easily recommend this to anyone who enjoys non-fiction of this sort.
Struck by Genius will be released on April 22, 2014.