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By Jean-Dominique Bauby and Jeremy Leggatt
131 pages; Vintage Books

Because Bauby wrote by blinking his left eye.

"Something like a giant invisible cocoon holds my whole body prisoner," Bauby writes. At 45, he was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, immersed in the glamour of a successful career, when he suffered a catastrophic "cerebrovascular accident." His condition, akin to a massive stroke, left him with locked-in syndrome: completely paralyzed, confined to a rehab facility and able to communicate only by blinking his one functioning eye. He composed this book in his head, then painstakingly "dictated" it to a friend who recited the alphabet letter by letter, waiting for each confirming blink. Bauby pulls no punches in describing the horror of his situation, from embarrassed, eye-averting visitors to the humiliation of not being able to do even the simplest tasks for himself. Yet, there is light. "My mind takes flight like a butterfly," he writes, recalling everything from the redolent pleasures of food to a long-ago day at the races. A moving testament to the resilience of the human spirit. — Dawn Raffel