When the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program started I didn’t go for it. I had enough books, I didn’t need more. But two months ago I decided, what the heck. I’m glad I–we since my Bookman and I share the LibraryThing account–won a review copy of Mental Sharpening Stones: Managing the Cognitive Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis by Jeffrey N. Gingold.

My Bookman was diagnosed with MS three years ago. Every time he sees his neurologist or nurse they ask him if he has any trouble remembering words. I just thought that word-recall is something that could be an issue. Maybe I was in denial because I didn’t want to think through the implications, but there are a whole lot of cognitive issues possible. So when I first started reading Mental Sharpening Stones I was terrified. The author of the book used to be an attorney. He had to retire from the job he loved because he had problems remembering more than just words. He knows a lot about the cognitive challenges of MS.

Mental Sharpening Stones isn’t just about Gingold. He has essays from people all over the United States who have MS. All of the essays are about their cognitive challenges and the strategies they use to overcome them. Soon, I wasn’t so terrified. Sure, 65% of all people with MS develop some sort of cognitive challenge, but Gingold and the others in the book prove that it doesn’t have to mean the end of living a happy, full life.

The suggestions offered in the book for keeping the mind sharp turn out to be good not only for people with MS. Everyone concerned about keeping their mind active can benefit. The advice includes things like doing puzzles, learning a foreign language, learning how to play the piano, or learning how to do things with your non-dominant hand. This last one gave me an idea. I haven’t been able to knit for almost a year because the tendonitis in my right wrist has been so touchy. So I’ve started teaching myself to knit left-handed. Even though you use two hands to knit, knitting left-handed doesn’t bother my right wrist because it doesn’t have to move as much. I am far from being very good knitting left-handed but that is nothing that practice won’t solve.

My Bookman doesn’t currently have any cognitive challenges other than the ones that he already had before he had MS. But if he ever does, we are better prepared to face those challenges. I recommend this book to anyone who has MS or knows someone with MS. The book is miles away from being depressing. Instead it offers a mental leg up, and a ray of hope and inspiration.

My Bookman read the book too, of course and I asked him to write a few words on what he thought of it:

A great person once said “I Think, Therefore I Am”. I’m pretty sure it was Sherlock Holmes or Spock (the vulcan mind-melder, not the baby mind-melder). Either way, it makes a pretty good mantra for me. You see, I consider myself to be very much smarter than almost everyone else. That is why this troubling neurological disorder called MS is causing me difficulty. My wonderful MS nurse always asks me if i have trouble remembering the correct words for things. I don’t, but I have started to second guess myself and am worried (read terrified) that I might develop these cognitive difficulties that are a symptom of MS.

When LibraryThing gave us (me and the Bookwife, the reason for the above, almost everyone else disclaimer) the option to review Mental Sharpening Stones – Manage the Cognitive Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis by Jeffrey N. Gingold we jumped at the chance. For myself, I wanted to have some points of reference to understand if my fears were founded (unfounded I hoped). This book has several great stories from very successful people who had to make major changes in their lives due to MS related cognitive issues. The great part is the continued hopeful outlook these people have maintained.  There isn’t always a solution to each and every issue that could arise. There is however a great introduction to the possibilities of continuing to live the productive and meaningful lives that we all desire.

A strong focus on some key “mental sharpening stones” is summarized at the end of each person’s story, giving the reader an easy list of things to try. I especially like that you don’t have to take notes or underline the “stones” as they are mentioned. They are all right there, in a nice, accessible list. If you need some ideas to help you stay sharp, or like me, if you aren’t sure how sharp you really are give this book a read. – BookmanJames