Book review: Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon's Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart
By: S. McManus
“Things don't always happen the way we think they will, but I've learned that they happen exactly the way they're supposed to happen.” While this may be hard to believe in the midst of the accumulating worries and denials of our world in the aftermath of a frightening pandemic, Into the Magic Shop provides convincing arguments that it is true.
A beautifully inspiring autobiography that is both light and fundamental, and while I myself do not have a habit of reading philosophical, and actually quite technical at times, non-fiction, this real-life story is so incredible, it may as well be fictional. Dr. James R. “Jim” Doty has lead no easy life in his path to become a successful neurosurgeon and his tale is filled with faith, compassion, tasteful facts, medical stories and that something else that is ultimately soothing to both the heart and mind (and he’ll go into specifics about how that works later..)
This book could be potentially as life-changing to any reader as it was to Doty, who, after a sweet and enlightening summer in the back of a magic shop in Lancaster, walked away with the skills to get anything he wanted in life. At 12 years old, he became an apprentice of a loving old lady called Ruth, and had 4 simple, yet paramount lessons that would come to decide his fate at multiple points in both his, and his patients lives. In all honesty, I was a tad skeptical, but the great thing about this book is that you want to believe every word, but if it isn’t enough for you, a quick google search should clear any doubts you may have with its honesty.
All of Ruth’s lessons are clearly outlined in the book for you to try, and an audio version is available for free online (https://intothemagicshop.com/exercises). They may seem basic, but as the author puts it, they have a magic of their own, and while Jim then goes on to study medicine and understand just exactly how important they were by producing a very real effect on the human body, the effect it had on his life are dogmatic, and really made me wonder if I could see that magic for myself too.
And even if you aren’t here for the all-appealing promise of getting anything you could ever wish for; it is also worthwhile commenting on the novel’s emphasis on self-love and self-belief. It is fascinating, it is informative, but at its core, it is loving. It is forgiving. “Everything didn't have to be broken just because something was broken. I didn't have to be broken.”
The mere process of reading is therapeutic and while it does diverge slightly into a more story-like tone at times which readers can find more entertaining, it loses some impact due to the less elaborate story-telling skills of a seasoned surgeon. That is perhaps the only point I could criticize and is forgivable due to the nature of the text. For anybody who may be on the fence to read this due to a lack of interest in the medical field, I too, had already crossed out that path and had given up completely by the first chapter, but the end of the last one, I realized I was closer to where I actually wanted to be (and where that was for that matter).
More recently, the book has experienced a sudden surge in popularity early 2018 (originally published in 2016) due to being the lyrical inspiration behind global super stars, BTS’s, Magic Shop from their album Love Yourself: Tear. The song truly encapsulates the warmth of this book and is as good of a preview I could offer without telling you to go grab a copy for yourself.