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Zoë’s Pet Peeves: My Slow Brain / Dr. Russell Barkley’s Excellent Brain!

Zoë's ADHD Pet Peeves: My Slow Reading!Today’s Pet Peeve is about the fact that I’m completely frustrated with myself for not having written a book review.

I’ve had a copy of Dr. Russell A. Barkley’s latest book, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, published in 2010, for a few months now. I’m such a slow reader! And every time I pick up the book, I’m blown away by how he’s presented the material, and the material that he presents.

Dr. Russell A. Barkley's 2010 book, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

Barkley’s latest a must-read

I’ve been chomping at the bit to share this book with you through a book review, but honestly, to do the book justice, it’s going to be a while yet.

Please consider this an interim report to tide you over until I can do the job properly. In short, you NEED to know about this book.

I love reading, but it’s an unrequited love

As I’ve been doing book reviews here at Psych Central, I’ve come to realize just how slowly I read; something I was never before aware of.  I always knew it took me much longer than others to complete my university studies, but I’ve always loved reading regardless.

Zoë Kessler - ADHDer driven to distraction!
Zoë Kessler - ADHDer driven to distraction!

A lot of us have felt our lives irrevocably changed for the better from discovering books like the classic Driven to Distraction (written by Drs. Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey).  As our understanding of ADHD evolves, new books are released. This one definitely stands out.

If only I could download this book directly into my head…

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD is so densely packed with updated, practical and brilliantly presented information, that I found myself wishing I were Data from Star Trek (even though I don’t look particularly good in yellow).

Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek
Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek

Do you remember the episode where they opened a panel at the back Data’s head, and downloaded the data directly from his “brain”  into his brother’s brain?

I wish I could do that with this book.

One thing that makes it so great, is that while Barkley covers the symptoms of ADHD, they aren’t presented as just another dry list of traits.

Introducing the filmic mind of director Dr. Barkley

The difference between Barkley’s treatment of symptoms and others’ is like the difference between seeing the screenplay of your favorite movie lying on a coffee table, and watching the movie.

Barkley contextualizes ADHD symptoms in a way that brings them to life. Like any Oscar-winning director, he’s (metaphorically speaking) lifted the symptoms off the page and given them a character, sets, dialogue, action, situations, and other characters to collide with. He shows how dramatic our lives can be when we’re driven by our ADHD symptoms. The result is stunning.

What a tangled web our ADHD symptoms weave…

For example, in chapter 9, Executive Functions, one section is called, How ADHD Interferes with Nonverbal Working Memory.

Barkley lists a number of ways that our poor nonverbal working memories can mess us up.  One way is when we encounter complex situations.

Barkley’s explanation of this serious challenge is:

“Knowing how to behave in delicate social situations, sticking with the rules of a complex game, completing a multistep task like filing a tax return – all of these typical adult situations may leave you with no clue because your brain has difficulty holding all those mental images.”  p. 76

The ADHD plot thickens…

Like any good plot-builder, Barkley weaves the various impacts of our symptoms together, showing us how they relate to, and impact upon, each other. The plot, indeed, thickens, as we see one area of impairment building upon another, creating a multi-textured array of possible screw-ups and misadventures for the main character: us.

Here’s an example of the interrelatedness of symptoms. After the foul-up opportunities listed above, Barkley follows with another possible nonverbal working memory impairment, that we have little foresight. Doesn’t this sound like the perfect trait for a really interesting character in a great movie?

Barkley says:

“If you can’t hold past images in memory long enough – or hold enough of them – to see patterns developing, you won’t be able to predict what’s likely to happen next and get ready for it.”  p. 75

Directing us to a happy ending

Just as circumstances collude to bring a movie character to a specific dilemma, through Barkley’s book, we see how our  own symptoms collude to bring us to an assortment of dramas and plot points; how our own dramatic arc leads us into crisis after crisis. Fortunately, he also shows us how we can have a happy ending in our own life movie.

I must be a method actor. As an ADHDer, I am deeply in touch with how frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused I can feel a lot of the time (no wonder I’m a bona fide Drama Queen).  Barkley is more like the director who sees the whole picture, and thus pulls all the elements together to make sense.

Sometimes I wish I could have Barkley with me to explain the illusive world that is ADHD.  If only he’d make a movie!

Zoë’s Pet Peeves: My Slow Brain / Dr. Russell Barkley’s Excellent Brain!

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2010). Zoë’s Pet Peeves: My Slow Brain / Dr. Russell Barkley’s Excellent Brain!. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from


Last updated: 13 Nov 2010
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