Published in 2022, “Soul of a Professor” documents Lisa Pruitt’s journey from childhood trauma through her time as an engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley, one of the top engineering schools in the country. Her deep-seated feelings of inadequacy led her to develop an eating disorder and alcoholism at a very young age, and her book documents her incredible journey to find a purpose and achieve recovery through horsemanship. Through it all, she kept her addictions hidden from just about anybody, all the while achieving some of the highest honors in academia. The book combines several of my favorite things: engineering, academia, mental health, and horses.
What I enjoyed about the book
- The story is incredibly inspiring. While traditional treatments like 12-step programs and therapy were ineffective, a solution was found in a spiritual connection with a horse. This unique take on mental health recovery, i.e., the use of horses as therapy and spiritual guides, is truly inspirational.
- As someone who has always been fond of horses, I found the book to be completely fascinating. It made me reflect on my connections to individuals (both human and animal) and how that translated into my sense of self.
- From a mental health perspective, the book sheds insight into eating disorders and alcoholism. The personal account is raw, and Lisa Pruitt does not hold back when describing her struggles with both conditions.
- The story is comprehensive, as it follows Lisa from the age of two until essentially the present. To understand the challenges she deals with regarding addiction, you almost need to know the whole history. I think the approach she took in writing the book suits the story she wanted to tell. The prose is beautiful, and the dialogue is well done. Overall, I found it to be a good read.
In summary, I found this to be an inspiring read. As someone who has an alcohol use disorder, I take to heart the unique approach that Lisa Pruitt took to find a purpose through horses. While I may not take up horse riding anytime soon, I may find other (healthy) ways to soothe the chaos that consumes me. For now, I look to my lab mix, Jasper, to serve as my spirit guide.
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