Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oliver Sacks - Looking into the Mysteries of the Mind

While I do read a little bit of everything, I love Dr. Oliver Sacks. He is the only non-fiction writer that I will read everything written by him and always get excited when I see that a new book is coming. If I ever have difficulties with my brain (and all those in the peanut gallery, please be quiet!) I would love to have him as my doctor.

Dr. Sacks, CBE is a world famous neurologist. He is the youngest born to a North London Jewish couple. Samuel Sacks, his father, is a physician and his mother, Muriel Elsie Landau is one of the first female surgeons in England. Sacks has been practicing neurology in New York since 1965. He has been writing books about his experiences, and what mind blowing experiences they have been since 1970.

Sacks’ writing makes you interested in both the disease and the person infected by it. He recounts riveting cases with a compassionate and thoughtful manner. He is definitely a doctor with an excellent bedside manner.

My favorite Sacks books are:

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and other Clinical Tales. The cases are drawn from Sacks’ medical practice. In these fascinating and unusual cases, Sacks introduces the reader to real people who suffer from a variety of neurological problems. The title comes from the case of a man who lost the intuition related to vision. He recognizes abstract images but not faces or common objects.

Awakenings. In 1966 at Beth Abraham Hospital, Sack treated a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica. The patients were unable to move on their own for decades. This book outlines the treatment and after effects of the treatment. Awakenings was a documentary for the British tv series Discovery and was adapted into an Academy Award nominated film starring Robert Williams and Robert De Niro.

Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain was featured on the PBS series Nova “Musical Minds”. I found it amazing to watch the brain changes of Sting when he was listening to or composing music in the MRI. Sacks is an honorary medical advisor for the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function(IMNF). This institution has awarded him its Music Has Power Award in 2000 and 2006.

Sacks writing is very much readable non-fiction. Hopefully you might find his writings as amusing and fascinating as I do.

Other Sacks titles you may enjoy are:

A Leg to Stand On.

Seeing Voices: a journey into the land of the deaf.

An Anthropologist on Mars: seven paradoxical tales.

The Island of the Colorblind.

Uncle Tungsten: memories of a chemical boyhood

The Mind’s Eye

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