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The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks (thoughts)

February 15, 2012


As I’ve mentioned before, Oliver Sacks is one of my favourite authors, and luckily for me he not only has an extensive backlist but is also still writing books! The Mind’s Eye was released in 2010, and when I saw that it was available as an ebook from my library, I immediately put in a hold request. I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of his writing, and this was no exception.

As the title probably tells you, this book is focused on the neurology of vision; the essays range from looks at a patient/case study of Dr. Sacks to a very personal account of his experience with ocular cancer to explanations of unusual approaches the brain can take to vision. I enjoyed getting to see glimpses of Dr. Sacks’ personal life (no surprise considering how much I loved his memoir Uncle Tungsten), and I was surprised to learn that he himself has a form of prosophenosia, an inability to recognise faces. Of course, all of the science was fascinating, but what made me love the book is Sacks’ warm, caring approach to the struggles facing these patients, as well his ability to weave neurology with other academic disciplines. He always strikes me as a modern Renaissance man, and this really comes through in his writing. He’s also excellent at bringing to life the kind of world people with altered brain processes live in; I’m not sure how he does it, but his vivid descriptions allow me to almost enter another person’s reality.

All in all, I loved everything about The Mind’s Eye and very highly recommend it (along with Sacks’ other books). Even those who think they have no interest in science nonfiction should give this a go, since Sacks’ writing is truly about what it means to be human, and the different ways we all experience the world. And who isn’t curious about that?

Suggested Companion Reads

  • Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf (Sacks actually references this book, which is a neurological look at how exactly we read. I found it to be an excellent popular science book with an engaging style and fascinating topic, and I imagine anyone who loves reading enough to be interested in book blogs will enjoy it.)
  • Complications by Atul Gawande (If you’re looking for more essays by an articulate, intelligent, compassionate doctor, look no further! As someone deeply skeptical of the medical establishment, Gawande completely won me over with his willingness to confront moral questions head on, even when he’s not sure what the right answer is. And his writing is just incredible.)
  • Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer (Lehrer is a science writer, rather than scientist, and in this collection he looks to blend lessons from the humanities with ones from the ‘harder’ sciences. I think he succeeded wonderfully.)
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 8:24 am

    I have 2 books of Sacks but I haven’t read either of them yet- but I do know that I really really enjoy his writing because The New Yorker published an article by him and I think it may have been from this book (he talks about his inability to recognise faces in it) Sooo I am way interested in this! I probably shouldn’t get it until I’ve read the other books of his I have though…

  2. February 15, 2012 9:09 am

    I really need to read some of his stuff. I like pop sicence and it’s been a while since I’ve read any of it. :)

  3. February 15, 2012 8:53 pm

    I have read a handful of Sacks books, and enthralled by most of them. This is one I hadn’t heard of yet, thanks for adding it to my list!

  4. February 15, 2012 9:28 pm

    Considering my current need to know way more about vision, this sounds right up my alley! (My little girl is having eye problems.) I love Oliver Sacks too–Uncle Tungsten is my favorite. I must say I don’t like this cover though; it makes my eyes hurt.

  5. February 15, 2012 10:23 pm

    I have never read anything by Sacks before. I have been in the mood for these type of books, though. I might have to request some from the library.

  6. February 18, 2012 6:01 am

    I like Sacks too, and to add another recommendation: Jerome Groopman, who’s also a doctor and also writes for the New Yorker.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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