Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

83%

16 Critic Reviews

Writing with his trademark mix of evocative description, probing curiosity, and warm empathy, Sacks once again draws back the curtain on the mind’s improbable workings.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body.

Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience.

Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr. Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition. 

 

About Oliver Sacks

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Oliver Sacks is a practicing physician and the author of more than ten books, including Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film). He lives in New York City, where he is professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the first Columbia University Artist.
 
Published November 6, 2012 by Vintage. 354 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Self Help, Biographies & Memoirs, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Nov 25 2012
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Critic reviews for Hallucinations
All: 16 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Good
on Jul 17 2012

... Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose. A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Siri Hustvedt on Dec 28 2012

Learned, quietly passionate and always curious, Sacks is a physician who has long understood that medicine is an art as well as a science.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Nov 26 2012

Dr. Sacks conjures these apparitions in language that has an easy, tactile magic. As he’s done in so many of his earlier books...he uses his medical knowledge to illuminate the complexities of the human brain and the mysteries of the human mind.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Appignanesi on Dec 01 2012

He has an ability to evoke on the page the fullness of a life that includes yet moves beyond whatever "peculiarity" it may also contain.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Will Self on Nov 08 2012

...Hallucinations is really the keystone of the amazing edifice that is this remarkable thinker's oeuvre; a body of work that sets out to do nothing more or less than examine the totality of human being from the perspective of neurology.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 13 2012

Writing with his trademark mix of evocative description, probing curiosity, and warm empathy, Sacks once again draws back the curtain on the mind’s improbable workings.

Read Full Review of Hallucinations | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by RACHAEL HANEL on Nov 03 2012

Sacks keeps complicated medical terminology to a minimum, giving readers enough information to understand some causes of hallucinations without lapsing into medical lecture mode.

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Toronto Star

Excellent
Reviewed by Nathan Whitlock on Nov 16 2012

The vision of Sacks finding his life’s purpose after an amphetamine-fueled speed-read is one that will haunt me always.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Stephan Lee on Nov 02 2012

...at its best, Hallucinations is an absorbing plunge into a mystery of the mind.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Michael S. Roth on Dec 28 2012

Sacks has turned hallucinations from something bizarre and frightening into something that seems part of what it means to be a person. His book, too, is a medical and human triumph.

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The Telegraph

Above average
Reviewed by Gabriel Weston on Dec 04 2012

Unfortunately, the worthiness of a book does not guarantee its entertainment value and Hallucinations can make for wearisome reading. Partly this relates to taxonomy.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Melissa Pierson on Nov 21 2012

...with Oliver Sacks as our guide, a trip to the familiar always becomes enchantingly, enduringly, strange.

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The Columbus Dispatch

Good
Reviewed by Margaret Quamme on Nov 11 2012

His gentle, humane acceptance of the vast variety of mental experience is both reassuring and provocative.

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Science News

Good
Reviewed by Allison Bohac on Dec 27 2012

Sacks’ writing can be on the dry side, but this works to his advantage here. When the human brain can conjure miniature pink oxen out of thin air, a little clinical language helps keep things grounded in reality.

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Slant Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Tim Peters on Nov 09 2012

...Sacks's explanations often reek of reductionism. Of missing the forest for the trees and the painting for the brushstrokes.

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Montreal Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Elaine Kalman Naves on Nov 23 2012

Written with both grace and erudition, Hallucinations taps into the mysteries of the human brain in a way calculated to appeal to both the scientist and general reader with a questing mind.

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Reader Rating for Hallucinations
77%

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Danielle Briana 5 Sep 2013

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