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The River of Consciousness

Oliver Sacks



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03 October 2018
Two weeks before his death, Oliver Sacks outlined the contents of The River of Consciousness, the last book he would oversee. The best-selling author of On the Move, Musicophilia, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks is known for his illuminating case histories about people living with neurological conditions at the far borderlands of human experience. But his grasp of science was not restricted to neuroscience or medicine; he was fascinated by the issues, ideas, and questions of all the sciences. That wide-ranging expertise and passion informs the perspective of this book, in which he interrogates the nature not only of human experience but of all life.

In The River of Consciousness, Dr Sacks takes on evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience, and the arts, and calls upon his great scientific and creative heroes - above all, Darwin, Freud, and William James. For Sacks, these thinkers were constant companions from an early age; the questions they explored - the meaning of evolution, the roots of creativity, and the nature of consciousness - lie at the heart of science and of this book.

The River of Consciousness demonstrates Sacks's unparalleled ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless endeavour to understand what makes us human.
By:   Oliver Sacks
Imprint:   Picador
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 197mm,  Width: 130mm,  Spine: 17mm
Weight:   189g
ISBN:   9781447263654
ISBN 10:   1447263650
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   03 October 2018
Recommended Age:   From 18 years
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London and was educated at Queen's College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings. Dr Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote many books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations, about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as 'the poet laureate of medicine', and over the years he received many awards, including honours from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal College of Physicians. In 2008, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015. For more information, please visit

Reviews for The River of Consciousness

The warm genius of Oliver Sacks comes alive . . . Sacks brings the friendly curiosity for which he is so beloved to this ultimate testing ground of character, emerging once more as the brilliant, lovable human he was * Brain Pickings * The writings are stitched through with Sacks's characteristic curiosity and verve, weaving esoteric research, incisive observations, and intimate anecdotes into lucid expositions on the natural world and those who seek to understand it * Wired * Reflects the agility of Sacks's enthusiasms, moving from forgetting and neglect in science to Freud's early work on the neuroanatomy of fish . . . Offer[s] a more humane version of what communion between the specialties might bring * Guardian * An exuberant, fascinating reminder of the brilliant neuroscientist who opened our eyes to hidden worlds . . . [A] wonder-filled collection * People * [Sacks] examines the fallibility of memory, the nature of creativity, the still monumental insights of Charles Darwin, and more - all with his characteristic sensitivity and spirit of optimism * Esquire * Fascinating . . . meditative . . . A useful introduction to his restless intellect and elegant sentences and a tribute to his scientific and philosophical heroes: Darwin, Freud and William James * San Francisco Chronicle * Readers who encountered [Sacks's] mind through Awakenings mind The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat will be delighted by these pieces * The Washington Post * The reader is in thrall to Sacks's ability to braid wide reading, research and experience with his neurology patients to reach original and subtle conclusions . . . Darwin and Sacks, with their expansive abilities to look deeply into small matters and uncover, with evident delight, large truths, seem like brothers separated by a mere century * Chicago Tribune * Brilliant, beautiful, and funny . . . Sacks was one of the finest science writers - well read, scientifically exact and literary . . . This collection meets the standard of his previous work . . . Sacks's love of the natural world as well as the human one is contagious. The breadth of his interests encourages his readers to expand their own horizons . . . His curiosity and erudition, and his joy in both intellectual and physical life are in full bloom on these pages * Shelf Awareness * Fans of the late neurologist have another chance to enjoy this erudite, compassionate storyteller, essayist, and memoirist . . . This collection of 10 essays, some of which appeared previously in The New York Review of Books, was assembled by three colleagues from an outline provided by Sacks two weeks before his death in 2015 . . . A collection of dissimilar pieces that reveal the scope of the author's interests-sometimes challenging, always rewarding * Kirkus Reviews * True to its title, the book is dictated by a flood of mental energy, thus it is more than mere sentimentality to say that, more than two years after his death, Sacks's spirit still courses through us. Long may it flow * The Globe and Mail * Reveals Sacks as a gleeful polymath and an inveterate seeker of meaning in the mold of Darwin and his other scientific heroes Sigmund Freud and William James . . . As this volume reminds us, in losing Sacks we lost a gifted and generous storyteller * Wall Street Journal * A joy to read: a delicious supply of information and commentary organized by a gifted writer of a curious and humane intelligence * The Washington Times * A writer of eloquence, he was always ready to see his medical specialist in reaction to the world and humanity . . . His greatest reverence is for the human mind * The Tablet * Sacks continues in this latest collection to focus on questions over answers; the result is a work that leaves plenty of room for possibility beyond what might be immediately observed . . . Intellectually, Sacks is, at heart, a philosopher * New York Magazine * A fascinating book * Daily Telegraph * Compelling . . . Sacks invites readers into his mind where they can experience the world from his unusually insightful perspective * Science News Magazine * [Sacks's] accumulated wisdom of our experience of time and consciousness makes a marvellous discrete series of meditations - and a profoundly moving one, since several of these pieces were written with the knowledge that his experience of both mysteries was soon coming to an end -- Tim Adams * Observer * An incisive and generous inquiry into human nature * Elle * Millions of Sacks's books have been printed around the world, and he once spoke of receiving 200 letters a week from admirers. For those thousands of correspondents, The River of Consciousness will feel like a reprieve - we get to spend time again with Sacks the botanist, the historian of science, the marine biologist and, of course, the neurologist * Guardian * Reading a book published after its authors death, especially if he is as prodigiously alive on every page as Oliver Sacks, as curious, avid and thrillingly fluent, brings both the joy of hearing from him again, and the regret of knowing it will likely be the last time . . . [The] combination of wonder, passion and gratitude never seemed to flag in Sacks's life; everything he wrote was lit with it. But it was his openness to new ideas and experiences, and his vision of change as the most human of biological processes that synthesized all of his work -- Nicole Krauss * The New York Times Book Review *

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