Book reviews, Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks

Written by: Oliver Sacks
Narrated by: Dan Woren , Oliver Sacks
Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date: 11-06-12
Publisher: Random House Audio

★★★★ out of 5 stars

My second book by Sacks. My first book was his The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, and I found it fascinating. This one, Hallucinations, was another fascinating title. I recommend it. I think we all should know lots of things he shares with us about hallucinations. We may think they are not as common as they are, specially in some type of illnesses like Parkinson, even migraines, etc.

Each chapter is devoted to a different type of hallucination, in my last review, I mentioned the hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation, the Parkinson, drug induced hallucinations, those produced by trauma, epilepsy, induced by meditation, and the last chapters talk about outside of body experiences, doppelganger experiences, near death experiences, and ghost limbs. (I didn’t know it took a good while for people to start talking about ghost limb feelings because of the stigma associated with it).

Oliver Sacks tone is very conversational, easy to understand, even though he mentions scientific details too, his aim is always the big picture, and he conveys information and facts through a nice narration.

I cannot tell you which chapter was the most fascinating. Many writers and people come up in the book, Dostoevsky, Maupassant, Joan of Arc, Dickens… And just like that, I’ve just read a passage in The Brothers Karamazov, where the servant tells Ivan that the next day he most likely is going to have one of his epileptic episodes. Ivan refutes him, “you surely cannot know when those come!”, but the servant insists. (Some epileptics, according to Sacks, have some notions of an attack coming. And like this servant, there’s also certain behaviors they know can increase their chances of an attack).

I think the most shocking chapter is Sack’s own experience with drugs. It went from medical curiosity and research, to a dangerous addiction. This man didn’t left anything untried! His approach to the drugs was non conventional. He started it all to know, continued hooked on the benefits that will give him in his field of research and practice, and it ended chemically and emotionally dependent. However, -and thankfully-, he survived his critical moments, recovered, and left it all for us to read about in his works.

I have to add that I’ve never had a hallucination in my life, and, after the book, I felt kind of sad (not that I desire any of the tragedies that many times come with them), but some of these experiences were interesting, and beautiful too, and many were not negative or damaging at all (like some only children who have imaginary friends for some years, until 7 or so, when they stop). Anyway, I don’t want to idealize this either, I just say thanks to Sacks, he’s helped me understand and learn many valuable things.


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