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Oaxaca Journal (National Geographic Directions) Paperback – October 4, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

As a physician and a writer, Oliver Sacks is concerned above all with the link between body and mind, and the ways in which the whole person adapts to different neurological conditions.

Oliver Sacks was born in London, England (both of his parents were physicians) and he obtained his medical degree at Oxford. In the early 1960's, he moved to the United States, where he completed an internship at UCSF and a residency in neurology at UCLA. Since 1965, he has lived in New York, where he is clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adjunct professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine and consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor and at Beth Abraham Hospital

Dr. Sacks is perhaps best known for his best-selling 1985 collection of case histories from the far borderlands of neurological experience, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and for his 1973 book Awakenings, which later inspired a play by Harold Pinter, A Kind of Alaska, and the Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie. In 1989, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on Tourette's syndrome, a condition marked by involuntary tics and utterances.


More from Oliver Sacks
Though many great doctors are also great writers, few can compare with Oliver Sacks for expressing the relation of medicine to the human spirit. Visit Amazon's Oliver Sacks Page.

Product Details

  • Series: National Geographic Directions
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792242084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792242086
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,128,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Mathews-Younes on March 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Oliver Sacks takes us into his world. A tenacious scribbler, he carries us on a journey back to the timeless world of nature. Quick to tell us of his passion for ferns, he recounts his journey to Oaxaca, Mexico with his collegues who share his fascination.
On one level, we are treated to a kaeidoscope of hundreds of exotic ferns and their latin names he and his frends find in the lush vegetation of Mesoamerica. Not being a fern lover myself, I marvel at the intrigue of the hunt for these living fossils, objects from the distant world of time and creation before the advent of humanity. One would expect that such trivia would bore the reader, but no, Sacks absorbs us in his fascination with the varieties of these creature; he takes us along in the narrative by his marvel with discovery.
At another level, Sacks enters the world of Oaxaca. He treats us to the rich culture of the region. He regails us with tales of the potato, the tomato, the bean, maise and pepper. He describes the ageless Oaxacan cuisine that nourishes his fellow pilgrims and the people of the region. The rubber ball of the Zatopec culture and the games played with it especially intrigues him. And his delightful descriptions of the delicious Oaxacan chocolate in all its forms stimulates mouthwatering longing for a taste. More importantly, he tells us of the people who lived in the region and bore the brunt of the Spanish Conquistadores. One is treated to the rich history of the Mesoamerican civilizations that rivaled Rome and Athens. Yet, Oaxaca's civiliztion achieved greatness while being innocent of the wheel, iron, compass, and alphabet. Sacks tells us of his confusion as a Westerner entering this world where his reference points create discontinuity.
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Format: Hardcover
What an odd little book. Just as he was finishing writing the brilliant UNCLE TUNGSTEN professor of nuerology Oliver Sachs joins an eleven day journey to Oaxaca with a band of botantists the putative purpose of which is to study ferns. Now Oliver likes ferns; he is a member of the American Fern Society and appreciates the antiquity and remarkable adaptability of ferns as much as the average guy (ok--the average, brilliant botanist). The book is replete with charming drawings of ferns and lots of Latin names and fernish descriptions. But it isn't really about ferns.
It is also a quite wonderful description of this special section of southern Mexico. As well as describing the tremendous variety of plant life found in this Mexican state he also is stunned by the variety of food. One restaurant has well over 100 dishes none the same and few immediately recognizable to his North American eye. Sachs tosses in a good deal of history--of the ancient Aztecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs and Mayans as well as Cortez and the conquering Spaniards. He also passes on a few pointed comments about the church and the modern disaster that is Mexican government. He is intrigued by Oaxaca and thinks about the necessity of returning. But this book isn't really about Oaxaca or Mexico herself.
The thirty plus botantists on this tour are an soortment of gays, lesbians, heterosexuals--all in couples save Sachs. He remarks that he has always been a loner--never really part of a couple. One night after drinking a lot of mescal they all ascend a mountaintop to observe a lunar ecliipse. Sachs enjoys the joking and camaraderie immensely, but as the eclipse approaches totality he goes off by himself to best appreciate the event. Almost through the trip he finds himself feeling oddly.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometime during the writing of his well regarded book "Uncle Tungsten", Neurologist Oliver Sacks took a 12 day trip to state of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-HOCK-ah) in southern Mexico ostesibly for the purpose of observing and cataloging ferns with members of the American Fern Society- to which he belongs. Oaxaca Journal is the Author's first person account of the delighful little adventure that resulted.
Because of the Author's boundless curiosity about pretty much everything, the trip becomes more than just a fern collecting odyssey. To the searching eye of Sacks, a simple midmorning sitting alone at a cafe table in a town square, becomes a rumination on human tolerance for sun and shadow. A visit to the Ancient Meso-American city of Monte Alban becomes an excuse to probe into the curious history of rubber- which the Zapotec people used to make their heavy sport balls for their own unique form of basketball. Casually encountered botanical names are savored for their historical baggage and contribution to language and culture. And each new plant Sacks and his travelling companions encounter sparks a conversation which could end up touching on just about any realm of human experience.
Sacks' travelling companions are a particular delight; intelligent, well read, boundlessly enthusiastic, they are the sort of people one dreams of having along on trips to casually recount tidbits of history, science, and cuture to enrich the experience. Anyone belonging to a club with a scientific or academic bent, will recognize the combination of passion and quirkiness in the author's new friends.
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