- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (July 2, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780307947437
- ISBN-13: 978-0307947437
- ASIN: 0307947432
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 399 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hallucinations Paperback – July 2, 2013
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“Dr. Sacks conjures apparitions in language that has an easy, tactile magic. . . . He illuminate[s] the complexities of the human brain and the mysteries of the human mind.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Beguiling. . . . Sacks presents a field guide to our quirky operating system’s powers of deception with storytelling that makes readers feel like medical insiders.” —Chicago Tribune
“Elegant. . . . An absorbing plunge into a mystery of the mind.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Humane, compassionate. . . . These tales are at turns delightful, entertaining, bizarre and sometimes downright terrifying.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This doctor cares deeply about his patients' experiences—about their lives, not just about their diseases. Through his accounts we can imagine what it is like to find that our perceptions don’t hook on to reality—that our brains are constructing a world that nobody else can see, hear or touch. . . . 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.” —The Washington Post
“[Sacks] covers a broad range of sensory disturbances. . . . One of the pleasures of reading Hallucinations is understanding how complex human reality often trumps attempts to categorize it.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Sacks’ science writing is always revelatory, and there are moments in Hallucinations when seeing things can feel downright life-affirming.” —Time
“The greatest living ethnographer of those fascinating tribes who live on the outer and still largely uncharted shores of the land of Mind-and-Brain.” —The Guardian (London)
“Fascinating and engaging. . . . Sacks uses the unique mixture of patient anecdote, memoir, scientific information, and broad reference to literature, art, music, history, and philosophy that has characterized all his work.” —The Boston Globe
“It is rare, indeed, when such an expert is also a talented writer. . . . It is remarkable to see the consistency of this literate, inquiring mind.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[A] mesmerizing casebook of neurological marvels.” —New York Magazine
“Sacks writes, as usual, with a sharp mix of clinical precision, curiosity, and compassion.” —The Daily Beast
“Fascinating. . . . With his special mix of patient case studies, historical accounts, reader correspondence and personal experience, Oliver Sacks has again found a way to unlock one of the mysteries of our brains.” —The Miami Herald
“Escorts the reader through case studies and literary excursions into the fantastical land of our perceptions. . . . His vignettes are short, pungent and self-contained. They join his earlier books, starting with Awakenings in 1973—all building blocks that snap our increasing knowledge of the brain into focus.” —The Plain Dealer
“A brisk but characteristically absorbing survey of the many ways human beings perceive things that are not there. . . . [Sacks] gives us the exceptional and the idiosyncratic.” —Salon
“Should be required reading for anyone in a caregiver position. . . . Blends centuries-old medical wisdom, current research, and observation of his own patients into an engaging summary of every way our brains seek to depart from reality.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A thoughtful and compassionate look at the phantoms our brains can produce.” —NPR
“A super-fascinating and accessible-to-lay-people adventure in neuroscience. . . . Sacks is crazy-smart, and it shows. But he’s also just flat-out amazed by the brain, and it’s an enthusiasm you can’t help but catch.” —Book Riot
“Amazing. . . . Sacks’s temperament . . . facilitates that extraordinary humanity, that loving curiosity about the experiences of other people, that near-magical ability to see how even the most seemingly devastating losses may be remedied by the mind’s remarkable powers of compensation.” —Bookforum
About the Author
Oliver Sacks was a neurologist, writer, and professor of medicine. Born in London in 1933, he moved to New York City in 1965, where he launched his medical career and began writing case studies of his patients. Called the “poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times, Sacks is the author of thirteen books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Awakenings, which inspired an Oscar-nominated film and a play by Harold Pinter. He was the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2008 for services to medicine. He died in 2015.
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"Hallucinations" is a fascinating book of what Dr. Sacks considers a natural history of anthology of hallucinations. It covers a wide variety of hallucinations through the eyes of those who have them and the impact it has on their lives. Dr. Sacks shares those vivid experiences with the readers but at times it can be overwhelming and hard to follow. This psychedelic 354-page includes the following fifteen chapters: 1. Silent Multitudes: Charles Bonnet Syndrome, 2. The Prisoner's Cinema: Sensory Deprivation, 3. A Few Nanograms of Wine: Hallucinatory Smells, 4. Hearing Things, 5. The Illusions of Parkinsonism, 6. Altered States, 7. Patterns: Visual Migraines, 8. The "Sacred" Disease, 9. Bisected: Hallucinations in the Half-Field, 10. Delirious, 11. On the Threshold of Sleep, 12. Narcolepsy of Night Hags, 13. The Haunted Mind, 14. Dopplegangers: Hallucinating Oneself, and 15. Phantoms, Shadows, and Sensory Ghosts.
1. Engaging prose, well-researched book on a variety of hallucinations.
2. Dr. Sacks is a master of his profession and a very accomplished author.
3. A very good format. Each chapter covers a category of hallucination.
4. A good introductory chapter that covers the essence of the book. "Hallucination is a unique and special category of consciousness and mental life".
5. Full of first-hand accounts and historical accounts of hallucinations. The accounts vary from the common to the bizarre.
6. Hallucinations among the blind. The Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS). "CBS hallucinations are often described as having dazzling, intense color or a fineness and richness of detail far beyond anything one sees with the eyes."
7. The effects of sensory deprivation. "There is even a special term for the trains of brilliantly colored and varied hallucinations which come to console or torment those kept in isolation or darkness: `the prisoner's cinema.'"
8. Hallucinations come in many forms including hallucinatory smells. "Hallucination of particularly vile smells is called cacosmia."
9. Misconceptions. "In the popular imagination, though, hallucinatory voices are almost synonymous with schizophrenia--a great misconception, for most people who do hear voices are not schizophrenic."
10. Interesting observations. "Music calls upon many more areas of the brain than any other activity--one reason why music therapy is useful for such a wide variety of conditions."
11. Parkinson's disease as it relates to hallucinations. "...perhaps a third or more of those being treated for Parkinson's experienced hallucinations."
12. Chemicals and altered states. "But drugs offer a shortcut; they promise transcendence on demand. These shortcuts are possible because certain chemicals can directly stimulate many complex brain functions."
13. Migraine auras, who knew? "She explained that auras like mine were due to a sort of electrical disturbance like a wave passing across the visual parts of the brain."
14. A fascinating look at "hyper-religiosity". "More than any other sort of seizure, ecstatic seizures may be felt as epiphanies or revelations of a deeper reality." A bonus quote of historical worth, "None of these is conclusive, but they do suggest, at least, that Joan of Arc may have had temporal lobe epilepsy with ecstatic auras."
15. Some of the causes of hallucinations are discussed. "...even a "little" occipital lobe stroke can evoke striking, though transient, visual hallucinations."
16. The impact of delirium. "Delirium may produce musical hallucinations." "Fevers are perhaps the commonest cause of delirium, but there may be a less obvious metabolic or toxic cause."
17. A look at dreams. "Dreams come in episodes, not flashes; they have a continuity, a coherence, a narrative, a theme. One is a participant or a participant-observer in one's dreams, whereas with hypnagogia, one is merely a spectator." "The "mare" in "nightmare" originally referred to a demonic woman who suffocated sleepers by lying on their chests (she was called "Old Hag" in Newfoundland)." Great stuff!
18. The trauma of war (severe stress). An important topic. "Such chronic traumatic encephalopathy, along with the psychological trauma of war and injury, has been linked to the rising incidence of suicide among veterans."
19. Out of body experiences. "Out-of-body experiences may occur when specific regions of the brain are stimulated in the course of a seizure or a migraine, as well as with electrical stimulation of the cortex." "They may occur with drug experiences and in self-induced trances. OBEs can also occur when the brain is not receiving enough blood, as may happen if there is a cardiac arrest or arrhythmia, massive blood loss, or shock."
20. Phantom limbs. Test this for yourself...very interesting. "Phantom limbs are hallucinations insofar as they are perceptions of something that has no existence in the outside world, but they are not quite comparable to hallucinations of sight and sound."
21. Links and a very helpful bibliography.
1. This is a difficult book to follow at times. Part of it has to do with the complexity of the condition but I also feel that Dr. Sacks overwhelms the readers with psychedelic descriptions at a frenetic pace.
2. This book is uneven in that that it describes the various types of hallucinations with a luxury of details (first-hand accounts) but the science though present is not as apparent. Granted this book is intended for the masses but I wanted to know more about the potential causes.
3. This book warranted a table that summarized the different types of hallucinations and symptoms. It would have been very helpful.
4. It's the type of book that after reading you are not really sure what you got out of it. Luckily, there are no tests.
In summary, a bit overwhelming and frenetic at times but overall I enjoyed the book. It's the type of book that after reading you have a better understanding of the wide range of variety of hallucinations but you are not able to intelligently provide details on how they differ necessarily. It's an interesting book whose strengths reside in the first-hand description of a wide variety of hallucinations. The science behind the hallucinations though present lags the same attention. That being said, I recommend it!
Further recommendations: "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales" and "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition" by the same author, "Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind" and "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V.S. Ramachandran, "Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep" by David K. Randall, "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker, "Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely, "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman, "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, "Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there" by Richard Wiseman, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Shermer, Michael unknown Edition [Hardcover(2011)]" by Michael Shermer, and "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Vintage)" by Leonard Mlodinow.
I had two issues with this book. The first has been noted in a review already posted. I find the long description of the hallucinations to be heavy reading after a while. I agree it is a bit like listening to another person's dreams, which tend to lack the immediacy to the listener. I especially found it tedious to review the author's experiences with drugs that indue hallucinations. This is a subject very heavily covered in extant literature.
Second, he allows only cursory credance to the concept that any spiritual experiences may be caused by anything other than organic function. He notes that James had allowed that practitioners of spritualism may believe their experiences to be true. While I understand that this is the premise of the book, still it lacks some depth of possibility.
Given these caveats, I think this is a worthwhile reading experience. Certainly this book expands the world of hallucinations outside of psychotic cause. Certainly this is important for those people who experience these phenomena to know possible medical issue both for their own peace of mind and for the motivation to seek help. Therefore I would recommend this book.
I found the subject fascinating. Sacks, a neurologist, has spent much of his life researching the mind and, in these pages, he shares some of what he has learned along the way. The language used is easy to understand. Medical terms are clarified and explained. The average person should have no problem reading this.
While I did find the examples interesting, after a while it all became a bit repetitive. Information was often repeated in various chapters. And the book didn't have much of a conclusion. Despite that, I'd recommend the book to everyone. What you'll learn is well worth the time you'll spend reading.
If you love how this neurobiologist thinks ("Awakenings", "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", "Musicophilia") You will just love this book.
These are NOT the hallucinations of schizophrenics. But rather hallucinations that are found with incredibly "common" diagnoses. People who once had sight but are now completely blind have amazing hallucinations...entire dream sequences BUT while awake! They aren't frightening--well mostly--but amazingly detailed. And this is just the beginning chapters!
His books are NOT easy reading. This is post-graduate med school stuff. But most everyday readers can grasp the central tenets.
Very enjoyable reading...and you will begin to grasp how amazing our minds work!