Mar 7, 2008

An Anthropologist on Mars

Seven Paradoxical Tales
by Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, takes us inside the experiences of his patients in An Anthropologist on Mars. Here are the lives of a painter who went color blind after an accident, a man with a brain tumor that eclipsed all his memories except for those prior to 1970, a surgeon with Tourrette's syndrom whose symptoms disappeared while he performed surgery, a man who after forty-five years of blindness had cataracts removed and could make no sense of the visual world, an artist whose photographic memories of a certain place overwhelmed his life, and two autistic individuals- one severely disabled yet an extraordinary artist and the other a professor who understood animals' interactions better than people's- using that to build herself a successful career. This last patient was Temple Grandin, who I've also read about from her own personal accounts.

Written not as an examination of illness, but an exploration of the world of the mind, these studies demonstrate how the perception of the brain creates the reality we live in. Oliver Sacks says: "These... are tales of metamorphosis, brought about by neurological chance, but metamorphosis into alternative states of being, other forms of life, no less human for being so different."

It's a very fascinating book, one I highly recommend.

Rating: 4/5                         327 pages, 1995

Read more reviews at: Things Mean A Lot
anyone else?


  1. I would love to read this someday. Thank you for reminding me that this book exists.

  2. Anonymous3/07/2008

    This sounds really good. What an intriguing idea for a book!

    I like your blog. :-)

  3. I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds fascinating (as you say). The mind is such a intriguing (and sometimes mysterious) thing. I'll keep my eye out for this one.

  4. Nymeth- You're welcome.

    Writer2b- It is. Very, very, good. So are all his other books. (I've only read three).

    Trish- The way Sacks describes how these people think, their minds are pretty alien to the rest of us. Thus the "anthropologist on Mars."


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