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Awakenings

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  7,917 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
This is an extraordinary account of a group of twenty patients, survivors of the great sleeping-sickness epidemic, which swept the world in the 1920s, and the astonishing, explosive 'awakening' effect they experienced forty years later through a new drug, L-DOPA, administered by Dr Sacks. The stories he tells of these remarkable individuals are moving, often courageous and ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published 1991 by Picador (first published 1973)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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William1
The crux of the book is the work Sacks began in the mid-1960s with dozens of post-encephalitic patients at Bronx's Beth Abraham hospital, then called the Bronx Home for Incurables and disguised here as Mount Carmel. These patients were infected in 1918 by the encephalitis lethargica virus, or sleepy sickness. (Not to be confused with the worldwide influenza pandemic of that same year.) Those who survived were able afterwards to lead normal lives for years and sometimes decades until they were st ...more
Zanna
May 18, 2014 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers & carers
Shelves: philosophy, stem
The story is thrilling: the sleepy sickness epidemic that followed WWI left many people with profound Parkinsonian symptoms; some were hardly able to move, never spoke, seemed frozen in time for forty years. A large number of these patients were under Sacks' care at Mount Carmel hopital in New York in 1969 when he decided to try giving them the new drug L-DOPA, and witnessed many of them coming suddenly, vividly to life. But this blurb summary is a gross simplification! Sacks is at pains even in ...more
Megan
Feb 18, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this makes me wish all doctors approached medical practice the way Dr. Sacks does. His clinical grasp of neurology is impressive, but his humanity, compassion, and philosophical approach lend him a more effective manner than other clinicians. His ability to present the conditions of his patients and their treatment as more than either/or, as more than a list of data points, is what makes this book a classic. A basic familiarity with neurology makes this an easier read; he uses a lot of m ...more
Ashley
Feb 01, 2013 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eh, this book was somewhat of a let down I thought. There is a marvelous story here, but this book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a clinical write up of these patients, or appeal to the masses. It tried to walk the line between the two and failed. Just as I would get into the story about a patient, a bunch of medical terms about their condition would pop up, I'd have NO clue what they meant, and the enchantment would end. Three stars for the effort, and because the substance is pretty amazin ...more
Francesco Scarlata
Si tratta di un libro estremamente complesso e affascinante.
Il dottor Oliver Sacks fa un resoconto dettagliato della sua esperienza con un gruppo di pazienti malati di parkinsonismo post encefalitico.
Negli anni '20 una malattia misteriosa e tremendamente invalidante - l'encefalite letargica - colpì parecchie persone a livello epidemico; sebbene all'apparenza i sopravvissuti risultassero guariti, dopo un certo periodo cadevano in uno stato di trance che li portava ad una totale immobilità. Venn
...more
Joanne Annabannabobanna
Feb 03, 2017 Joanne Annabannabobanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone still taking life for granted
Simply astonishing. My first experience with Oliver Sachs, long before any movie. Stumbled across it while browsing a tiny one room library located in the charming community of Vankleek Hill, Ontario where I lived at the time, and immediately became absorbed by the history of the so-called Spanish flu, its effects and the incredible results produced by Sachs' medical intervention. Not least affecting was the eloquence with which Sachs wrote about the patients in his care, which provoked intense ...more
Kati
I’m going to try to limit my rating to the quality of the book itself and not the events it portrays. I’m afraid under that criteria I can’t rate Awakenings any better than a ‘2’ for the majority of it, although the portions added in 1982 and 1990 are better written than the original material from 1972. This book has an unfortunate quality of being neither here nor there. Much of the book is filled with highly technical terms and seems that it was not really written with the layman in mind, and ...more
Ghada
Jan 16, 2014 Ghada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, audiobook
L-DOPA…. Sometimes Hell-DOPA!!
دواء ثوري زي اكتشاف البنسيلين كدا
بيساعد في رفع مستوى الدوبامين في المخ وبيسخدم بشكل رئيسي في علاج مرض باركنسون

الكتاب مش قصة الفيلم الجميل اللي بنفس الإسم http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAz-pr...
لكنه مستوحى من الحالات اللي قصصهم في الكتاب ده , وبطل الفيلم "ليونارد" هو أكتر حاله أثرت في دكتور أوليفر وأتعلم منه كتير

الكتاب مقسوم جزئين تقريباً: أول جزء قصص لعدد من الحالات الأربعين اللي كان مسؤول عنهم دكتور أوليفر من سنة 1966 ...مش مجرد شرح للحالات وتأثير الدواء الجديد عل
...more
Peejay Who Once Was Minsma
This is a true story about people who became prisoners of their own brains, their own brain chemistry. Just after World War I an epidemic of sleeping sickness froze these patients in a trance-like state. Long thought to be untreatable, they were suddenly brought back to life in 1969 when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the drug L-DOPA. They woke to a world that had changed utterly in the intervening years. Some of them were able to adjust, some could not deal with the changes in the world and in them ...more
MrsJennyReads
Jan 24, 2015 MrsJennyReads rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband bought this book and he has great taste in books. I decided to read this for the challenge. I’ve noticed there are a lot of books out now about disease. Its like the new fad. I have a condition called papilledma. Its not deadly, which I am blessed by GOD for that. I don’t like reading about people suffering because I know how it feels. I have watched enough people be sick and I don’t want to read about it. That’s my personal choice. But this book was very insightful.

I am very blessed
...more
Ian
I am struggling to find words to describe my feelings of amazement at the case histories set out in this book, and my wonderment at what a strange place the mind can be. For anyone unaware of the background, in the sixties Dr. Sacks worked with survivors of an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica that began in Central Europe in 1916 and lasted for about 10 years, affecting an estimated 5 million people worldwide. In the severest cases, such as Dr. Sacks’ patients, survivors were left in a near ca ...more
Lyn Elliott
Aug 18, 2012 Lyn Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This was the first of Sacks's books I read, and I had never read anything like it. The discovery that a chemical could bring 'frozen' people to consciousness again after an apparent sleep of years, was mind blowing to read about - and literally mind blowing for some of those who emerged for a time from the effects of their meningitis and then sank out of consciousness again. Sacks recorded the process as a scientist, and a man who is deeply concerned about the human condition and for his patient ...more
Charlie
Jul 25, 2008 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the astonishing true story of a group of people aflicted with a severe 'sleeping' sickness who were awakened for a while by a drug called L Dopa. It is full of personal moments of extreem grief and happiness and wonder. It is a story of clinical experimentation and individual care and understanding.

A very good film of it has also been made with Robin Williams as Oliver Sacks. I think, as usual, the book is better than the film, but the film gives a good feel for the story line if not act
...more
Cain S. Pinto
Oct 17, 2012 Cain S. Pinto rated it it was amazing
Movement and Sleep in Parkinsonians

The idea that our bodies and minds are totally separate in their functioning and existence is a rather simplistic and erroneous view. The two are connected in several uncanny ways and influence the functioning of each other very profoundly. The object of this paper’s study is the book Awakenings by Oliver Sacks. We will concern ourselves with the way the biological and psychological processes of movement which correlate with Parkinson’s general symptoms. Our
...more
April Helms
This completes my "read a book then watch the movie" fulfillment for the Book Riot challenge, so this is actually two reviews. I hadn't planned to use this one- I've actually seen the movie before (albeit some years ago). I was just on a science kick and had read Sacks' Musicophelia and really enjoyed it. But I really wanted to watch the movie again after reading this. I really wish I would have read the book first; usually I don't feel that strongly whether I read the novel or watch the movie f ...more
Claudia
Sacks must be brilliant...allusions from science (of course), but also art, literature, philosophy...he connects them all.

Summer of '69 was a busy one: Woodstock, Apollo 11 to the moon, and L-dopa tried on Parkinson's patients in a small eastern hospital. Patients whose Parkinsons was brought on by flu epidemics in the 20's and 30's, and who had lived as prisoners of their bodies since then.

He tells the story of each patient...his or her past, and the course on L-dopa...in the epilogue he contin
...more
Kenneth Rathburn
Oliver Sacks' book about a group of mental patients who undergo an experiment goes through a wide variety of emotions, all of which contribute feeling and power to one of the greatest stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. What we're provided is a tale that begins with mild interest, shortly becomes heart-warming and, before long, entrancing before the last chapters conclude a read that's just too great to spoil. This is one of those few books that honestly made me look at life and the p ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 24, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
For viewers of the motion picture of the same name or those only familiar with Sacks' collections such as The Man Who Mistood His Wife for a Hat (1985), this book may come as a bit of a surprise. Published in 1973, Sacks was still very much writing as a professional neurologist and had not yet fully found his authorial voice. While still an interesting and thought-provoking tale, this book has much more the dryness, and critical apparati, of the academy.
Aaron Wolfson
(This analysis also appears on my blog, Profound Reading.)

What most struck me about reading Awakenings was how little I knew about Parkinsonism. I thought it was just a shaking disease, a “fact” I “learned” from the two most famous people with Parkinson’s, Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox.

In truth Parkinson’s is so much more; it’s probably among the most variable, elusive disorders known to man. Common symptoms include rigidity, catatonia, masking (expressionless face, voice, or posture), blockin
...more
Bob
Feb 12, 2017 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Summary: Chronicles the experience of post-encephalitis patients existing as prisoners in their own bodies in a trance-like state, who, when treated with L-DOPA, experienced dramatic "awakenings" nearly always followed by debilitating side effects, often resulting with withdrawal of the drug, and a return to their former state.

From 1916 to 1927, there was an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, or "sleeping sickness." The sickness often resulted in a period of profound lethargy, sometimes ending
...more
Rebeck
Mar 02, 2017 Rebeck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
goodreads is all jacked up rn and thinks i've read this three times, for some reason. so i'm too irritated to review. great stuff, though. i think i learned about three different new ways to say "warped spine."
Nick Davies
Jan 13, 2016 Nick Davies rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I am not wholly comfortable giving a book such as this - which as a subject was very involving and quite affecting - a 'bad' rating, but alas I must. Though the basis of this book (a set of case studies into the use of the drug L-DOPA in treating patients suffering Parkinsonian disorders) was incredibly interesting, it was in the end ruined by the author's approach and proclivities of writing.

The opening chapters of the book (and indeed the latter chapters too) were overly florid. Sacks is obvio
...more
Tim Seefeldt
Feb 26, 2017 Tim Seefeldt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As amazing to read the 10th time as the first.
Abbi
Dec 31, 2007 Abbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Favorite tidbits:

A third of those affected died in the acute stages of the sleeping-sickness, in states of coma so deep as to preclude arousal, or in states of sleeplessness so intense as to preclude sedation...One thing, and one alone was (usually) spared amid the ravages of this otherwise engulfing disease: the “higher faculties” – intelligence, imagination, judgment, and humor.

As sickness is the greatest misery, so the greatest misery of sickness is solitude...solitude is a torment which is n
...more
Jared Gillins
Aug 28, 2010 Jared Gillins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jared by: Amy Reid
Shelves: science
I watched the film version of "Awakenings" when I was 10 or 11. It was the first movie I cried in--a profound moment in my development. Now, over 20 years later, I've finally read the book that inspired Penny Marshall's adaptation.

Oliver Sacks is a remarkable writer, especially for a physician and scientist; his prose makes his real-life characters vividly alive in my mind. His approach to this book was unique, especially in 1973 when it was first published. It is essentially a series of medical
...more
Jean Poulos
Oliver Sacks M.D. was an eminent neurologist. He died in his home in New York City at age 82 in August 2015. Dr. Sacks has written many books but is most famous for his book “Awakenings.” On hearing of his death, I decided to read his book again.

In 1966 while working as a neurologist for Mount Carmel Hospital in the Bronx he noted many patients had spent decades in a strange frozen state with some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. They were the survivors of the 1916-1917 encephalitis (Sleeping Si
...more
Ana-Maria Bujor
Although not a light read at all, this book is one of the most powerful and revealing I've ever read about human nature and our understanding of suffering, time and what it means to be alive. Dr. Oliver Sacks presents the story of several patients who "woke up" after dozens of years of inactivity caused by encephalitis lethargica. It seems to be a pretty straightforward story - patients suffer, patients get miracle medicine - patients are well again and run into the sunset.
However this is not wh
...more
Ginny_1807
Molto bello, nonostante si tratti in sostanza più di un saggio medico che di un’opera animata da chiari intenti letterari.
La vicenda è nota: un gruppo di persone colpite da encefalite letargica esce dal torpore provocato dalla malattia e durato oltre quarant’anni, grazie alla somministrazione di L-dopa.
Come sempre negli scritti di Sacks, tuttavia, l’interesse scientifico per la patologia è intimamente connesso con l’attenzione ed il rispetto per l’individualità del paziente, considerato nella s
...more
Tanya
May 12, 2008 Tanya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, science, health
After having read another Oliver Sacks book, I picked this up just because I enjoyed the 1990 movie with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. This turned out to be an amazing story. The book is about Dr. Sacks's actual experiences with a new drug and several dozen patients suffering from post-encephelatic lethargica, a form of Parkinsons. Unlike Dr. Sayer in the movie, Dr. Sacks encountered a wide variety of responses to the drug, L-dopa. In fact, every patient's response was unique although most ...more
Simon
Sep 30, 2011 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More engrossing than the fact that Dr. Oliver Sacks' 'extinct volcanoes' (post-encephalitic patients) 'awoke' after having received L-Dopa are the reports of how these patients coped with their individual "eruptions." Despite having their 'higher faculties' (intelligence, judgment, humor) undisturbed by their crippling illnesses, most patients emerged gloriously from years of 'Sleeping Sickness' only to relapse - forcing either a troublesome accommodation to 'side effects' or a complete pre-dopa ...more
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Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks was the youngest of four children born to a prosperous North London Jewish couple: Sam, a physician, and Elsie, a surgeon. When he wa
...more
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“One must drop all presuppositions and dogmas and rules - for there only lead to stalemate or disaster; one must cease to regard all patients as replicas, and honor each one with individual reactions and propensities; and, in this way, with the patient as one's equal, one's co-explorer, not one's puppet, one may find therapeutic ways which are better than other ways, tactics which can be modified as occasion requires.” 10 likes
“As Sicknes is the greatest misery, so the greatest misery of sicknes, is solitude...Solitude is a torment which is not threatened in hell itselfe.
-DONNE”
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