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Awakenings

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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  5,659 ratings  ·  193 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 of 3,000)
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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
Jun 05, 2014 Zanna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers & carers
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
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
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
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
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
LonelyRose
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
Charlie
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
Erik Graff
Dec 30, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Cain S. Pinto
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
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
Lyn Elliott
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
Ashley
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
Nina J. Kors
Il libro Risvegli, nell'edizione del 1991 che ho letto io, è stato scritto in più anni e con parecchie aggiunte rispetto a quella del 1973.
È un libro denso, da cui emerge prepotente una umanità intensa sia nei pazienti che nel medico che li cura. Lo sguardo di Oliver Sacks è intenso, pieno di passione, alla continua ricerca del meglio per i suoi pazienti.
È una continua scoperta di come la vita delle persone ha un senso anche se bloccata nella malattia, e come le comuni passioni di ciascuno sono
...more
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
Abbi
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
Jul 12, 2013 Jared Gillins rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Tanya
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
Al
Really fascinating.
I have no medical knowledge at all, yet Sacks brings me to an understanding of complex physical conditions,such is the power of his prose and conviction.
What is really affecting is his insistence on the patient being a person, not just a study. We see how this devastating condition obliterated many lives, even communities.
What an amazing person Oliver Sacks is.
Simon
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
Amy Gaither
Brilliant, heart-breaking and hopeful all at once. This is more than just the case studies of those post-encephalitic Parkinsonian patients Dr. Sacks treated in the 60s with the new miracle drug L-Dopa. It gives a renewed optimism to those who work with any type of patient in the potential for recovery by realizing the patient is much more than just the physiological aspect of his body.
"One sees that beautiful and ultimate metaphysical truth, which has been stated by poets and physicians and me
...more
Susan
This is clearly Sacks' piece de resistence, and you can tell because it's been through a half-dozen editions, all of which bear significant revisions and new footnotes. And there's a reason. I was deeply affected by the case studies in this book, and you can see Sacks' wonder show through on the pages.

On the down side, it contains too many footnotes, many of which are random tangents to the subject. I ended up skipping about 1/3 of them to keep the cohesion of the narrative.

It's worth reading th
...more
Oliver Ho
"The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is one of my favourite books, and I've read several of his others, but for some reason I'd always avoided this one. After reading "Hallucinations" I decided to settle in and finally read this one. It took a while to get into it--up until the case studies--then it took off. Amazing, beautiful, heart-breaking, strange--some of the stories read like horror fiction. This edition of the book is also odd (I don't know if there's a newer one): there are so many ...more
Deb
i remember reading this years ago but i don't remember it making me SOOO angry....i know L-Dopa helped a lot of people but it seems to me that in those early days the doasge was established almost randomly and people suffered unnecessarily...and as for oliver sacks' attitude towards some of the cases he treated - it was so callous!! and he seems surprised when people felt better when they had had a glorious day outside...who wouldn't feel crap stuck in an institution for 20 years or more...grrr! ...more
Livietta
Molto bello e intenso. La prima parte include la descrizione di alcuni pazienti postencefalici e parkinsoniani e della loro storia, mentre la seconda include una serie di osservazioni e di interessanti appendici. Parte del materiale è successivo alla prima edizione del libro e riporta alcune osservazioni ulteriori relative ai casi.

Yadin Kulp
Awakenings is a non-fiction book about a bunch of patients who have parkinson's disease and have been under a trance like figure for a long and have been revived thanks to a new drug called L-DOPA.

This book chronicles the doctor who is also the author as he witnesses their change of behavior for the next three years, their high points and their low points. For example, their is a patient who from the drug has now developed extraordinary skills, and another patient who hasn't aged since she was
...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 unfortunately 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, an ...more
Bobbi
The true story of how a group of patients in a mental hospital who had contracted sleeping sickness, were temporarily brought back to life by the administration of L-Dopa in 1969. Interesting but a bit dry. The movie was not as accurate, but more fascinating.
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Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE (born July 9, 1933, London), is 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 E
...more
More about Oliver Sacks...
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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.” 2 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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