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An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  9,928 ratings  ·  553 reviews
Paradoxical portraits of seven neurological patients, including a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette's syndrome unless he is operating; an artist who loses all sense of color in a car accident, but finds new creative power in black & white; & others.
Paperback, 318 pages
Published 1995 by Picador
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Stiff by Mary RoachThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Medicine in Literature
58th out of 1,062 books — 1,343 voters
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOutliers by Malcolm GladwellBlink by Malcolm GladwellThe Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Radiolab Suggested Readings
17th out of 179 books — 198 voters

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This book contains an extended, very sympathetic case-study of Temple Grandin, the world's most famous autistic person. I read it when my older son, Jonathan, was diagnosed autistic at age about 10. Obviously, given that it took so long to figure out why he was odd, he isn't that much like Grandin, but the book did give me some important insights.

If you're autistic, your fundamental problem is that you don't naturally understand how other people think and feel. Many women summarize this as "you
May 16, 2007 cathy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially those who want to learn how to write a case study.
Shelves: non-fiction-read
In An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks seamlessly weaves fascinating patient stories and lessons in neurology for the layperson. This may sound quite dry if you're not into reading about bizarre behavior from brain circuitry goes awry, but Sacks makes the science very palatable. He acts as our well-traveled tour guide as we explore the everyday lives and thinking processes of seven people who have made creative use of their cognitive hiccups.

Some of the patients featured in this collection o
Paul Bryant
Apr 21, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: voyeurs
Shelves: science
Confession time ! I must admit - friends, judge not lest ye be judged - that I boohooed my way through the last part of Awakenings The Movie, with all those frozen people coming back to life and catching tennis balls and (spoiler alerts) then living life to the FULL for one brief shining moment, and doing the hoochy coochy, which is the only dance they could remember from the 1920s which is when they all froze up, and then Mr De Niro doing the herky jerk dance which was one of his own invention, ...more
This is a fascinating book about seven people with very special, mental conditions. Oliver Sacks is a neurologist, and he spent a lot of time with each of these people in their homes and in their environments. As a result, Sacks can go into great detail about each of the seven, and explains their histories, their mental conditions, and how they cope with their situations. He tells their stories with wonderful insight, and with empathy. The most interesting aspect is how Sacks, like a detective, ...more
For some reason, the essays of Oliver Sacks don't rock my world. He's got the attention-grabbing title thing down pat, and each case study does have a kernel of interest. But generally, I'd be just as happy if each essay were cut by 50% - most chapters didn't really sustain my interest to the end.

Full disclosure: my faint generalized lack of enthusiasm for Dr S may stem from nothing more than guilt by association with Robin Williams. I have never denied being shallow.

If you're in the mood for fu
“He feels he has been given “a whole new world”, which the rest of us, distracted by color, are insensitive to. He no longer thinks of color, pines for it, grieves its loss. He has almost come to see his achromatopsia as a strange gift, one that has ushered him into a new state of sensibility and being.”

Oliver Sacks grabs my attention and holds it. He moves me and he keeps me enthralled in worlds of special personality and behavioural traits, where ambiguity of “communication”, “perception”,
Fascinating reading of seven case histories of people with neurological disorders including Temple Grandin who is autistic and the author of Emergence, Labeled Autistic which I read several years ago and loved.

The case of the colorblind painter and to see and not to see were very interesting to me. People who had long term blindness, upon having sight restored have no visual memories to support a perception of what they are seeing. They cannot understand size or distance. Someone living their w
I've been aware of the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks for many years, yet oddly I have just recently read one of his books.

This book is a collection of well written case studies of neurological disorder and creativity.

In one case study, an artist, after being in a car accident, obtained incredibly sharp vision--the artist said he could see a worm wriggling a block away--but could now only see in black and white.

Another artist, after having an feverish illness, became obsessed with painting his hometo
Caitlin Constantine
The theme of this book can be summed up in one single idea, about the plasticity of the human brain, and the way the deficit of disability can be turned into the benefit of compensation. Isn't that such a cool thought? What seems like a disability may ultimately end up a gift.

That's what this whole book is about. Sacks is a neurologist with a bit of Sherlock Holmes mixed in, and he finds himself drawn to some of the most inexplicable cases, like a painter who goes completely colorblind after a c
As someone who thinks a fair amount about memory, consciousness, intelligence, etc, I have developed a minor obsession with Oliver Sacks. "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" probably taught me more about the way our brains work than all of the psychology classes I took in school - if for no other reason than the fact that the neurology is always seen through Sacks' humanistic lens. "Anthropologist" is another collection of case studies - much longer than their counterparts in "Man", since t ...more
Apr 04, 2008 Cheng rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone.
This is a fascinating book for scientists and non-scientists alike. Dr. Sacks is a very interesting essayist and while he does use medical terms from time to time, he keeps it relatively simple most of the time, even when talking about complex processes of the brain. You will be so amazed at all the things we take for granted because our brain processes the information before we even realized what we perceive as reality has already been processed by our brains, but the patients in these 7 parado ...more
After a couple of Sacks’s books that were a little disappointing, this is one that I really enjoyed and was totally absorbed in. Perhaps because there are only a few (seven) stories, rather than the reams of case notes that Sacks normally uses to illustrate anything, and they are fleshed out enough so that you do actually care about the subjects. They are all obsessive in one way or another – an artist who only draws perfectly remembered scenes from his childhood village, a surgeon with Tourette ...more
This Oliver Sachs book depicts the lives of real people whose brains work differently from the norm. Rather than focusing on the limitations they face, Sachs highlights human adaptability to an alien reality. The story that really impressed me was the artist involved in a traffic accident that left him unable to see color. Rather than hampering him, he turned it into an advantage. Blacks, whites and grays became a new way of seeing and his work richer and more nuanced. These stories illustrate h ...more
Emily Brooks
An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks tells the stories of seven people with anomalies of the mind and body. This book separates the stories into the seven different tales and it goes through each of the stories in great detail. Sacks not only tells about the person's anomaly, but writes about his interactions with them and his own thoughts about the person's disability or disease.
I found this book to be very interesting. All of the weird and strange things that Sacks wrote about in his book
"як антрополог на Марсі" - так описала свою емоційну неспроможність зрозуміти інших неймовірна Темпл Грандінг (чи не найвідоміша особа з аутизмом Аспергера). її розповідь - тільки одна з семи інших (що ввійшли в книжку) історій людей, які живуть з неврологічними проблемами. І ці історії просто неймовірні. Для мене вони щось на кшталт філософських трактатів. Навіть більше, бо демонструють зворотний бік буття, змушують задуматися над кордонами між душею, тілом, соціальними конструктами. Ще раз зад ...more
Derek Davis
Sacks is engaging and deeply concerned about his subject/patients—autistic, Tourette's and brain-damaged in various ways—treating them all with immense humane consideration. He thinks long, hard and deeply about the problems of brain function and its lapses. He is also encyclopedic in his interests and reading. He seems to have devoured virtually every book ever written, and he brings them into his discussions not with personal pride or showiness, but because he thinks they are relevant and you ...more
C. McKenzie
Sacks explores disease or affliction as it encourages or requires adaptation and by extension, growth. Each case study (there are seven) in the book details the manner in which patients were transformed by what he calls, "neurological chance." The most interesting to me were the blind man who is given sight, but can't perceive the world around him using his eyes. The painter who suddenly becomes colorblind goes through a period of denial, then rejection of his life's work. Finally, he re imagine ...more
If I were to generalize about Oliver Sacks’s collection of essays entitled, An Anthropologist on Mars, I suppose I would say it confronts the astonishing range of human phenomena that are considered abnormal...but may not be.

Most people experience some form of obsessional thinking or compulsive behavior at some point in their lives; most people are inexplicably “good” at certain things and “bad” at others; most people have emotional blind spots and insensitivities; and most people think they see
If this book ended after the first five case studies, I would have given this four stars, but the last two studies really seemed to drag for me. Actually, I really enjoyed reading about Stephen Wiltshire, as well, and I wish Sacks had confined that study to just him. In fact, I highly recommend googling Stephen Wiltshire, and catching a glimpse of him and his work on the documentary tv show Extraordinary People. Sacks is good at describing Wiltshire's extraordinary talent, but not as good at ill ...more
Good riddance, I say. Unless forced against my will, I'll never read another book by this guy again.

You see, he had the nasty habbit of referring to his other books, but not saying a word about how they were really related or how they helped his argument. It seemed more to me that he was advertising his books and expected you either to have already read his other books or to run out and buy them to understand why it was important.

I ignored most of his footnotes after the first chapter. I found t
Sophia Diggs-galligan
This book is much like a lot of Oliver Sacks' work: it tells scintillating story that piques your interest, and has more than enough content. However, while it does reach more personal and philosophical feel at times, this always seems a bit contrived.

For the most part though, this book was plenty fascinating.

I especially enjoyed such chapters like "Prodigies", those dealing with autistic savants, because they really illustrate the idea of a deficit becoming a strength, you are blind, so your
In the story of the idiot savant artist Stephen Wiltshire, the author wrote this following line:
"... the whole visible world flowed through Stephen like a river, without making sense, without being appropriated, without becoming part of him in the least. That though he might retain everything he saw, in a sense, it was retained as something external, unintegrated, never built on, connected, revised, never influencing or influenced by anything else ... as in the random-access memory of a computer
While reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I felt as if Sacks wasn't spending enough time with each of his subjects; in this book I felt like he was spending too much time with each one. The details he gave of their lives were often not the details I wanted to know, and I found myself skimming through some of this. However, the people profiled have undeniably fascinating neurological conditions: an artist who suffers sudden-onset colorblindness; a man whose vision is restored after de ...more
Leandro Ribeiro
O que é maravilhoso em Oliver Sacks é que ele fala de pessoas. Sim, pessoas com "doenças", doenças neurológicas que, sem dúvida, passamos a conhecer com enorme profundidade e detalhe, mas sempre através da presença da doença numa pessoa. Nota-se que ele se apaixona pelos seus casos, não só por cada pessoa no caso, mas também pelas características do caso. Ou seja: apaixona-se pela pessoa com a doença, pela vida da pessoa, pela rotina da pessoa, pelo modo como os outros interagem com a pessoa, pe ...more
I've been slowly chipping away at this book over several months. The case studies here are fascinating. Therein lies my only teensy issue with the book - people are reduced to case studies. While Sacks' profiles are generally compassionate, there is a paternalistic element to his writing that I sometimes found icky. I very much want to read his other books, but I can't give five stars because his ego only left room for four.
This book is truly fascinating in its exploration of the human mind and how it deals with (and deals with the lack of) visual and cognitive perception and memory. The author delves into case studies of individuals with such conditions as Tourette's, autism, as well as various losses and/or impairments and how the brain re-wires and adapts itself in order to succeed in life. I like Oliver Sacks' ability to recognize the 'loss' in the impairment, but focus instead on what the individual GAINS from ...more
Every time I read Oliver Sacks, I'm struck by how his somewhat folksy tone, with a British sensibility, meshes with his technical/medical sensibility to create his very distinctive voice. Sacks wants us to realize that the neurologically-impaired amongst us have real crosses to bear and yet, often, live lives they themselves feel whole in. One of the people we meet in this book is a surgeon with Tourettes. Another is a painter who obsesses, through his art, over the village in Italy where he was ...more
This book is absolutely fascinating to me! Oliver Stack takes a look at some very intellectual material, but, because of his compassion, is able to help the average person grasp what it all means. He looks at different neurological disorder cases he's studied, such as a surgeon with tourrette's syndrome and discusses what that means to the person, his peers, or to us trying to relate to others like him. The general idea that stood out to me with this book is that our brains are amazing. When som ...more
-El caso del pintor ciego al color (acromatopsia)
-El último Hippie (síndrome del lóbulo frontal)
-Vida de un cirujano (síndrome de Tourette)
-Ver y no ver (recuperación de la visión tras 40 años de ceguera)
-El paisaje de sus sueños (la memoria y los recuerdos)
-Prodigios (idiots savants)
-Un antropólogo en Marte (autismo y síndrome de Aspergen) La historia de la máquina de "estrujar" es impresionante...

Muy interesantes todas las historias, Sacks es un gran "formador", explica muy bien los casos sin
Having just written the review for Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, you would think that I would have a similar critique for this text, but I don't. Though I often read to my students from this book, the stories in Anthropologist are of a much different quality and organization. Here there are common themes woven throughout the book that the reader can ponder: intelligence, communication/language, plasticity of the brain, disease, etc. This is an excellent book written by a brilliant neurolog ...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
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“Some people with Tourette's have flinging tics- sudden, seemingly motiveless urges or compulsions to throw objects..... (I see somewhat similar flinging behaviors- though not tics- in my two year old godson, now in a stage of primal antinomianism and anarchy)” 3 likes
“Cualquier enfermedad introduce una duplicidad en la vida: un "ello", con sus propias necesidades, exigencias y limitaciones.” 0 likes
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