Cindy's Reviews > The Mind's Eye

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 18, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, brainzz, own, ebook, 2010-best-reads
Read from November 09 to 15, 2010

Mind's Eye is classic Sacks. It's a collection of essays with a focus on case studies. This time they were loosely based around the theme of the Mind's Eye - or how our perceptions of the world translate to imagery in the mind. As usual, he looks at people who have some sort of injury, illness or deficit to tell us about the normal functioning processes.

Sacks has never shied away from including his own illnesses and problems in his books. (To wit: A Leg to Stand On and Migraine.) This time felt brutally personal as he shared both his life-long problem with prosopagnosia (face blindness), and his recent battle with a melanoma tumor on his retina. The latter altered then robbed him of his sight, and we see the normally upbeat the resilient doctor become alarmed, depressed, anxious and doubting. His Melanoma Diary is included verbatim, describing his thoughts as his vision changed day-to-day through the cancer treatments.

The last chapter, which was also titled "Mind's Eye", is very detailed, filled with citations, and had more of a scholarly and philosophical tone than the other case-study/memoir chapters. However, it really brought together the deeper themes in the book: the difference between perception and mental imagery. I suspect this chapter has been published elsewhere before inclusion in the book.

One of the best things I took away from the book is the difference between people who are strong visual imagers and people who do a more abstract type of mental imagery. In that last chapter, he discusses quite a few cases of blind people who have either maintained a very strong sense of visual imagery despite their deficits. He contrasts those with cases where the blind person has completely shifted their mental imagery towards aural, texture, and more abstract imagery. (It turns out Sacks admits he has almost no capabilities to pull up mental visual images, and he attributes some of this to his prosopagnosia.)

It took me a long time to think about the differences, but I think there are strong parallels with my fellow physicists. At work, I have always been a very strong visual, "graph it" person -- I think best about a physical relationship or concept if I can imagine the graph or other physical representation. My husband, at the other extreme, likes to think much more abstractly in equations, and rarely graphs things in his head. As I've chatted with other folks over the years, physicists tend to fall into one or the other category - and I think this is what Sacks is talking about in the last chapter.
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Mind's Eye.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

11/15/2010 page 356

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Julie Can't wait to see what you think of it

Cindy I'm about 25% in, and it's awesome. Very classic Sacks.

This is a nice chaser after my last book, which bombed with me.

back to top