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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  17,909 ratings  ·  1,412 reviews
Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny,
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Knopf
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,909 ratings  ·  1,412 reviews

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Always Pouting
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Oliver Sacks book, my last for a while. I definitely enjoyed this much more than The Mind's Eye though. Probably because hallucinations are much more fascinating to think about. I think the book did a good job going over hallucinatory experiences and I definitely learned a lot that I didn't know before. I even enjoyed hearing about Sack's personal experiences this time because he didn't give as much unnecessary detail and it was cool to know that someone so successful has his own struggl ...more
Hallucinations come in more varieties than you can possibly imagine - and Sacks details them all, exhaustively so, whether they are visual, tactile, audio or more rarely of smell and a combination of any of them. He details the causes whether it is an organic brain problem, temporary or permanent, or a more generalised reaction (dehydration and exhaustion), unwanted or deliberate - drugs. Almost more than you might want to know.

The "best" sort of hallucinations, are those that feel absolutely re
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, psychology
I enjoyed this one, but I’m not going to review this book in any depth, really. It was all very interesting in its journey through both delusional and drug induced hallucinations – but what I found most interesting in this book, and the bit that I will remember in six months time, is the stuff about indigo.

I need to start by saying I’m insanely dull, fairly close to the least interesting person I know. Unlike President Clinton, I have inhaled the smoke of the marijuana plant, but I found it anyt
Parker F
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I think that my decision to pursue neuroscience, and eventually get my PhD, was partly inspired from reading Oliver Sacks's "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" just before starting college. The strange things that happen to people with brain dysfunction reveal more about the nature of reality than all the great works of philosophy. In addition to the significance of Sacks's books to my academic choices, I was particularly excited about reading this book because since childh ...more
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have completed the entire Sacks's oeuvre, with the single exception of Seeing Voices. Oliver Sacks has been one of those life altering writers for me. He has changed the way I see the world. The great revelation with this volume for me was just how commonplace hallucinations are. There are myriad reasons why the brain might produce them: sensory deprivation, disease, drugs, etc.—many of them surprisingly benign. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Also see Will Self's review at: http://www.gua
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two weird things happened while I was reading this book. I had been having some bad insomnia, so I took a little something-something to help get to sleep. Before it kicked in I was reading this book, and it looked like the background of my Kindle Paperwhite had clouds floating around behind the text. Conversation with my husband:

Me:"There's clouds floating around the background of my Kindle."
Husband:"Sounds kind of pretty."
Me:"I guess."
Me:"But I'm trying to read."

The second weird thing is that I
Hallucinations was just not up to snuff for Oliver Sacks — actually, it made me question just how much I would like Sacks' work were I to read it today, having been exposed to a breadth of narrative science writing in the years since I first read his essays.

Sacks presents hallucinations (forms of consciousness wherein sensations occur autonomously, sometimes overlapping with misperceptions or illusions, but without consensual validation) through case studies, seasoning each one w
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Helen (Helena/Nell) by: Jamie and Gillian Rose
I gave this four stars at first because I think it's true that it's not written with quite the verve of some of Sacks' earlier books. But then I added a fifth because -- dammit -- I really did enjoy it. It did for me precisely what he's so good at -- leaving me thinking for hours about some of the case studies, the experiences and the far bigger points they raise about life and consciousness.

Somewhere in it (and it is now enormously annoying to me that I can't find the quotation) he talks about
Connie G
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
8-30-15 Rest in Peace, Oliver Sacks.

The neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a compassionate book about hallucinations, full of individual patients' stories as well as his own experiences. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation were especially interesting. Blindness, hearing problems, solitary confinement, sailors staring at an endless calm sea, and sensory deprivation tanks can all lead to hallucinations because "the brain needs not only perceptual input but perceptual change." In additio
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
One sentence review: Sacks gives a survey of the neurology of hallucinations - visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile - sharing his years of clinical experience, and many of his own experiences with hallucinatory states.

I've read several of Sacks' books, and this one (from 2012) may be my favorite of them all. All of his books are inherently interesting as he explores the human brain, but this one also had more structure than some of his earlier works.
It included many anecdotes like his other
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pop-science
Ever get stuck talking about the fairly pedestrian dreams of a random stranger, ad nauseum? Yeah, that's this book.

I've read several of Sacks' other books, which are usually good for both giving insight into how our minds work as well as scratching a certain voyeuristic itch. I'm not entirely sure why this book fails at both--perhaps because we don't really understand enough about why we hallucinate. (Or perhaps the answer of "neurons fire when they shouldn't have" is just too simple and not all
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

I have on my desk a drawing by Oliver Sacks of two octopi. He made it in my kitchen in the mid-90s in Germany to prevail in a discussion with my then ten-year-old son about the disposition of optical nerves in octopi. This tells you a lot about Oliver Sacks and Nick. I would suppose Sacks was right, but Nick wasn't having it. He'd looked into the question and Nick could see Oliver, as he called him, was all wrong, or at least part of him was wrong. Neither would give in. They stayed at it all th
"An hallucination is a strictly sensational form of consciousness, as good and true a sensation as if there were a real object there. The object happens to be not there, that is all."

- Wiliam James

People hallucinate for a lot of different reasons, and neurologist Oliver Sacks explores a number of them in this book. Hallucinations can signify a neurological condition (Parkinson's, migraine, epilepsy, narcolepsy), fill an absence (blindness, deafness, intentional sensory deprivation), or be broug
David Schaafsma
I prefer it when Dr Sacks focuses more closely on one or three people and tells their stories in depth, but this is a fine and entertaining collection of anecdotes in a kind of catalogue of non-schizophrenic hallucinogenic experiences, including his own sometimes drug-induced experiences in the sixties.

The feeling you get as you read this book is that the brain is not a very precise instrument for perception, and that auditory, visual and other sensory hallucinations are less commonly to be ass
David Katzman
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those who enjoy reading medical science
Updated: I accidentally deleted this review, so re-posting. I must've been Hallucinating.

Herm, well. Disappointing. It was just so...clinical. I guess, what did I expect? Apparently, neuroscientists have figured out that hallucinations are triggered by parts of the brain being over or under stimulated. Thanks for that.

The most interesting tidbit to me within the book is that there is a scientist named Dominic ffytche (yes, lower case). It kind of freaked me out every time I read his name. Domini
Dov Zeller
I love Oliver Sacks (I know I am not alone in his sentiment). He represents to me the coming together of western medicine and compassion, humane curiosity, intelligence, insight (things I don't tend to associate with western allopathic medicine). He has become such a beloved cultural and medical figure and it is only now that I am listening to his memoir "On The Move" that I understand how hard he worked and the enormity of the challenges and setbacks he faced before he became a public figure.

Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was an absolutely incredible read! Oliver Sacks has quickly become one of my favorite science literature authors. Neuroscience can be a really difficult and a dry subject to read about. But not this book. Oliver Sacks explores hallucinations in all its forms, those mediated by - vision degeneration, neurodegenerative disorders, drugs, genetic/birth defects in brain, and trauma. He talks of his personal experiments with drugs to experience and document his hallucinations; which is frank ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: medicine, psychology
This book is a comprehensive review of all types of hallucinations. It is packed with case histories of people with a relatively common condition called the Charles Bonnet Syndrome, as well as hallucinations induced by Parkinson's, migraines, deliriums, narcolepsy, sensory deprivation, and hauntings. The multitude of descriptions of hallucinations gives the reader the idea that hallucinations are not all that rare--and this might be true. It is clear that hallucinations are under-reported, becau ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Sadly, I actually didn't enjoy this book very much. I love Oliver Sacks, and have read everything that he has ever written. Seeing Voices is one of my favorite books. However, his last three books -- Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, The Mind's Eye and now Hallucinations -- I have not enjoyed as much.

This book seemed like a list of descriptions of case studies illustrating the varying causes of hallucinations. A few of the descriptions were quite interesting, notably those of sleep par
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Okay, first and foremost I need to acknowledge that I can understand why not everyone would love this book. It’s not an Everyone Book, but it’s totally an Annie book.

Now, look. If there’s a cause of hallucination, it’s happened to me. Let me explain.

1) I have temporal lobe epilepsy, and have hallucinated mildly during auras prior to seizures.

2) I have hallucinated as a reaction to delirium (bad reaction to prescription drug).

3) I have hallucinated as a result of serious sleep deprivation.

4) Lik
Kressel Housman
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Between The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, Robin Williams’ portrayal in “Awakenings,” and several NPR interviews, I’ve really come to admire Dr. Oliver Sacks, even though this is only the second book of his I’ve ever read. He writes with such love and respect about his patients, it’s impossible not to love and respect him in return. Accomplished a doctor as he is, he is never condescending. He portrays his patients as people, not quirky specimens.

He’s also open and
UPDATE - 10-Feb-13: There's an essay in the Feb. 21, 2013 issue of the NYRB by Sacks. The telling paragraph is this:

There mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth...of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true...depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a hig
Steven Meyers
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An eighty-four-year-old relative was very recently having a weeks-long hallucination in which she was seeing the devil standing in front of her. She was convinced that it meant she was going to Hell. The elderly Catholic had also loss her appetite and was barely sleeping. My wife and I, who live in another city and had long ago abandoned Christianity for a reality-based lifestyle, understood she was having a hallucination but did not know how severe it was. To complicate matters, our immediate f ...more
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hallucinations is a fascinating look at how people perceive things that aren't there. Auditory, visual, and tactile; with and without emotional significance; with and without the insight that the perception doesn't conform to objective reality. Sacks examines hallucinations caused by sensory deficits such as blindness; brain misfirings as in epilepsy and migraines; illness; trauma; therapeutic and recreational drugs; and more. He includes common experiences like sleep paralysis as well as percep ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was so insightful.

Ironically, a lot of us may have experienced a certain type of hallucination and didn’t even know it. In this book, Oliver Sacks speaks about some of the many hallucinations there are. For many, when you think of hallucinations you think of seeing things that aren’t actually there. Nonetheless, the book discusses how it’s more to it than that. It could also signify that you touch and even smell things that aren’t there.

I admired most, Oliver Sacks honesty in this book
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Incisive and compassionate, as is usual with Sacks. He explains that hallucinations are underreported because most people (and many doctors) believe that any type of hallucination means you're crazy.

Cool words I learned while reading this:

the prisoner's cinema: a terrifying or entertaining hallucinated light show experienced by people confined in dark cells

Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS): complex visual hallucinations by people who are blind or who have low vision

cataplexy: a sudden and temporary
Nov 15, 2012 rated it liked it
It's not you, it's me. Once I got halfway through the book, it was obvious that I was not as interested in the subject matter as that pretty cover had me believing. Additionally, this volume seemed to be quite heavy on the "what" and rather light on the "why."
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
One of the most interesting neuroscience books I have read. All of Sacks' book are great, but this is better than most. I would classify this book as a natural history of hallucinations.
Elizabeth Theiss
Jan 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, neuroscience
When I close my eyes at night, especially after a stressful day, I have always seen a small ball of tightly packed spheres of mixed jewel-like colors. The ball spins constantly until it breaks apart into sprays of very tiny, brightly colored spheres. As a child, I was surprised to learn that not everyone sees this "show" at night. Too bad because it is very relaxing. Oliver Sachs's new book taught me that what I see is a hallucination. This was news to me and worth the price of the book.

Sachs' n
Diane S ☔
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
All the ways people can experience hallucinations. One of the most interesting cases was for me the first one. a blind woman who was experiencing hallucinations, but turned out to actually have a disease that caused this. Also the history behind the various facets of this phenomena. A little to dry and to many facts and figures. Tended to skip around a bit but some it was very interesting so I am glad I read this.
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Reviews of Hallucinations, September's Read 1 8 Sep 03, 2017 07:41PM  
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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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“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see overall patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or at least the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology or in states of mind which allow us to travel to other worlds, to transcend our immediate surroundings. We need detachment of this sort as much as we need engagement in our lives.” 19 likes
“This usually occurs at the moment when my head hits the pillow at night; my eyes close and … I see imagery. I do not mean pictures; more usually they are patterns or textures, such as repeated shapes, or shadows of shapes, or an item from an image, such as grass from a landscape or wood grain, wavelets or raindrops … transformed in the most extraordinary ways at a great speed. Shapes are replicated, multiplied, reversed in negative, etc. Color is added, tinted, subtracted. Textures are the most fascinating; grass becomes fur becomes hair follicles becomes waving, dancing lines of light, and a hundred other variations and all the subtle gradients between them that my words are too coarse to describe.” 7 likes
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