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The River of Consciousness

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,217 ratings  ·  375 reviews
From the best-selling author of Gratitude, On the Move, and Musicophilia, a collection of essays that displays Oliver Sacks's passionate engagement with the most compelling and seminal ideas of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.

Oliver Sacks, a scientist and a storyteller, is beloved by readers for the extraordinary
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Magdelene Namaste, Brigita.

"The River of Consciousness" contains Dr. Sack's thoughts on many topics, ranging from Charles Darwin to the neurological aspects of…more
Namaste, Brigita.

"The River of Consciousness" contains Dr. Sack's thoughts on many topics, ranging from Charles Darwin to the neurological aspects of time, creativity and memory. For those unfamiliar with these subjects, he describes them in a conversational way with relatable antidotes while revealing facts that aren't common knowledge. Charles Darwin, for example, is told through the lens of his botany work rather than "The Origins of Species." You come to understand complex neurological disorders such as Parkinson's through time perception instead of diagnosis. He also speaks about Sigmund Freud as a career neurologist outside of perimeters of psychology. It's rather like walking in a garden with a grandfather and listening to him tell marvelous stories.(less)

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Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, audiobook
Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and a great author. He wrote a number of memorable books about psychology, psychiatry and neurology. He is most famous for his books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales and An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales. These books try to use very unusual minds and psychological conditions to understand better how the brain works. But it is not fair to focus on just these books; he was a Renaissance man, and he wrote a wide ...more
This might be described as an Oliver Sacks primer. I’ve enjoyed it. Dr. Sacks was known for his fondness for the footnote, which is little in evidence here. So this might be a very good place to start for those new to his work. Moreover, it has a little taste of a number of his books, among them: Migraine, A Leg to Stand On, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist On Mars, The Island of the Colorblind, Hallucinations, and Awakenings, his fascinating magnum opus in which the ...more
Mason Neil
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have found that as I've read books written later in Sacks' life, his tone shifts from a focus on specific details to a more abstract and comprehensive overview that delves more into the meanings of his life's observations. The River of Consciousness was, for me, an excellent culmination of that change in tone and focus. Sacks writes about all areas of science with such grace and art that you can't help but be completely consumed. There were moments in The River of Consciousness, especially ...more
Paul Ataua
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it

A fairly mixed bag of variable quality. Essays on Darwin, Time, Freud, and more. All were beautifully written and superficially interesting, but never really inspiring and rarely thought provoking. I read an essay, stopped momentarily, and then moved onto the next one. Yes, I did enjoy reading it, but I also sensed a lack of depth or coherence I didn’t associate with Sacks.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A short collection of previously published essays that make us feel the loss of a person like Oliver Sacks very keenly. He loved science and scientific advances in all fields, not just his chosen profession of neuroscience. The collection is a bit too eclectic to be was wonderful as something like The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. The essays on Darwin aren’t that interesting but for the essays that focus more particularly on neuroscience and the brain, especially “Scotoma: Forgetting and ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Not his most cohesive or engaging book, but still worth the read.
I like Oliver Sacks for how he describes the world and how he analyses every little fact. I love how he finds "marvelous" from defective beings: be that a man or a theory or a phenomena. However, I cannot reconcile with his interest in psychoanalysis, and specifically Freud. Though I gather that he liked his methods because Freud was more of descriptive kind of guy, Sacks forgets how Freud just ignores systematic findings, scientific methods and oppositional evidence. If you do that, you will ...more
Anuradha Gandhy
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
"I rejoice in the knowledge of my biological uniqueness and my biological antiquity and my biological kinship with all other forms of life. This knowledge roots me, allows me to feel at home in the natural world, to feel that I have my own sense of biological meaning, whatever my role in the cultural, human world." -- from "Darwin and the Meaning of Flowers."

The River of Consciousness, the last book Oliver Sacks compiled before his death contains essays on Conciousness ,Darwin, Time, Freud and
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The River of Consciousness, the last book Oliver Sacks compiled before his death, is classic Oliver Sacks. He tells swimmingly-good stories, often eventually examining neurological phenomena, but weaving together widely-disparate data to tell his story. In his essay Speed, for example, Sacks talked about plant growth, photography, a horse's gallop, changes in time perception with age, the apparent compression and expansion of time under various conditions, myoclonic jerks, etc. He referred to ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: posseduto
Some of the most famous scientists explained by one of them. Darwin,Freud, James and Poincaré told by Sacks and some other informations about Edelmann and consciousness in the chapter that gives the title to the book. Prof. Sacks you are deeply missed.

Alcuni degli scienziati piú famosi e delle loro scoperte, raccontati da uno di loro. Darwin, Freud, James e Poincaré piú alcune ulteriori informazioni su Edelmann e la coscienza nel capitolo che da il titolo al libro. Prof. Sacks quanto ci manchi!

Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This man has such a wonderful way of describing the ways of the Mind and body.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly interesting, multifaceted essay collection. Sacks's magpie mind is well-represented here, a series of essays that discuss more than their subject matter without ever getting too arcane. Fascinating to read about Freud's evolution from neurology to psychotherapy, or the nature of visual consciousness, or to consider what Sacks calls "Scotoma"—dark spots in the field of vision—in scientific knowledge. And underneath all of those explorations, a deep joy in the possibilities of creation, ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oliver Sacks is the most approachable genius one could encounter while studying the human brain and its behaviors. This book is sublime.
Marcus Hobson
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is yet another marvellous book to add the the shelf of other titles from the late Dr Oliver Sachs.
The Forward tells of a television documentary called "A Glorious Accident" which gathered together a biologist, a physicist, a palaeontologist, a historian of science, a philosopher and Dr Sachs. What shone through was Sachs' ability to move fluidly between all of the disciplines represented. That is where this book sits, moving easily between sciences and the traits of the human brain. We
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another fascinating study of human consciousness. Sacks describes sentience in lower order animals and in plants. He studies illnesses such as Tourettes and Parkinsons. He leads the reader on a journey of the history of scientific ideas and educates us through story telling.
Ginger Bensman
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, science
10 essays--science, philosophy, pondering the depths and whys and whats of who we are and how we happen to be aware (and what exactly is awareness!), and all with such lucid humility and kindness. Now that I have discovered Oliver Sacks I'm on a mission to read everything he has ever written.
Helga Cohen
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the final book written by Oliver Sacks and it was published after his August 2015 death by cancer. It was written as a catalyst from a documentary he was in which included 6 scientists in 1993. The issues investigated were the origin of life, the meaning of evolution and the nature of consciousness. All disciplines from all sciences were investigated. This book explored all sciences including Darwin and evolution, botany and psychology. Sacks had a familiarity with literature, medicine ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading Oliver Sacks makes me glad to be alive. Sometimes I look at the title and know I am going to love whatever he's writing about, and of course I do. But I'll look at some essay and think, 'oh dear, this one is bound to be dull,' only to find that it is exactly the opposite -- it opens worlds of thought than I had no idea existed before. Sad to think this was his last book, but I've not read many of his earlier ones, so there's still plenty to look forward to!
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s always a pleasure to read something by Oliver Sacks, and this is no exception. A collection of essays rather than a book on one subject, it had much that was thought provoking.
Colleen Edwards
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mind bending!!
Zarina Marsaleh
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oliver Sacks’s books normally consists of case studies but The River of Consciousness is a collection of essays of his thoughts on different topics of his interests - evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience and arts - and making connections between them and his own personal experiences.

It is a pleasure to read references to literatures from the late 19th century that Sacks made. This is because he finds them tend to be much fuller, more vivid and much richer in description than
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lovely, marvelous science writing by one of the very best. Beautiful essays, most about consciousness-related things, but not a single-topic book by any means. What a great writer.
Sarah Flynn
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Like everything from Oliver Sacks, this is a brilliantly thought out, gently argued, brightly insightful book. It’s deep and dense, so it takes a while and some concentration. But the delightful variety of ideas, viewpoints, and insights keeps the book flowing. Brilliant, late-career, attentive musings on the nature of consciousness.
Feisty Harriet
Dec 06, 2018 rated it liked it
A collection of essays that are loosely related to Sacks' work, but cover a wide variety of topics. I'm glad I had a solid background in (armchair) neuroscience, evolution, and psychology because it really helped deepen my understanding of what Sacks discusses in this book. 3.5 stars.
Oliver Sacks once again provides an absorbing look at a wide range of subjects in nature and human behavior. He can seamlessly move between considerations of how aging, disease and drugs influence our perception of time, whether plants can be sentient, how our memories are reconstituted each time we bring them to consciousness, the relationship between mimicry and creativity, the biological basis of feeling ill, and the nature of consciousness. He also discusses the less known research of Darwin ...more
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oliver Sacks remains, even post-mortem, one of the most brilliant essayists and thinkers writing in English. The River of Consciousness is a volume of pieces published in the New York Review of Books and selected by Sacks for inclusion here only a few days before his death. His editorial team and designees have done a wonderful job arranging these meditations on speed, consciousness, the intricacies of the brain, Darwin, and the sentience of plants.

Each piece has a thematic unity that is
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first saw this book on the new releases table at the book store, I was skeptical. Is the estate of Oliver Sacks simply trying to milk all they can from a great mind now departed, I wondered. How can a book published from scraps be any good? I decided against getting it as a Christmas present for someone because of this, but when I saw it at the library, available thanks to a program here in Seattle to keep new releases in stock, I couldn't help but to check it out. I'm glad I did.

Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
3.5 stars. I listened to the audio version of this book of essays. Oliver Sacks was a genius, to be sure, but some of these essays, written shortly before his death at 81, focused on scientific genres that were not of huge interest to me (even chemistry came into play!) I did enjoy the parts that focused on neurology, psychology, and medicine. I have always remembered the movie "Awakenings", which is based on his book of the same name, but this is the first of his books I have actually read (or, ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oliver Sacks was a treasure, both to his patients as a neurologist and to the broader public as a writer. He completed the outline for this book just weeks before his death in 2015. It brings together a wide range of his essays. I especially liked "The Fallibility of Memory," "The Creative Self," and "The River of Consciousness," because they are philosophical in nature and touch on topics that interest me deeply. How could a writer like myself not be drawn to an essay that contains the sentence ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Katherine, Paul and everyone else
Shelves: 5-star-books
Magnificent and magical. Sacks' ability to convey medical and scientific information to lay people was always among the best, and this series of essays is a source of both enlightenment and intrigue. I recommend his piece on the fallibility of memory to everyone, young and old - for me, it explains why I have such vivid memories of events from my childhood that my sister and our old friends assure me did not occur (as well as verifying my understanding of the fallibility of eyewitness ...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
“Why is it that of every hundred gifted young musicians who study at Juilliard or every hundred brilliant young scientists who go to work in major labs under illustrious mentors, only a handful will write memorable musical compositions or make scientific discoveries of major importance? Are the majority, despite their gifts, lacking in some further creative spark? Are they missing characteristics other than creativity that may be essential for creative achievement—such as boldness, confidence, independence of mind? It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all. Creativity involves not only years of conscious preparation and training but unconscious preparation as well. This incubation period is essential to allow the subconscious assimilation and incorporation of one’s influences and sources, to reorganize and synthesize them into something of one’s own. In Wagner’s overture to Rienzi, one can almost trace this emergence. There are echoes, imitations, paraphrases, pastiches of Rossini, Meyerbeer, Schumann, and others—all the musical influences of his apprenticeship. And then, suddenly, astoundingly, one hears Wagner’s own voice: powerful, extraordinary (though, to my mind, horrible), a voice of genius, without precedent or antecedent. The essential element in these realms of retaining and appropriating versus assimilating and incorporating is one of depth, of meaning, of active and personal involvement.” 3 likes
“It is often felt that Darwin, more than anyone, banished “meaning” from the world—in the sense of any overall divine meaning or purpose. There is indeed no design, no plan, no blueprint in Darwin’s world; natural selection has no direction or aim, nor any goal to which it strives. Darwinism, it is often said, spelled the end of teleological thinking.” 3 likes
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