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The River of Consciousness

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,306 ratings  ·  492 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 neurolog
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Knopf (first published October 2017)
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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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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 each 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 footnot ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, psychology
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
Mason Neil
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 tow ...more
Paul Ataua

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.
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a really interesting primer on Oliver Sacks, published after his death, I can't recommend this book enough. It's short, lucid, and full of interesting tidbits that explore the neurophysiological foundations of consciousness, from Darwin to Freud to regular philosophy. But it doesn't end there, moving into Sacks' own major field of study.

When it comes to problems of perception and physical problems that lead to the breakdown into altered states of consciousness, Sacks shines. He always humani
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 N ...more
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 en ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not his most cohesive or engaging book, but still worth the read.
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 Wi ...more
This is a collection of essays on various topics that was compiled and published after Sacks' death. As such, there isn't much of an overarching theme across the pieces, and the ones I enjoyed mostly retold or reframed stories from his previous books - particularly The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, Musicophilia, Hallucinations, and A Leg To Stand On. If you haven't read those, I'd recommend them over this one. Still, Sacks was an incredibly thoughtful and wi ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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, e ...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!

Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oliver Sacks is the most approachable genius one could encounter while studying the human brain and its behaviors. This book is sublime.
This man has such a wonderful way of describing the ways of the Mind and body.
Andreea Toader
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read in my opinion!
Nyamka Ganni
I fear this was not his best. I still enjoyed it. He's like that annoying friend who knows everything and talks non-stop. You can't help but to listen to him talking and enjoy 😂. ...more
Bianca A.
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Wow! What a book! It took me a long time to finish from the moment I bought it in some random airport on my way to or from my cruise ship, until now. A big part of this was due to my slow reading habits, which turned out to be just a skill I managed to improve over a short period of time, which lead to finishing this book within the last week. As a result I'd like to state that I don't consider this a light read, as it's so full of information and amazing references. I discovered Oliver Sacks ra ...more
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 cons
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat philosophical musings on neurological touchstones in history, largely pulling together works first published elsewhere.
Helga Cohen
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 s ...more
Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Though this is Sacks final work, it seems like a decent place to start, as it is mainly a short, high level overview of what we would consider consciousness and the workings of the brain related to it. He works up from the earliest topics of Darwin's initial impressions that led to understanding evolution, then the understanding of sentience differentiating humans from animals, and finally on memory contributing to who we are. There is a wonderful framing to all of this that historically a lot o ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sairam Krishnan
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, essential collection of Sacks' essays. So good I'll have to come back to them not because I need to, but because I want to.

Highly recommended, especially if you haven't read him before. I read it on the Kindle, but I'll probably get a physical copy so I can take scribble notes to myself. There were a lot of times I needed to.

Highly recommended.
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.
Linda Petrini
Oliver was an amazing writer, this book is the perfect mix between a review of the most interesting research on consciousness in the past couple centuries and anecdotes and examples coming from the author's experience as a neurologist. ...more
Matt Knepper
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-book-shop
Sacks has an ability to provide his readers a deeper understanding and new things to consider. This is a collection of essays on a range of topics that interested him. His knack for connecting ideas is on full display here. Each essay links to the previous one, showcasing some of the greatest leaps in human history. A true joy for anyone who appreciates his talents.
Colleen Edwards
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mind bending!!
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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