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The Mind's Eye [Paperback]

Oliver Sacks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

2 Sep 2011

‘Oliver Sacks is a perfect antidote to the anaesthetic of familiarity. His writing turns brains and minds transparent’ Observer

How does the brain perceive and interpret information from the eye?

And what happens when the process is disrupted?

In The Mind’s Eye, Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, the sense of sight. For all of these people, the challenge is to adapt to a radically new way of being in the world – and The Mind’s Eye is testament to the myriad ways that we, as humans, are capable of rising to this challenge.

The Mind's Eye is about the possibility of recovery and the inexorable decline of the ageing individual. From this collision of incompatible truths, tragedy is made . . . making this Sacks's most powerful book to date’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Packed with wisdom, humour, extraordinary human stories and reflections on how we all perceive the world . . . He ends with a brilliant discussion of blindness and the ways in which blind people develop visual concepts. Heartily recommended’ Reader’s Digest

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (2 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330508903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330508902
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford, California and New York. He now lives in America and practices neurology in New York, where he is also a professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is the author of ten books, including the bestselling The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings. His most recent book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain was an international bestseller. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Hawthornden Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Product Description


'Alongside a selection of neurological cases, Sacks turns the light on himself to reveal the complex interplay between seeing and thinking'
--Daily Telegraph Review magazine

'Alongside a selection of neurological cases, Sacks turns the light on himself to reveal the complex interplay between seeing and thinking' --Daily Telegraph Review

'Sacks is commendably accessible as always, no matter how tricky the science, and as ever he looks for the hope in neurological situations, for the signs that might mean recovery. His fascination with the brain and what it does is truly infectious' --The Glasgow Herald

'Offering hope and wisdom it illustrates how vital sight is to our perception of the world' --Daily Express

'All these essays highlight the fragility of the fine neurological threads that tether people to their sense of self: the sudden collapse of esteemed physician into terrified patient brings home the point with precision'
--Guardian Saturday Review

`In measured prose with a blessed lack of jargon, Sacks explores the ingenuity with which individuals cope with bizarre neurological conditions...humane, empathic, he is the doctor you would want.' --The Independent

About the Author

Oliver Sacks is a physician and the author of many books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film) and Musicophilia. Born in London and educated at Oxford, he now lives in New York City, where he is Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is the first, and only, Columbia University Artist, and is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 2008, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is a collection of essays which illustrate how the human mind perceives and interprets information from the visual world. Like most of Oliver Sacks' other publications it is aimed at an audience who are familiar with (or can tolerate) a reasonable amount of medical and scientific data which is interwoven in a skillful fashion alongside the individual case studies.
The result is a publication that's brimming with insights about how the mind recognises faces, words, pictures and such and translates them into concepts which we can then act upon. But these are quite long and detailed chapters -- there are seven in a book of 200 pages -- written fluidly but in an old-fashioned style, with plenty of footnotes and references. So 'The Mind's Eye' isn't the kind of modern popular science book which you can dip into, or flick through. It's also a little hard-going to read at one sitting, especially as some of the information is repeated in different essays and the footnotes can be cumbersome (they disrupt the flow of reading for me).
Reading each chapter and then pausing to digest it meant that I got an enormous amount from this book, both in terms of understanding specific neurological conditions (such as the inability to recognise faces, or words) and across a broader scope. There's a fascinating review of how we take 3D, stereo vision for granted, and all kinds of odd tangental deviations from the core subject which illuminate peripheral scientific subjects. For instance, Sacks explains a useful theory about how writing developed in a brain which has no evolutionary need for it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who sees with equal eye...? 2 Nov 2010
By Sir Barnabas VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this volume Sacks use studies from his own case file, including his own experiences with prosopagnosia (face-blindness) and his treatment for retinal melanoma, to show how we experience and interpret the visual world.

The case histories include a concert pianist who found that she could no longer music, a novelist who lost the ability to read, a woman who had spent most of her life with no stereo vision (an issue that Sacks himself would encounter during his treatment)and a woman left unable to speak or comprehend language (aphasia) after a stroke. Although all these cases have had major consequences for their sufferers what is remarkable about them is how they have managed to adapt to them and re-build their lives around their conditions.

Sacks writes with his usual erudition and humanity and it is particularly touching to read the frankness with which he describes his own visual frailties and his struggle to come to terms with them. Why only 3 stars? Well, while I am normally a fan of Sacks' work, I really struggled to get into this book. I'm not really sure why this should be - it just lacks a certain je ne sais quoi and never really drew me in.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. S. D. Mcginty VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a distinct memory of an article by Sacks that I read in the New Yorker a few years ago - one from his Musicophelia collection. I was impressed by the very lucid and yet evocative tone of his writing. My overwhelming impression, which is confirmed on reading The Mind's Eye, was that Sacks's main preoccupation was in trying to effectively communicate the experience of living in a world which is consistently mediated and distorted by a wayward mind. The science comes second; what is most interesting here is the attempt to hammer home the subjectivity of our everyday realities and the very frailness of our sensual understanding of the universe.

The Mind's Eye is best read as a series of discrete articles on a theme; anyone looking for a specific unifying arc for these case studies will be disappointed. Insights gained in one case rarely directly inform another, but on the other hand each story passed through here shows another way in which a life can be fundamentally altered by a chance impairment. Most curious for me is the musician who loses, first, her ability to sight read, and then gradually the capacity distinguish visually between concrete objects, to the extent that she can't tell a window from a wall - and beyond even that. She can distinguish between fruits by squeezing them, but when presented with them has no idea what she is looking at - even though her eyes themselves are functioning perfectly well. More and more is lost, more and more astonishingly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A more personal view 14 Aug 2011
Dr Oliver Sacks has an ability to bring medicine and science alive via a focus on individual case studies. Through his patients, including self-analysis during his own ill-health, he challenges the reader to think about how the body works and ultimately how its malfunction throws light on what it means to be human.

This particular book deals with a series of visual disturbances such as an inability to recognize faces or to read music or words. Dr Sacks has an evident empathy with his patients so that one never loses the connection between the person and the technical conditions under discussion. The resourcefulness of the people is also uplifting. Relating his own experience of sight loss and his struggle with remembering a face further draws the reader in to share the experiences described.

I didn't find this book to be one of the best the author has produced. One complaint is the disproportionate emphasis on the author's own struggle with visual impairment, albeit perhaps understandable. A number of the patients also seem to have gone on to produce books on their own individual experiences, which made me wonder how much original material is presented. Nevertheless, if you have an interest in the world of vision and its various forms of failure as well as how adaptable people can be in overcoming these challenges then you will certainly enjoy this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacks' books are always fascinating
Oliver Sacks' books are always fascinating and absorbing - if you see his name on the cover and want something to read on your journey, or sitting out in the sun in a local park,... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Mr. P. Noakes
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Cerebral phenomena'
In this book, Sacks explores 'the unexplored territory of the brain.' Following case studies, we encounter people who suddenly lost the ability to read (but not to write). Read more
Published 1 month ago by sally tarbox
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic writing!
Oliver Sacks has built his reputation on making the workings of human behaviour and the mind accessible to non-specialists. The Mind's Eye is a treat. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Benjamin J. Whitehouse
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
great book, very fast delivery, condition as described - brand new.
will highly recommend both the seller and the book itself - Dr Sacks' world is incredible and all the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Miss D. Najdenowa
5.0 out of 5 stars Oliver Sacks triumphs again
Oliver Sacks's books are a great read for the non-specialist who is nevertheless interest in psychological and psychiatric exploration and explanation.
Published 14 months ago by Tough Chops
3.0 out of 5 stars More case notes from Sacks
Oliver Sacks, now nearly 80 is the respected neurologist behind the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and the well known book and film Awakenings. Read more
Published 15 months ago by R. A. Davison
4.0 out of 5 stars Binocular rules or possibly not?
Very enjoyable read but a sad story. Sad to learn that this sweet man, a well of empathy, has had such a tough time. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Bunny
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but not quite 20/20
The Mind's Eye is a neurological exploration of vision, both external (ocular) vision and internal (imagery). Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. T. Berriman
4.0 out of 5 stars Case studies of the human mind: occasionally technical, frequently...
This book is a collection of essays which illustrate how the human mind perceives and interprets information from the visual world. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rowena Hoseason
5.0 out of 5 stars Book -"The Mind`s Eye" - Oliver Sacks
A fascinating book about how the brain`s different areas function when a sense is lost. Told in anecdotal form, and also part autobiographic. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Hillside
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