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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2010
I agree with all the compliments of other reviewers, and did not mind the long-windedness (though I was aware of it). I would have enjoyed this book much more if each case had been given perpective, by more description of similar cases or the current state of knowledge about the condition, followed by list of references and suggestions for further reading. I have no right to grumble about the disconnected, unreferenced style; it is Sacks' deliberate choice and he is under no obligation to give us a general education in neuroscience. I only wish he would!
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An Anthropologist on Mars is the sixth book by neurologist Oliver Wolf Sacks and deals with seven intriguing case studies. The first is an artist who becomes completely colour-blind (cerebral achromatopsia) and details both the unimaginable impact this has on normal life, and the adaptation that can make life liveable. The second involves amnesia and looks at different ways of forming memory. The third deals with Tourette's syndrome in a surgeon with a pilot's licence, shows both the funny and the dark sides of this condition, and the effect of medications. The fourth examines the effect of regaining sight on a person who has been blind since childhood. The fifth involves seizures of reminiscence and examines what memory actually is. The sixth deals with an autistic savant artist, and the final case study is about the well-known Aspergian, Temple Grandin. It is this remarkable woman who, in explaining what it feels like to try to understand normal human behaviour, lends her phrase to the title, An Anthropologist on Mars. Grandin gives a fascinating insight into the autistic spectrum, explaining that autistic people Think in Pictures (the title of her own book). Occasionally Sacks is rather too generous with technical detail jargon, so the reader may be tempted to skim or skip. The footnotes enlarge on or update the text, the book is fully indexed and there is a bibliography for those interested in further reading. This book is interesting, occasionally scary and will make the reader appreciate the brain they have.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 1999
With the format and style of the earlier "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat", each chapter describing a patient suffering from a particularly unusual and often spectacular neurological disorder, Sacks successfully shows how poor our understanding of the functioning of our own minds really is. More than ever his primary focus is the human aspect of mental affliction, the emotional trauma involved, presumably so he can appeal to a wider audience. I feel that the earlier book actually has the best material and is certainly a better choice if picking one title. Though the cases in "The Anthropologist" are hardly dull, it does seem a little long winded and repetitive in places - is he paid by the page? Perhaps others would disagree, but I would prefer to see more of the clinical speculation and brain-function theorizing. This is my only criticism for what is for the most part provocative and illuminating reading.
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on 21 January 2012
I recognise that Dr Sacks has a much greater talent then I will ever have, but humbly give my views on this book. I liked the first half but not the second in which there is much emphasis the extreme minutiae of Dr Sack's personal interpretations of what must be going on in the minds of those with autism. He goes on and on and on about his observations of the daily life of one or two particular sufferers and gets very repetitious. I must admit to skipping pages! This book also repeats some of the material in his earlier works such as "The man...". I wanted some of his observational studies backed up with some hard headed objective studies like those done by VS Ramachamdran, whose books I enjoy. This book may be enjoyed by people who like novels with rich characterisation.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2006
Some of the stories are sad because of the devastating conditions but some are also inspiring because of how some of the people find a way of making life still worthwhile. In this collection I was particularly struck in this regard by the first and the last. I think Sacks gives back as much as a person is able to in his position. There are no miracle cures for these conditions in fact he says himself that the neurologist gains more from the interaction than the patient because there is little at the moment that can be done to help. It was only the thoroughness of the testing that gave the artist the green filter spectacles that he did find useful. I think he gets a more thorough understanding than would be achieved in just clinical consultations which, in the long run, will benefit patients of the future. he tries to see the person behind the condition and has a great respect for his patients.

If you have some knowledge of neuroscience and or cognitive psychology, as I have, there are bits that may sound "repetative and long-winded" only because this knowledge is already known to me. His audience is not really the knowledgable about neuroscience but the reader with little or no knowledge. I personally find them exciting stories which encourage my own speculations on brain functioning. I think it is a great book for inspiring people in this fascinating area. I also think it would broaden peoples' understanding of the behaviour of others and where it might have come from. It might help people be a bit less judgemental and dismissive, or patronising, about others whose behaviour seems "odd".
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on 23 April 2012
Oliver Sacks as always provides an interesting and engaging insight into psychological disorders. This book is very interesting and I recommend it to anyone interested in a more detailed review of psychological disorders
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2009
Following Sach's more famous The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Picador), this is another wonderful book of seven case studies, including a couple on autistic people and an "idiot savant". Sachs is immensely compassionate while studying his patients objectively, and regards them as his friends. His bibliography has prompted me to order more books, one by Antonio Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain who looks a very interesting neuroscientist writer.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I like Oliver Sacks' writings, but they tend to leave me sad at the end. He spends all this time observing people, whether they be his patients or people he's 'just visiting', but I always feel he takes away more than he gives. He's an observer, but he never seems to give anything back to make people's lives any better - there may be diagnosis, but there's no suggestions of how to improve things, so he becomes a voyeur?
Having said all that, this little collection of neurological disorders is interesting; a colour-blind painter, the last hippie, a twitching surgeon, blindsight, landscapes of a childhood, autistic artists, and high functioning autism.
Interesting, fascinating, but disturbing.
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on 27 December 2012
An awesome journey through this book, loved each and every story. Insight was sought and received. A must read for all.
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on 14 July 2014
Great book
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