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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This inspired book speaks to the intellect and the soul.
I was transformed and transported by this book. As a physician, I was caught up totally and completely in the medical Sherlock Holmesian "whodunnit" quest for scientific answers. As a human being residing for a time on planet earth, I was immersed in the beauty and the mystery of places that seem almost fairy-like and magical through the keenly observant...
Published on 14 Feb. 1999

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Mistook This Documentary for a Story
I am a big fan of Oliver Sacks and despite my low rating for this book, I will continue to be a big fan. I was simply misled. I thought it was going to be the characteristic, titillating Sacks tale, as were "Awakenings" or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Instead, it was a disjointed journal of Sacks travels in Micronesia. It certainly had...
Published on 21 April 1998


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This inspired book speaks to the intellect and the soul., 14 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
I was transformed and transported by this book. As a physician, I was caught up totally and completely in the medical Sherlock Holmesian "whodunnit" quest for scientific answers. As a human being residing for a time on planet earth, I was immersed in the beauty and the mystery of places that seem almost fairy-like and magical through the keenly observant eyes of Dr. Sacks. As a soul flickering briefly on that continuum of deep time, I felt a profound sense of awe and existential brevity, but also a sense of connectedness and immortality.
Having just finished the book today, I am aware of a sadness within me, a sadness that my journey to the South Pacific with Dr. Sacks has ended. I return to my clinic tomorrow morning to see patients, but my heart for some days to come will be on Pingelap, or Guam, or.......
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Mistook This Documentary for a Story, 21 April 1998
By A Customer
I am a big fan of Oliver Sacks and despite my low rating for this book, I will continue to be a big fan. I was simply misled. I thought it was going to be the characteristic, titillating Sacks tale, as were "Awakenings" or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Instead, it was a disjointed journal of Sacks travels in Micronesia. It certainly had its interesting, intellectual points but fell far short of the usual Sacks page-turner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking symptoms, 14 Feb. 2006
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
A practicing physician, Sacks conveys us on a journey through Pacific islands. He introduces us to some bizarre afflictions. The nature of these illness isn't unusual, but the circumstances on these archipelagoes is bizarre. The cause and mechanism of spread is revealed by none of the investigations they've been subjected to up to now. Genetics, nutritional practices, habitat have all been subject to scrutiny. None have imparted clear root causes for the colour blindness on Pingelap/Pohnpei or nervous disorders on Guam. Both disorders, achromotopia and lytico-bodig are types of afflictions Sacks has dealt with during his years in practice. Both have varying manifestations, making diagnosis difficult. The colour blindness carries other symptoms, sensitivity to bright light and loss of acuity. Reading may be difficult for some ailing victims. The lytico-bodig on Guam is particularly difficult, since the symptoms may not become apparent for generations. Sacks joins local doctors in examining
the patients and recounting the research.
In assessing the symptoms and the environments, Sacks also conveys a sensitive rendering of the islands' histories and current situations. Whalers, missionaries and the U.S. Navy have brought plagues, displaced the inhabitants and ignored their impacts. Indigenous populations have been decimated by diseases introduced by Europeans and North Americans. It's an old, wearying story, but it must be told with honesty and perception.
Sacks does just that, with deep human feeling that makes this book captivating reading. There's few things as frightening as a latent illness that seems to strike at whim. Since "bugs" or even genetic origins aren't easily discerned in these cases, it makes the physician's task that much more exacting. Sacks keeps the reader at his side with finesse as he tours the islands, examines the suffering and describes the efforts to counter the misery. It's a call for others to take up the challenge, and he offers tools in the massive notes and bibliography. It's a challenge worth pursuing. Anyone entering medicine will find this book valuable. For the rest of us, it's an inspirational volume, well told, with valuable insight to a dedicated doctor's experiences.[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Island of the Colorblind is insightful!, 18 Mar. 2001
By 
Rebecca Brown "rebeccasreads" (Clallam Bay, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
On the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap thrives a community born totally colorblind who can describe their world in rich terms of patterns & tones.
Oliver Sacks writes: "I went to Micronesia as a neurologist, or neutoanthropologist, intent on seeing how individuals and communities responded to unusual endemic conditions - a hereditary total colorblindness on Pingelap and Pohnpei; a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disorder on Guam and Rota. But I also found myself riveted by the cultural life and history of these islands, their unique flora and fauna, their singular geologic origins. If seeing patients, visiting archeological sites, wandering in rain forests, snorkelling in the reefs, at first seemed to bear no relation to each other, they then fused into a single unpartitioneable experience, a total immersion in island life."
And that is where Oliver Sacks takes you, from Fuur, in Jutland to Berkeley in California to Martha's Vineyard to Micronesia and along the way he serves up a fine helping of his childhood and an exquisite selection of botanical pen and ink drawings.
What I have liked about reading an Oliver Sacks book is that he will offer you a variegated read with a thick and juicy notes section. He writes about all manner of things; sunsets and airplane flights; friends with maskun and scotopic times; coconut crabs and cycad ferns; all in a colorful and articulate language. Oliver Sacks is one scientist who has not lost his awe, wonder and keen observational skills.
I learnt as much about ferns growing in a garden during his London childhood as the ferns that flourished and supported whole dynasties of dinosaurs and modern island communities; about his literary heroes, his dreams and his schoolmates' appetites for botany and biology.
As much about medicine and anthropology as life lived at the ends of the earth. You'll learn about Darwin's trip around the world and about sakau, a local beverage with lively powers. You'll be treated to grand views of little islands and close-up insights of how people with colorblindness see this world. Absorbing postprandrial remeniscences. Do check out my site for my full review.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Diffuse; boring; disappointing to a Sacks fan., 10 Feb. 1998
By A Customer
I've been a big fan of Sacks since _Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,_ and have often reread that, his best book. This book, however, is dull and lame. No surprise to learn that Sacks' vacations are pleasant for him -- less surprise to learn they're tedious for us. Illustrated history of cycads -- bah. In a rare dilletantish mood, Sacks rambles around Micronesia shaking hands and looking at vegetation. Absent are the usual meticulous studies of the human mind; the passion is diluted by a rambling, shambling pseudostructure of historical fragments, slogging through ruins, and hanging out with old chums. Then... there are 100 pp of notes about an already tiresome text! Any writer is entitled to a mistake--I will buy Sacks' next book. This one, however, is going into my storage bin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oliver Sacks takes you through the lives of the colorblind., 11 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
Oliver Sacks takes all those with an interest in science on a journey to the Island of The Colorblind. A neurologist that has both an extensive medical knowledge and a special respect for his patients, uses specific examples, imagery, and particular diction to express that everyone is unique and has their own distinct qualities that make them special, no matter how they are disabled. In his journey through the islands, Dr. Sacks discovers that being colorblind can bring out other capabilities and adaptations to everyday life. The journey begins with Dr. Sacks on his way to the island of Pingelap, one of the many small islands located in the Pacific. To familiarize the reader to the subject of which he is studying, the achromatope condition, and show his fascination for the inevitable disability, Oliver Sacks tells of past findings of colorblind colonies and other isolated conditions. He provides several allusions to Darwin, Conan Doyle, and other explorers. All this is done while "island hopping" and provides an experience of making a voyage for the reader. Once on the island, many ecstatic islanders greet Dr. Sacks, and with them they bring their intricate culture. While Oliver Sacks experiences the island, he conducts studies and is fascinated by how well the achromatopes have adapted their culture and lifestyle to being colorblind. After offering medical assistance to the people of the island, he then moves on to Pohnpei, a larger island just West of Pingelap. It is here that Dr. Sacks discovers the rich heritage of the island. He also studies the lifestyles of the islanders and runs several tests, eventually distributing visors and special sunglasses, similar to his work on Pingelap. The last two sections of the book are not related to the first two and contribute only little to the overall purpose and message, mollifying the respect the reader had for the achromatopes. Dr. Sacks provides a vivid account of his journey and medical finding through specific examples. Whether it's a flashback or a fishing trip on Pingelap, examples are used to vitalize the island experience and create a respect for the islanders and their condition. In one of Oliver Sacks' experiences, he discovers that being an achromatope can be advantageous. By removing color, objects can be seen in greater detail, viewing every crack, curve, and texture. The appearance of movement may also be enhanced. "...They seem to be able to see the fish in their dim course underwater, the glint of moonlight on their outstretched fins as they leap, as well as, or perhaps better than, anyone else." In the particular example, fishing is made easier and may be done at night due to the colorblindness of the islanders. Ironically, the islands themselves are very colorful. But achromatopes do not respect the island for its color. In another instance, the island of Pingelap is only seen, by the colorblind, for it's beauty. To us, "color-normals," it seems rather meaningless, a jumble of a single color. The reader is also introduced and familiarized with several specific people of the islands. "Apart from the social problems it causes, Entis does not feel his colorblindness a disability." Specific examples are important in the development of sympathy and respect for the achromatopes and in taking the reader on the same journey that Oliver Sacks experienced. Imagery creates a vivid description of each encounter experienced by Dr. Sacks. This does anything but mitigate the reader; in contrast, the audience becomes more involved and therefore has a greater respect for each of the achromatopes of the islands. It is seen through Oliver Sacks' descriptions, that each individual is a special person in his or her own way. "While our equipment was loaded onto an improvised trolley - an unstable contraption of roughhewn planks on trembling bicycle wheels..." As Dr. Sacks shares his first experience with the people of Pingelap, he expresses through vivid imagery the unimportance of technology and the simplicity of the natives to the island. This helps to alleviate the misconcieved attitudes towards all the properties we hold dear, wealth and prosperity. Imagery also develops each example Oliver Sacks uses to take his audience on his excursion through the islands. For example, after fishing at night, Sacks describes and concludes the experience with glowing detail. "The sand itself, broader with the tide's retreat, was still wet with the phosphorescent sea, and now, as we walked upon it, our footsteps left a luminous spoor." Also, in the book of Guam, Sacks uses imagery, though his focus is not as much on his message of sympathy and respect for these who are achromatopes, he shares his experience well. "Clouds of tiny iridescent blue zebra fish swam around me, between my arms, between my legs, unstartled by my, movements" Here, Sacks is sharing his snorkeling adventure. Being a neurologist and an explorer/researcher, Dr. Oliver Sacks Iluminates himself through many medical terms and with professor like phrases that help create his tone for sharing his experiences of the islands. This diction used by Sacks can be seen through several examples from the text. His word choice, defined as scholarly, emphasizes a doctor like tone of voice. In most instances, Sacks uses medical terms to asseverate himself. "...He has difficulty fixating, hence his eyes make groping, hystagmic jerks." Diction can help the reader create a more focused and in depth thought or idea. This is used to develop respect and empathy for the patients and whose lives are effected by colorblindness through the author's journey to the islands. Specific examples, imagery, and diction coincide with one another to take the reader on a vivid jaunt through the Island of the Colorblind. This gives birth to a certain respect for the unique and indeed special islanders. It also teaches the audience to appreciate people for who they are and not for their incapability's. For many things "cannot be seen by color-normals," but only by the colorblind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I read in all of 1997!, 28 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
Sacks' subjects are always fascinating, but the writing sometimes is quirky or overly technical. I found this book a delight. Elegantly written, his observations on abnormal vs. normal behaviour make one want to reread. Even the footnotes are riveting, and I'm not a scientist. A treasure!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting the Human Touch Back Into Doctoring, 22 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
Throughout his collected works Sacks dispenses his accumulated wit and wisdom with uncommon respect for his case studies. To Oliver, his patients are not just objects for study, but also people. He gives them grace and self-respect even among the most bizarre neurologic symptoms.
"Island of the Colorblind" is no exception, as he explores the compensatory visual acuity of his achromatics, and the good-natured fatalism of his Guam studies. The reader is left with real affection for the afflicted.
Sacks is a rare combination of inquiring mind and caring physician -- not to mention engaging writer. This book is a treat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How kind is Oliver Sacks, 21 April 1998
By A Customer
A joy it is to see Dr. Sacks' joy at all he cares about--nature, history, philosophy, plants and people. _Island of the Colorblind_ exhibits in its best forms the connections he has been trying to make for years amongst all his loves. His previous attempts felt forced and contrived, but _Island of the Colorblind_, for the most part, weaves them all into an absorbing account of the history of the world, from cycads to achromatopes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sakau effects mentioned are individually unique, 1 April 1997
By A Customer
The book is a nicely done overview of the achromats of Pingelap, some of whom I have the pleasure of having as students at the College of Micronesia-FSM. As maintainer of the only sakau en Pohnpei market review web page, I feel compelled to note that in regards pages 88-89 sakau has differing effects on different people. This may be exactly because sakau only cuts off sensory input from the voluntary muscles. The loss of accustomed input likely has different effects on different minds, possibly somewhat akin to sensory deprivation tank experiences. The mind itself is not affected as the active ingredients, kavanoid proteins, are apparently too large to cross the blood brain barrier. - Dana Lee Ling, Palikir, Pohnpei, 1997.
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The Island of the Colour-blind by Oliver Sacks (Hardcover - 25 Oct. 1996)
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