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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Case studies of the human mind: occasionally technical, frequently poignant
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...
Published on 3 Oct. 2010 by Rowena Hoseason

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who sees with equal eye...?
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...
Published on 2 Nov. 2010 by Sir Barnabas


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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Case studies of the human mind: occasionally technical, frequently poignant, 3 Oct. 2010
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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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.

All the medical / scientific information is presented in a very human format, using each case study as an example and filling out the historical background to each condition and how the medical establishment has come to understand it. Some of the case studies involve inevitable mental deterioration and can be necessarily sad as a result; Sacks' skill is that he rarely allows them to become melancholy and emphasises the positive aspects of his patients' conditions. On many occasions this book celebrates the flexibility of the brain's function, durability of the human spirit and the individuals' determination to lead fulfilling lives despite their problems.
The section on the author's own diagnosis, treatment and reaction to loss of vision is particularly touching. Yet it's not sensational and nor is it self-indulgent.

'The Mind's Eye' isn't particularly easy going, but I found it to be very rewarding to read, and far more accessible than Sacks' previous 'Musicophilia' book.
8/10
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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
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A more personal view, 14 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Sacks finest, 16 Dec. 2010
By 
sam (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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Really a wonderful book. One of Sacks finest, it really compares well to my other favourite, 'A leg to stand on'. The personal nature of the journey really gives a terrible weight to the abstract discussions of perception. The insights into the perception really are fascinating. However, Sacks cancer treatment and the subsequent changes in his vision are both heartbreaking and compelling. The difference to 'A leg...' are what happens when 30 years passes; 'A leg..' is about a young man returning to health; this book is a descent into old age as well as blindness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Case studies of the human mind: occasionally technical, frequently poignant, 30 Sept. 2012
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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.

All the medical / scientific information is presented in a very human format, using each case study as an example and filling out the historical background to each condition and how the medical establishment has come to understand it. Some of the case studies involve inevitable mental deterioration and can be necessarily sad as a result; Sacks' skill is that he rarely allows them to become melancholy and emphasises the positive aspects of his patients' conditions. On many occasions this book celebrates the flexibility of the brain's function, durability of the human spirit and the individuals' determination to lead fulfilling lives despite their problems.
The section on the author's own diagnosis, treatment and reaction to loss of vision is particularly touching. Yet it's not sensational and nor is it self-indulgent.

'The Mind's Eye' isn't particularly easy going, but I found it to be very rewarding to read, and far more accessible than Sacks' previous 'Musicophilia' book.
8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Easy to Understand, 16 Nov. 2010
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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I first came across Oliver Sacks through the film Awakenings, which is based on his work in a New York hospital with a group of patients who had been left in a kind of catatonic state thanks to the great influenza epidemic after the first world war. It charted his work with them and his break through using the drug L-Dopa to wake them up.

After the film had finished I immediately read the book, written by Sacks as a serious academic study. It was quite hard work, as you might expect. There were lots of complex medical terms and footnotes that would sometimes go on for pages. Despite that, Sacks was an engaging writer who, when he wasn't writing about things out of my grasp, made a compelling narrator. The main thing that shone through in his work was his sympathy for his patients and his insistence on believing in a deep mind/body connection that most medics seem to ignore. He was convinced that the human body and mind are miraculous things and that much could be done for people with seemingly baffling or chronic conditions if the people who treated them were more open minded.

I sought out more of his work and read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; An Anthropologist on Mars; Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On with increasing pleasure. His work, over the years has become more accessible to the lay reader, the footnotes are shorter, the explanations for medical terminology are more simple, and yet Sacks does not patronise or talk down to the reader.

In this book Sacks looks at how much of what we see is physical and how much mental construct. He explores the connection between the brain and the eye, and how other senses and neurological pathways can compensate or adjust when damage occurs either to the optic nerve or the brain.

The book is broken up into chapters which roughly conform to case studies dealing with different patients, a brilliant musician who only realises something is wrong when one day she gets up to perform and cannot read the music at her piano, a novelist who has a stroke and can no longer read and write. The main chapters of the book however, deal with Sacks' own case, as he woke up one morning with a large blind spot in one eye, and found that it was caused by a tumour. He shares his experiences as a medic and as a human being in such touching detail it is a real pleasure to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paging Dr Sacks, 15 Nov. 2010
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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i really enjoyed reading this book, which feels most of all like a collection of disparate essays, case studies and diaries, rather than a single text conceived from beginning to end. It's hardly surprising that it has this bittiness, when you learn about halfway through the book that Sacks was diagnosed in 2005 as having cancer in his eye, which led him to take a rather personal view of vision loss and distortion.

The book's strengths lie in his personality: like Sherlock Holmes, he answers particularly choice letters from fans, his readers asking about their own medical questions, arriving at their homes with a team of doctors to investigate a particularly intriguing loss of vision. He is utterly knowledgable, and yet at the same time lets down his guard, letting you see him as the geek he really is, when he refers to his enthusiasm for three-d images, Klingon battle cruisers, or the number of times he got stoned since having his cancer diagnosis.

However I really got the sense that he has not yet fully processed what he has learned from the whole experience, and that he is still mulling the whole thing over: resulting in a book which itself perhaps has a blind spot: he never answers the question of how he himself feels about his illness. I'm not saying that anyone should 'have' to write about their own illness or frailties: just that I was left wondering how this had illuminated his own work as a doctor.

Nonetheless a wonderful book and it has really stayed with me; if i were ever to get weird neurological symptoms I would desperately want him turning up on my doorstep.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeing things differently..., 7 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One of the most impressive things about Oliver Sacks' book is that he isn't trying to impress you with his knowledge and experience, he's trying to share it. The first half of the book is mostly based around case-studies of patients Sacks has worked with, each suffering some breakdown in their visual perception causing them to lose facilities they'd previously, like us all, taken for-granted. Although Sacks might offer some insight into the underlying neurological problems of each he never forgets he's writing about people. Each person is presented with humour and humanity as they discover workarounds and sometimes surprising compensations in their various problems.

When the book shifts to Sacks' retelling of his own experience with a malignant eye tumour the tone shifts too. Aside from the sympathy we might feel for his predicament, it's also compelling to find Sacks able to document and analyse his condition and its impact on his vision in such detail. Maybe this is an attempt to achieve some clinical distance from what's happening, a distance that would make it more comfortable to deal with, and that's all the more affecting for being such an understandable human response.

Sacks lets you understand how complex visual perception can be, with various parts of the brain working in tandem to achieve routine daily tasks, like reading. You also come to understand how studying the aberrant lets us understand the ordinary - it's when some part of the process breaks down or goes missing that we catch sight of the underlying structures and systems that were making it all possible in the first place.

The book is thankfully free of medical jargon and obtuse acronyms and is entirely approachable and absorbing without ever being patronising. Although I vaguely knew of Oliver Sacks' work I hate to admit this is the first time I've actually read one of his books - it wont be the last and I doubt there's a better compliment you could pay an author. Completely fascinating and highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book from Oliver Sacks, 24 Sept. 2010
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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This is another excellent book from Oliver Sacks. The Mind's Eye is concerned mainly with vision - particularly the question of how our brains process the information from our eyes to form images, and the nature of remembered or imagined images. It is fascinating and illuminating and it has all Sacks's characteristic insight and brilliance combined with immense humanity and empathy with his subjects. It is, as always, quite beautifully written.

Following the pattern of many of his other books, Sacks gives us case studies of patients with some malfunction of their visual perception in which he gives an exceptionally clear, vivid account of the problems and a brilliant analysis of what we can learn from them about the way in which we process and use visual information. All of them are very involving and extremely interesting, and the book closes with a very fine essay about visual perception. The longest, and to me most involving, "case study" (about a quarter of the book) consists of extracts from Sacks's own journal during the time he developed a melanoma on his right retina. He observes the visual effects with characteristic brilliance, but also talks openly about his human reaction to developing cancer, to his treatment and his experiences as a patient and ultimately to losing some of his vision. It is an exceptional piece of writing even by Sacks's own stellar standard, and a very touching personal account.

This isn't a book to relax with after a rough day - it requires and deserves concentration - but it is gripping in its way and immensely rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it very warmly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting case studies about vision and the brain, 12 April 2012
By 
William Fross (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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Oliver Sacks, a leading neurologist, offers a selection of case studies each concerned with how we see things. The case studies are interesting and Sacks is an authoritative and engaging storyteller.

The table of contents is as follows, with my brief synopsis of each chapter in brackets:

-- Sight Reading (a woman loses the ability to read music or words - though she remains able to write and play music from memory)
-- Recalled to Life (a woman loses her ability to either understand language or express herself in language)
-- A Man of Letters (a man loses the ability to read; letters look like a foreign language - though he retains the ability to write)
-- Face-Blind (a chapter considering a condition under which people lose the ability to recognise faces)
-- Stereo Sue (a woman gains the ability to see in three dimensions for the first time)
-- Persistence of Vision: A Journal (Sacks himself describes his loss of vision, and how his brain compensates in surprising ways)
-- The Mind's Eye (Sacks considers how vision is related to the other senses)

As the above descriptions suggest, the overall theme is about vision and how the brain interprets information. The case studies are fascinating, and the book is rather like a collection of good short stories that are all the more interesting because they are true. Recommended!
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The Mind's Eye
The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks (Hardcover - 5 Nov. 2010)
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