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43 of 44 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 44 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
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.

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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a mainstream book - but interesting even if you cant understand it all., 14 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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I must admit, this is the first time I have read a book look this. This book is certainly interesting, from the individual case studies to personal aspect. It is cleverly written as to tell a story through other people stories whilst quietly adding more information as time goes on. Though some of the language in the book is too high brow for me to fully understand, I did get the gist of most of it and was able to follow to book easily.

It is worth a read, if only to learn about some of the more unusual afflications that can occur to people.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An effective insight into the fragility of perception, 29 Oct 2010
By 
Mr. S. D. Mcginty "Sam" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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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.

The author's own experience with a retinal tumor stands out in a slightly different way, as his intimacy with the subject allows Sacks's tendencies towards the poetic to really flourish when he is describing, for example, peculiar feelings of half-blindness, of people's top halves being chopped off, and strange anomalies floating into his field of view, and of his brain working overtime to fill in the gaps. How might it feel stare at a point in the distance, a quarter of your view obscured by a tumour, and watch as the mind gradually fills the missing space with best-guess details? He does his best to explain, and often does a great job, although from time to time the descriptions become somewhat florid. Excerpts from his diaries at the time sometimes seem paranoiac and melodramatic; but I suppose they would!

On the whole this is a really interesting book. It perhaps lacks depth, but where it really excels is in its ability to push you towards understanding that what you see isn't always really what you get.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read for those with interest in the field, 18 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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Firstly a caveat or two. To get the most enjoyment of this book you will probably need some background/information on neurology from some perspective. This could be directly medical or via cognitive or neuro psychology or simply an interest in the brain and its functioning from a biological stance. Secondly I've read a number of Sacks's books and I am a fan of his.

For a book which deals with some very deeply neurological issues this is very readable indeed and, for me, thoroughly enjoyable. Sacks writes in a very accessible manner using the stories of his patients mostly as an entrée into the malfunctions of the brain and their consequences. This book follows the pattern of previous books such as "The man who mistook his wife for a hat" and similar ones with Sacks's notes on patients he has seen as a neurologist. The stories are fascinating and he broadens out the subject to general neurology and related issues even including evolutionary aspects of the brain.

I enjoyed the story of "Stereo Sue" particularly - someone who gained stereoscopic vision late in life. Equally Sacks's own story of dealing with a tumour affecting his sight was well worth the read. He managed to be both clinical and personal using his journal written at the time. In all his stories his humanity comes through together with his considerable knowledge.
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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 Sep 2012
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and engaging, 16 Sep 2011
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This review is from: The Mind's Eye (Hardcover)
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This is definitely a book worth reading: Oliver Sacks has a genuine concern for his patients and the odd worlds their conditions force them to live in. As with Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat the book goes from case study to case study, although arguably this time there is a little more personal engagement from Sacks - I don't mean that he didn't care previously, it is more that his genuine concern for these people is more evident in this book than perhaps we have felt earlier. This may well be to do with his own experiences with the loss of depth perception and so on induced by his own condition. It is a compelling read, a fascinating way in for the layman to try to comprehend the strange realities that people with various brain disfunctions or damage are forced to come to terms with and live in.
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The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks (Paperback - 2 Sep 2011)
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