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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Further brilliance from the master neurologist
If you have read anything from Oliver Sacks before you will be familiar with his engaging and informative writing style; he just grabs you and takes you on a journey that seems simple at first but as you look back across the traverse there is a strong sense of how good a teacher he must be. In the current title he performs no less a feat, taking us as he does through an...
Published on 1 Nov 2012 by Amazon Customer

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fascinating topic
The early chapters of this book with the descriptions and explanations of the various types of hallucination suffered by people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome were most interesting. Then there were descriptions of the authors own experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, then hallucinations connected with various other states such as narcolepsy. Somehow the book didn't seem to...
Published 22 months ago by Ms. J. Jones


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Further brilliance from the master neurologist, 1 Nov 2012
By 
Amazon Customer (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
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If you have read anything from Oliver Sacks before you will be familiar with his engaging and informative writing style; he just grabs you and takes you on a journey that seems simple at first but as you look back across the traverse there is a strong sense of how good a teacher he must be. In the current title he performs no less a feat, taking us as he does through an exploration of hallucinations. This is a fascinating subject of which I have something more than a passing acquaintence, mostly from my past career as a psychiatric nurse. Having some knowledge might be detrimental to making an honest evaluation of the book, but I have hopefully managed this and can honestly say that this book will go a long way to informing anyone who has even a passing interest in the subject to gain a fascinating insight to its history and the experiences of those people who have first hand experience of hallucinations.
In my opinion one of the sengths that Oliver Sacks has in abundance is the ability to dispel fear; it is understandable that most people fear the idea of most forms of mental disorder, but through sharing information about the subject under cosideration Sacks helps to cure the most damaging effect of mental disorder, ignorance.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet more amazing tales of inner space, 18 Nov 2012
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
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Alan Bennett once commented, probably thinking of the sad experiences of his mother and aunt, that common mental problems don't attract much interest, and that you get more attention if you do something bizarre like mistaking your wife for a hat. This might be a fair criticism of some of Sacks' earlier books, but I have to suspend judgment, as it's some time since I read the book in question.

In Hallucinations, Sacks casts his net far and wide. Some of the types of hallucination he describes are rare and exotic , e.g. Charles Bonnet syndrome in which people who were once sighted but are now blind experience vivid visual hallucinatuions. Others, however, are associated with well-known conditions, such as migraine or Parkinson's, and there is even a chapter on hallucinations which any of us could experience ("On the threshold of sleep"). We tend to think of hallucinations as visual, but Sacks covers the other senses too; for example, with hearing he covers tinnitus and then moves on to more obscure conditions.

Sacks is able to draw on his own personal experiences in two of the topics he covers. One is migraine, as he has suffered from this. The other is use of hallucinogenic drugs. He describes, with remarkable candour, how in the mid 1960s, during the postgraduate phase of his career, he would "spend the whole weekend so high that images and thoughts would become rather like controllable hallucinations." His motivation was a mixture of scientific research and opening "the doors of perception". [It must have been a tough job, but someone had to do it ...] An older psychoanalyst friend suggested to him that this behaviour "surely testified to some intense inner needs or conflicts", and this led Sacks to see a therapist.

I found the chapter on Parkinson's particularly poignant, as it accords completely with the experiences of an elderly friend who is a long-term sufferer. The title of this chapter, "illusions of Parkinsonism", relies on a distinction which recurs throughout the book: "illusions" which the subject knows to be unreal, and "hallucinations" which at the time appear genuine perceptions.

There is a fascinating contrast between those who enjoy, and even yearn for, the images produced by their condition (for someone with Charles Bonnet syndrome, you can fully understand this, as it is their only chance of reliving their sense of sight) and those who tend through shame or pride to censor the experience. For example:
"By the late 1980s, physicians had begun to realise (only in response to careful enquiry, for patients are often reluctant to admit it) that perhaps a third or more of those being treated for Parkinson's experienced hallucinations."

I have only one minor gripe: Sacks defines the technical terms used, but sometimes the definition occurs several chapters after the term's first use.

As always, Sacks, now pushing 80, manages to inform and entertain in equal measure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hallucinations, 24 Mar 2013
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Kindle Edition)
The human brain works in ways we are only just beginning to understand. We tend to trust what we see as being what is actually happening but this book shows how the brain can be fooled into thinking something is there when it's actually happening inside itself. Hallucinations can happen when we're tired, half asleep or just waking up. They can happen when our eyesight has gone and when it is in some way defective. If we have a limb amputated we are still convinced the limb is there.

But hallucinations can be auditory as well as visual. People can hear music all the time or hear voices speaking to them or talking in the background. There's a tendency to think it is only schizophrenics who hear voices telling them to do things but the majority of people who hear voices are not schizophrenic. The author quotes many examples from his own patients and the case histories make fascinating reading. He also tells of his own experiences with licit and illicit drugs.

I enjoyed reading this well written and interesting book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand themselves and the way their brain works. There are notes on each chapter, a bibliography which gives the reader an opportunity to read more on the subject and an index.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fascinating topic, 15 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Kindle Edition)
The early chapters of this book with the descriptions and explanations of the various types of hallucination suffered by people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome were most interesting. Then there were descriptions of the authors own experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, then hallucinations connected with various other states such as narcolepsy. Somehow the book didn't seem to hold together for me. I was also disappointed that there was little in depth discussion of the hallucinations and delusions associated with dementia though the subject was referred to. Perhaps my expectations were at fault. A large portion of the book is devoted to notes and references so would be useful to the psychology / medical student
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't need to be mad or on drugs to hallucinate, 4 Nov 2012
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CMB (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
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This is an important book.

By helping to reduce the stigma of hallucinations (including voices) that many people associate with madness (including, unfortunately, some doctors, according to Sacks), this book makes clear that hallucinations can be almost normal, and certainly much commoner than expected.

Time after time, patients don't admit to hallucinations until a doctor, with the right approach, asks. Generally, it seems, the question is not asked and so there is a general ignorance, which this book helps put to rights.

The brain is an amazing organ, and builds a picture of reality. I'd rather Oliver Sacks went into greater detail on how the brain does this - but obviously much is unknown and arguable. If sensory input is lacking, the brain tries to compensate, and may over do it. Almost anyone can experience this - just by looking at a blank wall in silence for long enough ("the prisoner's cinema"). Sensory input can be considered "bottom up" - there's also lack of "top down" control that can occur in epileptic fits, trauma (including loss of a long-loved spouse) that also can cause hallucinations. Sacks pretty much destroys transcendental effects (as in religions, meditation, near-death experiences etc) on this basis.

When freed of sensory input, hallucinations can go beyond worldly perceptions, such as the vividness and range of colours being greater than ever seen. Although frequently spoken of by those who've experienced hallucinations, they can be easily dismissed by those who've not experienced them. Not Sacks though - as he gives an unfettered account of his drug-taking years in the 1960's. It takes a strong mind to have survived as he did. Possibly he should have balanced this with the damage drugs can do and did to others - he does so in passing, but I feel the warnings could have been stronger. Some of the drugs were legal at the time (not clear which were and were not, though).

Although aimed at the general reader, it's not always an easy book to read, indeed is sometimes quite formal. There are copious footnotes, often fascinating.

I couldn't help thinking "what???" when a few times people had hallucinations while driving, and apparently continued driving despite knowing they could have further hallucinations, or driving and developing the skill to ignore them. Scary.

Overall though, a book crying out to be read, to bring better awareness and understanding of hallucinations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In parts fascinating but not as well structured as 'The Mind's Eye', 21 Mar 2013
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bomble "bomble" (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
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I read and reviewed Sacks' book, The Mind's Eye (see my review 12 Oct 2010) and was enthralled by it. So I was looking forward to reading `Hallucinations', knowing already that I would likely enjoy his retelling of case histories and personal accounts. In that regard, Hallucinations did not disappoint... it really is a compendium of a massive variety of hallucinatory experiences covering all the senses.

Sacks conveys the experiences in his usual respectful manner, treating the inner experiences of others with care and without judgement. He also candidly describes his own hallucinatory experiences which range from compensatory effects discussed in detail in `The Mind's Eye' due to his tumour and surgery, his migraine experiences (which I partially share) and his own drug experimentation.

Unfortunately, `Hallucinations' feels more of a collection of testimonies rather than conveying any consistent thread or neurological conclusion. Hearing Sacks' TED talk about one of the cases conveyed in this book, it is clear that he is something of a collector / curator of these experiences, taking great pleasure in the oddity element of the hallucinations. But while I share his fascination with these accounts, you can have too much of a good thing and I found myself reading this book in relatively short doses.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not An Easy Read, 17 Jan 2013
By 
Pete F. (Ayrshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
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I felt, having read the reviews, that I would enjoy this book but I was wrong! I tried hard but I just could not get into it at all. Where the author uses anecdotal evidence it is quite interesting, like the elderly lady patient who would gently shoo her visitors away at a certain time in the evening so that she could enjoy her regular 'visits' by her hallucinations. Unfortunately, a fair amount of this book is a bit like reading a medical encyclopaedia. I haven't read any of the authors previous work but I don't think that I'll be rushing to read anymore either.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not sure about this one., 15 Jan 2013
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I must confess I got bored after about half way and gave up. It was not as fascinating as the reviewer on the Today programme lead my to believe.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 13 Jan 2013
By 
Ian Roberts - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Kindle Edition)
Oliver Sacks has the credentials to write the series of books that he has on mental illness / neurological problems. He can not only tell us the facts, but convey the 'world' of someone with a brain dysfunction and he shows the sort of compassion we would hope to see from a health professional should we ever take on the role of 'patient'. As usual the scope of what he writes is broad without sacrificing detail; a fascinating book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Please won't you buy my illusions, slightly used, 12 Jan 2013
By 
Julie Cutler (Warwickshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
Not, read Sacks before, aware of his reputation, thought it was something to be admired. We get the descriptions, but up to the point where I got bored, no actual neurological explanation. This isn't a great state of affairs for the 21st century. Particularly disappointing as I had to research Charles Bonnet Syndrome, aka chapter one when my mother suddenly complained of seeing scribbling by children and dragonflies. Described originally in the 18th century, it seems to be helpfully entertaining visions supplied by the mind when vision is affected by cataracts or macular degeneration. Except that Sacks does not fully describe it, although he does describe the symptom of seeing nets over things(an early unscary symptom described by mother) in Parkinsons in a later chapter. So, O K if you want to assure someone they are not nuts, but ultimately what is the solution? And leprechaunns aren't real.
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Hallucinations
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (Paperback - 29 Aug 2013)
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