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on 10 August 2013
I wanted to read this book after finding other books by Oliver Sacks so interesting. It has been a long, hard and emotional read as there is a lot to absorb and it really gets you thinking. It wakes you up to the fact that the human brain is utterly amazing and that we (humankind) know so little of what makes us tick. It makes you thankful that there are people out there like Oliver Sacks, who devote themselves to their callings, spending huge amounts of time and effort documenting results of their work and actions, listening to their patients and trying their utmost to come to some understanding of these individuals' feelings and circumstances.
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on 16 July 2013
Great work on neurologically damaged patients; a book of profound emotion and thought on human life and human nature with a powerful point about the central energy that we all possess and how our inner system can be so perturbed but also how the people described in the book find the resources to respond and decide what they want to live for or not. As a psychotherapis, I found this book illuminating.
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on 12 April 2000
I have migraines, and I think this book is terrific. It does tend to be too technical, but has a Glossary that includes most unfamiliar terms. The artwork is great, and his whole treatment of the disorder is fascinating. I recommend it highly for all who experience migraines and for their families, although with the caveat that getting through it probably does require some combination of advanced education, patience with flipping to the glossary, keen interest, and openness to learning quite a lot.
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on 23 February 2013
I have suffered migraines all my life, but never really understood enough about them. Sometimes I have suffered when I need not have, had I understood I was having a migraine. This book clarifies the fact that there are different types of migraines, and it could be you like me have been suffering more than one type. I now know I should have taken my medication more often than I have. This book is a real eye opener and as usual Oliver Sacks shows real compassion and understanding to those who suffer. Buy this book and help yourself cope with your headaches, you can then go to your GP better armed.
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on 29 March 1999
You'll probably have seen the Robert de Niro film. This is the original book by neurologist Oliver Sacks, describing the L-dopamine drug trials that awakened patients 'frozen' for decades by Parkinsonian symptoms. A harrowing but sympathetic account, the book has room for the complexities missed by the film. After dramatic initial awakenings, the unpredictability of drug reactions gave varied patient histories that ranged from disastrous relapse to modest long-term success. Far less 'feelgood', but ultimately more hopeful, than the film.
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on 20 December 2012
Please note this review is for Sacks' book "Awakenings" and not his book "Migraine" which, for some reason, Amazon have also placed it under.

Oliver Sacks, a singularly humane writer and physician, provides the case histories of 20 institutionalised people who are suffering the appalling sickness disease that struck around the time of the first world war (though not connected), whom he encountered professionally in about 1970. Specifically he describes the "Awakening" affect of L-Dopa on these people.
But beware that these histories do not make for comfortable reading as these people suffer in a way that few others have.
As ever, Sacks is absolutely brilliant at seeing the person behind the affliction, and the big message behind the whole book is to argue that medicine is not just an objective scientific activity, but that seeing the subjective "I" of each individual patient in terms of physiology, psychology, social environment etc. is also of vital importance. He supports this position with many examples of how the patients react to changes to their personal cicumstances.
I found the case studies at times harrowing, and was very grateful for the 1982 epilogue contained in my 1990 copy that contained positive updates on a number of the patients.
As well as his own words, Sacks includes quotes from a number of poets (Donne in particular) and philosophers (Kant, Leibnitz, Nitsche) that are used to illustrate his position very effectively.
I am left somewhat in awe of this book and recommend it to anyone with an interest in either medicine or how people come to terms with unbelievably trying circumstances.
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My partner suffers weekly from migraine headaches. I experience regular migraine auras without the ensuing headache. Sick of being a migraine victim I wanted to understand what was actually happening to both of. Why did it happen? Why was he so ill every weekend? Why could I see these bright, shining, metallic objects for 20 minutes at a time? This book was recommended and it didn't disappoint.

The book is an exploration of everything 'migraine'. It starts right from 'what is a migraine?' (first time anyone had explained that a migraine is not a headache, a headache is part of a migraine) right through to detailed brain biology of how an aura might be formed. Last updated in 1992, the book hasn't suffered for being nearly 20 years old and isn't afraid to say certain things just aren't known.

It's remarkably reassuring, but never patronising. The case studies are fascinating and free from judgement over the choices patients have made. The book is a little technical in places, but I didn't find that alienating. In fact I feel it's helped give me the proper vocabulary to use when trying to discuss our migraine experiences.

Thanks to this book I'm now a participant in my migraines, not a victim of them.
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on 9 July 2016
I heard about this book during the media coverage following Sacks' death, and I was surprised that I had never heard of the sleeping sickness he describes so eloquently. I'd only read some of his later books, and this, one of his earlier books, was a bit less accessible for a non scientist - and it has a lot of footnotes. I admire him hugely for his in depth analysis and transforming how the medical world has communicated about illness, especially neurological conditions. I do have some sympathy though with the reviewer who questioned why, as L Dopa began to show startling side effects in some patients, that the introduction wasn't tapered off until the those who had already been treated had been followed up for some considerable time.
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on 19 September 2015
Everyone who suffers from Migraine and their family and friends should read this. It's difficult at times and requires a dictionary! It gives a good understanding of what it's like to be a Migraineur. GPs and even Head Specialists should read it too. Migraines are not just headaches. Thank you Oliver Sacks. RIP.
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on 12 June 2003
If you are looking for 'the book of the film' you may be disappointed. If you have enjoyed reading other Oliver Sacks books you may also be disappointed. However, it is definitely worth the effort as it is more illuminating than the film, if less dramatic---but no less tragic for that. The book is more technical than one might expect; plenty of case histories and medical information. But Sacks is a humanist with compassion for his patients, and this still shines through the more 'dry' format of the text. I'm glad I stuck with the book as it explains much that simply isn't possible in a film---which has different objectives in any case.
I enjoyed this book, though not as much as some of his other work, and acknowledge that it may not be for everyone.
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