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VINE VOICEon 1 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 28 May 2017
So much knowledge about different types or kind of hallucinations. Interesting. Will r read again. Something to always go back to
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on 15 October 2013
I have a close family member who has Parkinsons and is also going blind and this has been very educational.
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on 9 March 2013
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist and who has total empathy with the subjects of his books. Here, he explores the multitude of reasons why people may see and hear things that don't exist. Rarely does it mean that people have a mental illness, although there is a stigma against those admit to hallucinations. I didn't find this as compelling as some of Sacks' other books, mainly because the hallucinations, although often bizarre, have the quality of dreams and other people's dreams aren't very interesting.
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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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on 30 April 2014
Oliver Sacks address a medical condition which is not widely recognised and also brings to light other issues which I had no knowledge of prior to reading the book
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on 4 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, Sacks writes in his signature engaging, accessible manner to demystify more than a dozen types of auditory, olfactory and visual hallucinations. He presents us with interesting snippets of numerous people's lives together with recent and not-so-recent historical context and shows, once again, that the mind is endlessly fascinating.

On the other hand, the book's premise that nice, normal people can have hallucinations for all sorts of rational, medically-explained reasons quite separate to mental illness perpetuates the sense of otherness surrounding diagnoses like schizophrenia. Rather than portraying mental illness as a part of the human continuum, just like any other illness, schizophrenia is banished from the book as if to a modern day leper colony.

If you've read Oliver Sacks' work before, you'll be familiar with his style and thorough treatment of his subject matter. If you haven't, then take a look in the nifty "Look inside" feature, where you'll also find all the chapter headings.

As a popular science book, it does a does a good job of demonstrating that all kinds of people experience hallucinations. These range from people with migraine, epilepsy and alcoholism to those taking (or suddenly stopping) street and prescription drugs. There are the hallucinations that can accompany loss of eyesight, hearing and limbs. Examples are taken from Sacks' own patients as well as history. As a neuroscientist, Sacks looks at the brain mapping technologies that can help us peer inside to gain a partial insight into what's happening when the brain hallucinates.

One example from recent history referred to in the book is the infamous Rosenhan experiment in the 1970s, reported at the time as "On being sane in insane places". It's a fascinating story, which caused a furore and lead to a major revision in how psychiatric diagnoses were arrived at.

Overall, the book is a interesting read. If it encourages people who experience troublesome hallucinations to seek help without fearing they will be automatically labelled mentally ill, that's a good thing. It's just a shame that the book's premise that, "Hallucinations don't belong wholly to the insane" should be so stigmatising; however I can see that, from a marketing point of view, it makes perfect sense to focus on what could be called "Hallucination Lite".
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on 12 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In his latest book Oliver Sacks classifies and describes various types of hallucinations. In 15 chapters, which can be read in just about any order, Sacks describes: Charles Bonnet syndrome, in which blind or partially sighted people experience visual hallucinations; hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation; hallucinatory smells and sounds; hallucinations induced by Parkinson's, migraines, and epilepsy; drug- and delirium-induced hallucinations; sleep hallucinations; and finally, doppelgangers and phantom limb syndrome.

There is much that is interesting and often fascinating in this book, for example the surprising frequency of hallucinations, the fact that the hallucinations in Charles Bonnet Syndrome often involve people in exotic dress, Sacks's account of his various drug-taking experience (which were often extreme), and speculations on the connections between hallucinations and culture.

Sacks writes 'I think of this book as a sort of natural history or anthology of hallucinations, for the power of hallucinations is only to be understood from first-person accounts'; this is certainly true, however there is the risk that the stream of accounts can become as tedious as someone describing their dreams. For the most part this didn't happen, although I often found myself wanting less description and more analysis (something outside the scope of the book as Sacks envisages it).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 17 December 2012
Oliver Sacks has a knack of making seemingly complex issues accessible to the masses. An expert neurologist, one of his early works, Awakenings was adapted for the big screen as a blockbuster film starring Robin Williams and Robert de Niro. In his latest book, Hallucinations, he tackles a vast subject area but his engaging writing style, liberally peppered with anecdotes from patients and correspondents, makes a really satisfying read, equally entertaining and informative.

The book covers a wide range of hallucinatory experiences from intense visual images experienced by blind and partially sighted people to visions induced by meditation and even "seeing" a loved one after they passed over. Sacks dispels a lot of the stigma and myths which surround hallucinations - no, they are not a sign of madness, yes, they are more common than we might think. He even gives an honest recount of his own experiments with drugs detailing their adverse effect on the brain.

This isn't a light read but it rewards attentive reading and will clarify a lot of experiences which we might otherwise categorise as paranormal or supernatural. An excellent group read which will provoke plenty of weird and wonderful anecdotes!
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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