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An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks Review

Title: An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

Author: Oliver Sacks

First published January 1, 1995

318 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780330343473 (ISBN10: 0330343475)

Rating: 4.15


In Last of the Amazons, Steven Pressfield takes us back to 1250 BC, when Theseus, the king of Athens, encountered the ‘Free People’ – the fierce and proud warrior women known as the Amazons. Despite their mutual distrust, Theseus and the Amazon war queen fell in love, causing a rift between the two peoples.

While history may suggest that the Amazons were unable to triumph, Pressfield gives us a glimpse of their brief but glorious moment of power in the Attic world before becoming immortalized in myth and legend. Honour and loyalty were everything to the Amazons, and their story is one of strength, passion, and unyielding independence.

About the Author

Oliver Wolf Sacks was a British neurologist who lived in the United States and gained worldwide recognition for his popular books on his patients. His most famous book, Awakenings, was adapted into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

The youngest of four siblings, Sacks grew up in North London with his parents, Sam and Elsie. During The Blitz, he and his brother were evacuated to a boarding school in the Midlands, where he spent most of his childhood.

He showed a passion for medicine and chemistry, which he later pursued at Oxford University. He received a Bachelor of Arts in physiology and biology in 1954 and went on to earn a Master of Arts and an MB ChB in chemistry, which qualified him to practice medicine.

In 1965, Sacks moved to New York, where he remained until his death in 2015. He began consulting at Beth Abraham Hospital in 1966, where he worked with patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica, a sleeping sickness that had left them immobile for decades.

These patients and his treatment of them formed the basis of his book, Awakenings.

Sacks’ work at Beth Abraham contributed to the establishment of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), where he became an honorary medical advisor. The IMNF recognized Sacks with its first Music Has Power Award in 2000 and again in 2006 for his 40 years of service at Beth Abraham and his contributions to music therapy.

Sacks held academic positions at several universities, including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the New York University School of Medicine, where he served for 42 years. In 2007, he was appointed to a position at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as a professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychiatry, as well as an “artist” to help connect various disciplines.

Sacks received many honors and awards throughout his career, including being appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2008. An asteroid was named after him in 2003, and he was a member of various prestigious academic institutions.

Oliver Sacks’ life and work left a significant impact on the field of neurology and medicine as a whole.

Editoral Review

An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks is a deeply moving and thought-provoking collection of seven essays that explore the lives of people with neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks, who was a physician, writer, and professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, published this book in January 1995.

Sacks was known for his ability to make complex medical cases accessible and captivating to a general audience, and this book is no exception. In An Anthropologist on Mars, he takes us on a journey through the unusual worlds of his patients, exploring the intricate ways in which their brains work and how they have learned to adapt to their conditions.

Each of the seven essays in this book is unique and stands alone, but they are all united by Sacks’ compassionate and insightful approach to his subjects. He treats each patient with dignity and respect, valuing their unique experiences and perspectives.

The first essay, To See and Not See,” tells the story of Virgil, a man who had been blind since childhood but gained the ability to see later in life. The second essay, The Last Hippie, follows the story of Greg, a man who experienced profound amnesia after a brain tumor.

The third essay, A Surgeons Life, introduces us to Dr. Carl Bennett, a surgeon who developed Tourette’s syndrome late in life. Sacks also explores the lives of Temple Grandin, a woman with severe autism who revolutionized the livestock industry, and Stephen Wiltshire, an artist who is also autistic and can recreate entire cities from memory after seeing them for a brief period.

One of the strengths of this book is Sacks’ writing style. He is able to convey complex medical concepts in a way that is both clear and engaging.

He artfully weaves scientific information with personal stories, allowing us to see his patients not just as medical cases, but as people with full and rich lives. Another strength of the book is Sacks’ commitment to presenting his subjects honestly and accurately.

He does not shy away from describing the challenges and difficulties his patients face, but he also highlights their resilience and unique perspectives. Despite these strengths, there are a few limitations to the book.

Some readers may find the language and concepts difficult to comprehend, as Sacks uses medical terms and concepts without providing thorough explanations. Additionally, some of Sacks’ conclusions and generalizations are based on a limited sample and may not be universally applicable.

Overall, An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks is a must-read for anyone interested in the human condition, the complexity of the brain, and the ways in which people can adapt to extraordinary circumstances. It is a book that will challenge and inspire you, and it is well worth the read.

I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

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