Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (Review)



By Oliver Sacks

$15.95 Vintage Paperback

326 Pages

Copyright 2012

ISBN-13:  9780307947437

If you have no known mental illness which should affect your visual, auditory or other senses, have you ever panicked when a high fever has caused you to see a menacing — and nonexistent — stranger standing over your bed?

Have you heard your dog’s metal collar tags jangling nearby shortly after your dog has passed away?

Many of us have been though that, and if a semi-educated acquaintance points out that hallucinations suggest “schizophrenia,” you’ll handle that conversation a lot better if you’ve read this fine book by Oliver Sacks.

The author covers medical conditions which affect the way we perceive our surroundings, as well as external causes such as sensory deprivation and bereavement.

Footnotes and a bibliography appear in the U.S. and U.K. editions of Hallucinations, but sadly there’s no glossary.  The book is full of complicated clinical terms, and some readers will put down the book often to look up words which should be defined in the footnotes. Stopping to look up words makes it more difficult to concentrate, though, and personally I just skipped that part and kept reading.

I hope some of our semi-educated acquaintances who mention “schizophrenia” too quickly will also take a look at Dr. Sacks’ book. Besides informing the reader on what researchers have observed, studying this book closely can also remind us that human nature is never concrete.

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