|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Medical (Neurology)
Start date: July 2010
Finished date: July 2010
Where from: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: Fascinating title & became interested from seeing Awakenings
Summary: A nonfiction account of true case studies involving complex brain injuries or disorders that both challenge & baffle well-known neurologist Oliver Sacks as he attempts to diagnose, research, find precedent, treat, and either "cure" (though its a rare outcome) or at least pinpoint with assurance the cause & care that a patient requires.
I had heard of famed neurologist Oliver Sacks’s work with severe brain injuries, being best known for his miraculous Awakenings before attempting this instantly fascinating work. I mean, the title alone has to interest you…how can that be, you think? His insightful writing is a comfortable mix of medical jargon & human feeling, offering a series of case studies, including the titular character of Dr. P., whose visual agnosia (likely caused by a brain tumor) can describe but fail to identify basic objects or familiar people.
Other cases include a WWII veteran who cannot form new memories since 1945, a woman who cannot relate to her own body parts or even place them correctly, twin autistic savants who can name multi-digit prime numbers, and a medical student (whom Sacks later reveals to be his own case) who suffers from a highly sensitive sense of smell after taking a number of illicit drugs.
The stories are written like academic papers but go beyond his medical prognoses to offer human insights that he picks up from colleagues, mentors, and even the patients themselves. I appreciated Sacks’s candor about the case studies, and how he doesn’t leave a single unfamiliar term unexplained. Even if you have very little background in science, you will find yourself drawn into the stories and hoping a cause and/or cure can be found.
Rank: (A)- Highly recommended