Two weeks before his death, Oliver Sacks outlined the contents of The River of Consciousness, the last book he would oversee. The best-selling author of On the Move, Musicophilia, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks is known for his illuminating case histories about people living with neurological conditions at the far borderlands of human experience. But his grasp of science was not restricted to neuroscience or medicine; he was fascinated by the issues, ideas, and questions of all the sciences. That wide-ranging expertise and passion informs the perspective of this book, in which he interrogates the nature not only of human experience but of all life.
In The River of Consciousness, Dr. Sacks takes on evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience, and the arts, and calls upon his great scientific and creative heroes―above all, Darwin, Freud, and William James. For Sacks, these thinkers were constant companions from an early age; the questions they explored―the meaning of evolution, the roots of creativity, and the nature of consciousness―lie at the heart of science and of this book.
The River of Consciousness demonstrates Sacks’s unparalleled ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless endeavor to understand what makes us human.
Reading a book published after its authors death, especially if he is as prodigiously alive on every page as Oliver Sacks, as curious, avid and thrillingly fluent, brings both the joy of hearing from him again, and the regret of knowing it will likely be the last time . . . [The] combination of wonder, passion and gratitude never seemed to flag in Sacks’s life; everything he wrote was lit with it. But it was his openness to new ideas and experiences, and his vision of change as the most human of biological processes that synthesized all of his work (Nicole Krauss The New York Times Book Review)
Millions of Sacks’s books have been printed around the world, and he once spoke of receiving 200 letters a week from admirers. For those thousands of correspondents, The River of Consciousness will feel like a reprieve – we get to spend time again with Sacks the botanist, the historian of science, the marine biologist and, of course, the neurologist (Guardian)
An incisive and generous inquiry into human nature (Elle)
[Sacks’s] accumulated wisdom of our experience of time and consciousness makes a marvellous discrete series of meditations – and a profoundly moving one, since several of these pieces were written with the knowledge that his experience of both mysteries was soon coming to an end (Tim Adams Observer)
Compelling . . . Sacks invites readers into his mind where they can experience the world from his unusually insightful perspective (Science News Magazine)
A fascinating book (Daily Telegraph)
Sacks continues in this latest collection to focus on questions over answers; the result is a work that leaves plenty of room for possibility beyond what might be immediately observed . . . Intellectually, Sacks is, at heart, a philosopher (New York Magazine)
A writer of eloquence, he was always ready to see his medical specialist in reaction to the world and humanity . . . His greatest reverence is for the human mind (The Tablet)
A joy to read: a delicious supply of information and commentary organized by a gifted writer of a curious and humane intelligence (The Washington Times)
Reveals Sacks as a gleeful polymath and an inveterate seeker of meaning in the mold of Darwin and his other scientific heroes Sigmund Freud and William James . . . As this volume reminds us, in losing Sacks we lost a gifted and generous storyteller (Wall Street Journal)