The River of Consciousness

The River of Consciousness

Book - 2017
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From the best-selling author of Gratitude, On the Move, and Musicophilia, a collection of essays that displays Oliver Sacks's passionate engagement with the most compelling and seminal ideas of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.

Oliver Sacks, a scientist and a storyteller, is beloved by readers for the extraordinary neurological case histories ( Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars ) in which he introduced and explored many now familiar disorders--autism, Tourette's syndrome, face blindness, savant syndrome. He was also a memoirist who wrote with honesty and humor about the remarkable and strange encounters and experiences that shaped him ( Uncle Tungsten, On the Move, Gratitude ). Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep familiarity not only with literature and medicine but with botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology. The River of Consciousness is one of two books Sacks was working on up to his death, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385352567
9780385352574
Characteristics: x, 237 pages ; 22 cm
Call Number: 612.8233 SAC

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sgcf
Mar 28, 2018

This was a challenging collection of essays, probably out of my depth, but I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the mind. Sacks brilliantly cruises through the mental lives of plants and worms, earlier scientific discoveries that were “premature” because the world zeitgeist was not ready, and the brain’s problem-solving ability while in a semi-conscious state. But I was most intrigued by his essays that deal with memory – how we continually reconstruct memories through imagination, or how some memories may never have happened or happened to someone else. ”Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves – the stories we continually re-categorize and refine.” (p.121) Despite all the footnotes and studies quoted, his abundance of anecdotal evidence was the most engaging for me.

t
tjdickey
Dec 13, 2017

An extraordinary book from an extraordinary mind.
Published posthumously, "The River of Consciousness" is worth reading for the title essay alone. The the renowned neuroscientist explores our very perception of life itself, as a mental translation of discrete snapshot images of our surroundings, pearls on a string of perception that lead to a dynamic consciousness of flowing motion around us and a dynamic interaction of memory and perception. Other chapters lucidly reflect on the way our brains work to perceive sounds, construct memories (and re-construct them by personal narrative), work with memory and perception to create new thoughts and pieces of art; he even includes the evolution of human understanding of the perceptions of plants and animals.
Let your own mind be opened by riding the river with Oliver Sacks.

m
MaryElizabeth17
Dec 01, 2017

I loved this book. Sacks presents individual chapters that are streams that flow into a river of his consciousness. In one on memory, he talks about how artists often unintentionally borrow from each other and has a humorous anecdote about a time when Mark Twain did this. In the next chapter on creativity when Sacks explores the question of why some artists achieve greatness and others do not, he discusses the idea of an incubation period that precedes artistic greatness. In this incubation, there is a forgetting when the unconscious continues to work. This of course is when the forgetting of the previous chapter merges ideas that flowed from other creative sources. In the end, he raises the notion of how significant sheer luck is in the history of science and medicine. It is often about being in the right place at the right time, as is much of life.

JCLAmyF Nov 14, 2017

I love Oliver Sacks and this book is no exception. His blend of personality and love of science makes this a very engaging read!

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