We asked Dr. Sacks to offer four books that he discovered during his research for Hallucinations that readers who are interested in the subject might want to explore. Here are his diverse and engaging selections:
Four Great Books I discovered (or rediscovered) while writing Hallucinations:
Virginia Adair’s poems appeared often in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and other journals in the 1930s and 40s, when she was a young woman—but this first collection of her poems was not published until she was 83. Toward the end of her life, Adair sent me some marvelous, poetic descriptions of the visual hallucinations she started to have when she lost her sight to glaucoma. A number of her poems were inspired by these rich visions, but I also love how she remained so vital and creative well into her nineties.
A brilliant and compelling exploration of evangelical communities, and one of my favorite books of 2012. Tanya Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford, and she has a rare ability to enter sympathetically into her subjects’ world, delving into controversial beliefs with respect and objectivity. I was particularly fascinated by her description of how American evangelicals may practice active visualization, using every sense, during prayer. When they say that they can see and feel the presence of God, this may be more literally true than not. The sort of prayer they practice shapes their brains and minds—a fascinating example of the brain’s ability to adapt and learn.
Many perfectly sane people hear voices in their heads, not just figuratively, but as if real. When I started to write about this, I discovered Daniel Smith’s witty and intelligent account of auditory hallucinations, which are much more common that you might suppose. “Hearing voices” is a frequently misunderstood and stigmatized subject. Where is the border between one’s internal voice and a hallucination? Where do these voices ultimately come from? These are questions that go back to antiquity, and the answers may surprise you.
This young chef consulted me a few years ago when she lost her ability to smell (and taste) following a bike accident. I encouraged her to keep journals and write about the experience, but I did not fully realize at the time what a lovely writer she is. Her ability to reclaim the world of culinary delight despite her anosmia is a moving story, beautifully told.
NOOK owners: go to shop and search for ‘Oliver Sacks’ to pre-order his provocative and enlightening book.
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