10 Must-Read Oliver Sacks Books and Literary Works

Before anything else, Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and historian of science. However, he was likewise very important as a writer in the field of neurology. Arguably, there is hardly any writer in history that has captured and explained the drama of humans which is triggered by illness and neurological problems as much as Sacks.

Born Oliver Wolf Sacks on July 9, 1933, the neurologist has gained fame mostly for writing about the histories of his patients and various events, and the unusual experiences he has had as well as his own disorders. He published a good number of books and literary materials in his lifetime, most of which will always remain relevant not only to medics and people having some issues but also to everyone living.

Must-Read Oliver Sacks Books and Literary Works

Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks Books (Image Source)

1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985)

This book often regarded as one of the most outstanding and extraordinary books written in the 20th century, narrates and x-rays the case histories of patients who have been faced with neurological disorders. It tells the tales of people who have lost their memories and could not remember their past.

The book which collects 24 essays serves as a basis for the opera of the same name.

2. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain (2007)

In this work, Oliver Sacks makes a bold explanation of the function music plays in the human brain and also shades more light on how it affects the human mind and condition. It tells different stories of different people who have been affected by one form of neurological problem or the other, as well as how they got drawn to music. Music became like an antidote to the mind through the various storylines from the book.

One interesting thing about this book is how people get to develop a love for music as a result of a certain condition. For example, Sacks presents the case of a man, who at the age of 42 decided under a great urge that he wanted to become a pianist after he was struck by lightning.

3. An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales (1995)

This is probably one of the most important Oliver Sacks books that everyone should read. In a way, it builds on the themes of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, although there is more depth in the work this time around.

Readers are presented paradoxical stories of 7 patients battling with the neurological imbalance and how it has changed something about them in the creative sense. There was a surgeon who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome but finds succor when he operates and an artist who lost his sense of color after a car accident but is creative with black and white.

4. Hallucinations (2012)

In this biographical work, what Oliver Sacks does is to bring to bear the fact that hallucination is not only suffered by people who are seen as insane. He explains that it is a sensory problem. Sacks makes use of his own personal experience and that of his patients to highlight what Hallucinations tells people about the organization and structure of the human brain, and goes further to explain how it affects all cultures.

5. On the Move: A Life (2015)

This book is rather a presentation of the writer’s life story. It tells how Dr. Sacks started his journey as a young neurologist in the 1960s US, struggling with drug addiction and how he found his way. It talks of the writer’s love affairs, guilt, and the bond he shares with his brother and friends in the field of science and writing.

6. Gratitude (2015)

Sacks had battled recurring cancer in the past and this work which is among his most important writings is a celebration of all he has achieved as well as the gratitude for his life. He revealed that although he has feared about the future and his battle with cancer, he was more grateful for his life than he was afraid.

7. The Mind’s Eye (2010)

This book just like Musicophilia took a different dimension by exploring the different ways through which human being experience the visual world via faces/places, language, words, and the world. It also brings the stories of different people with the ability to visualize but were courageous, and resilient enough to fight it. Another important thing with this work is that Sacks brought in himself and tells about his battle with eye cancer as well as how he has been unable to recognize faces.

8. Awakenings (1973)

Between 1915 and 1926, Encephalitis lethargica which is a form of sleeping sickness became an epidemic. The disease affects the brain and causes some victims to be in a statue-like state without the ability to move or talk. In Awakenings, Sacks tells the story of some of these victims as well as the effort that has been put into helping victims.

9. Uncle of Tungsten (2001)

The book explores the story of Dr. Sack’s early childhood and how he was raised in England during the wars. He tells the story of how a science-oriented family made him fall in love with chemistry, and his days at the boarding school although not a pleasant one but it later helped in shaping his life. It also presents his personal adventures and the history of science makes this book a masterpiece.

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10. A Leg to Stand On (1984)

This book took a rather different and personal dimension as Dr. Sacks is the patient here after having a terrible encounter with a bull on an isolated mountain in Norway and suffers a severe injury on the leg. It tells of the experiences of his slow recovery.

Chux Dezman
Chux Dezman
Chux has been writing and editing for several major websites and publications for over 16 years, when he is not crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s, you might catch him at home watching his favourite TV shows


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