Oliver Sacks’ autobiography, On the Move, was my book club’s selection for April. Sacks is now at the top of my list of people, living or dead, that I want to invite to a dinner party. His formal education was medicine/neurology and he became a life-long clinician, studying, caring for, and learning about people with brain conditions such as encephalitis, migraines, autism, Tourette’s, and also sight and hearing disorders. The book culminates with new theories about the brain/mind connection and how excited Sacks himself was to realize that these theories, first proposed by Gerald Edelman in the late ’80s, were a sort of grand unification theory of all the different brain conditions that Sacks had studied throughout his life.
Sacks’ personal life is only slightly less fascinating than all his observations of the human brain. Obviously brilliant, he was also very passionate about areas of his life outside of medicine such as motorcycles, weightlifting, and most importantly writing. He was truly a renaissance man; nature, music, history and travel were all integral parts of his life as well. The diverseness of people with whom he had connections and friendships was astounding. Truly he was a writer in the sense that he was driven and compelled to write. He wrote for the medical field and for the general public and he wrote for himself, by his own account he has filled over 1000 journals and that does not include his clinical journals nor his personal correspondence.
The book, at times, was confusing to me as it skipped around in time, much as I imagine Sacks’ brain works, not linear in time but pulling in pertinent information for this or that thread of inquiry. I only fought against it as I was trying to read and understand this as a book of his life more than as a book of his work. A few in book club found it a bit heavy and dense, but overall the group approved. I would universally recommend it.