Book Review: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Final-cover-Hallucinations-250 Title: Hallucinations
Author: Oliver Sacks
Publisher: Knopf Books
ISBN: 978-0-307-95724-5
Genre: Medicine, Non-Fiction
Pages: 326
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I had only read two books of Oliver Sacks till I read “Hallucinations”. He was high on the reading radar but again there were other authors who took more preference. However, after reading Hallucinations that will not be the case anymore. “Hallucinations” is a different kind of book for me, because I have never read something like this in the past.

One doesn’t know more about any topic till one starts reading about it. We all think that hallucinations happen to those who are slightly mentally imbalanced or have become senile. However, that is not the case. Most people do not even know they are hallucinating at times. And if they do, they probably think they are crazy and therefore do not discuss this with anyone.

Oliver Sacks has taken this concept and given it a whole new perspective (which he always does with his books). The book is divided into fifteen chapters and each chapter is full of anecdotes and its relation to medicine. Sacks writes about the “Charles Bonnet Syndrome”, which was a new one for a layman like me. The condition more popularly known as CBS occurs when the brain is deprived of perceptual information and that is how people hallucinate. As Sacks also says that for every perception there are hallucinations. So this made perfect sense to me. There is a lot of insight into concepts such as “Auditory Hallucinations”, “Religious visions” and “Visions of oneself” (which I found most interesting).

The book makes you understand the reasons behind visions, the so called phantoms of the brains. The unknown territories and how this impacts everyday living. The thing with Oliver Sacks’ writing is that he can turn everything and anything to an interesting read. The book isn’t an academic work, so the understanding of concepts is crystal clear or at least was for me. Oliver Sacks has drawn extensively on his personal interactions with patients, medical reports and artistic references. There is this holistic perspective in this book.

For me, the amount of research done while writing this book clearly shows and is the cornerstone for writing non-fiction. I have never been this taken into a book about a subject which is so unique and yet so commonplace. “Hallucinations” has been one of the great non-fiction reads for me this year and I cannot stop recommending it to more people.

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