The River of Consciousness

The River of Consciousness

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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
ISBN: 9780385352567
Characteristics: x, 237 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 13, 2019

A good collection about life, time, memory, creativity.

Dec 10, 2018

I pretty much love anything that Oliver Sacks has written. Given the backstory for this book -- that it was the last book he published and that he was working on it as he was dying -- I was predisposed to love this one, too. And I did.

Aug 13, 2018

One of the reviews on its jacket say that he left these essays in "outlines", which suggest the use of a ghostwriter. They're excellent, so if one was used, i hope he/her is let loose on his/her own books!
There's only one less than fine outing- on Freud. They others range to good to stellar. He is, or rather was, a new Lewis Thomas, or Loren Eisley, "the modern Thoreau" (who, sadly is now utterly ignored by all, including, to name the guilty, Vancouver Public Library!).
The standout here is the title essay "River of Consciousness". To the very limited extent words can corral this most slippery of subjects, Sacks does. Just read it already.
By the by- it has a pretty cover- a landscape by Felix Vallotton, an Impression-period painter.

PimaLib_MattL May 27, 2018

In The River of Consciousness, the late Dr. Oliver Sacks, known for Awakenings and The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, wonders if the history of science is much like the evolution of life, dependent on contingency and luck, and punctuated by bursts of activity between long periods of consolidation and stasis. He quotes Stephen Jay Gould in saying if the evolution of life on earth could be replayed, it would be wholly different the second time around. Citing the many accidents and fortunate discoveries in science, Sacks thinks the same thing might happen if you were to rewind the history of science. He says "Ideas, like living creatures, may arise and flourish, going in all directions, or abort and become extinct, in completely unpredictable ways."

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.

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 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.

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!


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at DPL

To Top