On the Move: A Life

Neurologist Oliver Sacks (Hallucinations) is known for his patient-centered, narrative medical writing. On the Move picks up where his childhood memoir, Uncle Tungsten, left off.

The year Sacks turned 18, he got his first motorbike and reluctantly came out to his parents. He fell in love with historical scientific literature as a medical student at Oxford, and moved to North America a few years later, partly to get away from his "tragic, hopeless, mismanaged" schizophrenic brother. Sacks was a passionate motorcyclist, traveler, photographer and record-setting weightlifter, loved to swim in high seas, experimented with drugs and enjoyed his share of sexual adventures.

As Sacks neared middle age, injuries and heartbreak took their toll, and his drug use became a full-blown addiction. By 1966, he says, "my friends did not think I would make it to thirty-five, and neither did I." But he found a good analyst, gave up drugs and left lab research for clinical work. In 1967, he drafted his first book, Migraine, and began his life's work: research, writing and teaching--while also entering a 35-year romantic dry spell.

This is a finely written, calm and warmhearted memoir, with plenty of humor and little self-justification. Sacks brings his gift for intimate description to portraits of family, friends, co-workers and celebrities such as W.H. Auden, Robin Williams and Francis Crick. He has been an obsessive, lifelong journal-keeper and letter-writer, and his access to these documents gives his stories fresh and colorful immediacy. Few people live such a rich life, and fewer can tell it so well. --Sara Catterall

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