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Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks – Review

     What would you know, I have another old book review! Who needs to read new stuff when you can rely on previously done work! Though I am aware that I will very quickly run out of these and actually have to think up some new blog content. It’s a distressing thought…I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Until then, enjoy another book review.

     I decided to splurge and treat myself to Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. I must say, it was well worth the whole £2 I spend on the kindle edition.

     Before reading this book I knew very, very little about hallucinations in general, so the book was rather enlightening. It covers quite the array of situations that might cause hallucinations, beginning with a chapter on visual hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome and another on hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation. Then there’s the chapter on hallucinatory smells, auditory hallucinations, hallucinations caused by migraines, Parkinsonism and even drug induced hallucinations – and that’s only half the book. It’s not lacking in content.

     The writing style of the book is great; it’s engaging and also informative. It’s packed with stories of hallucinations which are fascinating to read. Some of them are hilarious and absurd (such as the authors own account of having a chat with a talking spider after taking some drugs), while others must be quite creepy to experience (like hallucinating people’s faces distorting and melting). A real strength of the book is how much experience Sacks has on the topic, both from working first hand with many of the people he writes about and from experiencing several forms of hallucinations himself. His accounts of his own hallucinations are particularly interesting to read.

     I will say that I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more than the second half. With the first half, I enjoyed reading about the hallucinations and the different patients he was writing about (such as one woman who was able to hold off her hallucinations until the evening and would politely ask her visitors to leave so she could enjoy them, telling them that a gentleman was coming round to see her). However, by the second half of the book I had read so many accounts of hallucinations that I didn’t really have the energy to connect with the different people (whose mentions were sometimes rather brief). Sometimes reading so many accounts of hallucinations made the book feel a little repetitive and as I result I glossed over parts.

     Nevertheless, Hallucinations was worth the read, if only to dispel the fear and stigma that is normally associated with having hallucinations. So many simply see people who have hallucinations as being crazy and it was great to read about how common hallucinations actually can be. If you have the time and the £2 the kindle version costs, do pick up the book.

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