Gratitude is a final gift from the excellent neurologist and writer of popular science, Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015. These short but beautiful pieces encapsulate all that is best about his writing. Humane, kind, interesting and funny, they offer his reflections on a life well lived from one who knew its end would come shortly. Shortly after finding out his cancer was back and inoperable, he wrote: “Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight”.
Probably best known for his books Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks’ own life has not been without bumps, as his two volumes of autobiography show. Here, we learn more about his deeply personal love of science. How excellent that as an 11 year old fan of the periodic table, he was delighted to be able to say “I am Sodium” and remained equally pleased at 79 to say “I am gold”. His reflections on his different experiences of Jewish family life, in London and beyond, are intriguing. A book to read, and read over.
Review by Bethan