In what became Oliver Sacks’ signature tone of both accessibility and attainability, Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales will have you captivated from the first chapter. Sacks, both a scientist and story teller displayed a talent for elegant writing for both peers and members of the public throughout his lifetime.
Born in Britain where the majority of his education was completed, Sacks moved to the United States for residences and fellowships at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and UCLA before moving to the east coast where he spent the larger part of his professional career in New York. With a number of his books adapted to plays and films, Sacks displayed an incredible ability to bridge the divide between the sciences and arts. Published in 1985, The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales was developed in to an Opera and Awakenings was adapted in to a Oscar Nominated film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert de Niro in 1990.
Sacks set up the Oliver Sacks Foundation prior to his death in 2015 allowing material to be published post humourously. Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales is Sacks’ second and final volume of essays giving readers an insight in to his life, thoughts and research. Broken in to three parts beginning with childhood the reader is then graduated to Sacks’ professional career then finally part three entitled ‘Life Continues.’ As a result, there is a feeling of privacy and intimacy while reading this book, almost like reading one’s diary.
In reading Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales, you will find yourself excited about various unexpected topics such as cuttlefish (“would not one cuttlefish have done?”), chemistry, ferns, dreams, gefilte fish and wondering just how far it is to swim around City Island in the Bronx (it’s 2.4km by 0.8km as it turns out). As the book continues, you will find yourself more knowledgeable, understanding and accepting of various neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s.
While a medical journal is something many of us would never read let alone understand Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales is delivered in short and concise bursts providing any reader with a rudimentary understanding or interest in science a compelling read.
As humans we are curious creatures and Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales provides an insight to a particularly curious mind covering an 82-year life span and an over 50-year medical career.
The last word belongs to Oliver Sacks – from a chapter entitled aptly ‘The Aging Brain’ – “If the brain is to stay healthy, it must remain active, wondering, playing, exploring, and experimenting right to the end.”
Everything in its Place First Loves and Last Tales, by Oliver Sacks. (Macmillan Publishers, Hardback RRP $39.99)