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Gratitude
Cover of Gratitude
Gratitude
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“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
—Oliver Sacks

No writer has succeeded in capturing the medical and human drama of illness as honestly and as eloquently as Oliver Sacks. 

During the last few months of his life, he wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death.

“It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.

“Oliver Sacks was like no other clinician, or writer. He was drawn to the homes of the sick, the institutions of the most frail and disabled, the company of the unusual and the ‘abnormal.’ He wanted to see humanity in its many variants and to do so in his own, almost anachronistic way—face to face, over time, away from our burgeoning apparatus of computers and algorithms. And, through his writing, he showed us what he saw.”
—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
—Oliver Sacks

No writer has succeeded in capturing the medical and human drama of illness as honestly and as eloquently as Oliver Sacks. 

During the last few months of his life, he wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death.

“It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.

“Oliver Sacks was like no other clinician, or writer. He was drawn to the homes of the sick, the institutions of the most frail and disabled, the company of the unusual and the ‘abnormal.’ He wanted to see humanity in its many variants and to do so in his own, almost anachronistic way—face to face, over time, away from our burgeoning apparatus of computers and algorithms. And, through his writing, he showed us what he saw.”
—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
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About the Author-
  • OLIVER SACKS was born in 1933 in London and was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings.

    Dr. Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote many books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a HatMusicophilia, and Hallucinations, about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as "the poet laureate of medicine," and over the years he received many awards, including honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal College of Physicians. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015.

    For more information, please visit www.oliversacks.com.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2015
    Valediction from the late neurologist and writer Sacks (On the Move: A Life, 2015, etc.). In this set of four short essays, much-forwarded opinion pieces from the New York Times, the author ponders illness, specifically the metastatic cancer that spread from eye to liver and in doing so foreclosed any possibility of treatment. His brief reflections on that unfortunate development give way to, yes, gratitude as he examines the good things that he has experienced over what, in the end, turned out to be a rather long life after all, lasting 82 years. To be sure, Sacks has regrets about leaving the world, not least of them not being around to see "a thousand...breakthroughs in the physical and biological sciences," as well as the night sky sprinkled with stars and the yellow legal pads on which he worked sprinkled with words. Sacks works a few familiar tropes and elaborates others. Charmingly, he reflects on his habit since childhood of associating each year of his life with the element of corresponding atomic weight on the periodic table; given polonium's "intense, murderous radioactivity," then perhaps 84 isn't all that it's cut out to be. There are some glaring repetitions here, unfortunate given the intense brevity of this book, such as his twice citing Nathaniel Hawthorne's call to revel in "intercourse with the world"--no, not that kind. Yet his thoughts overall--while not as soul-stirringly inspirational as the similar reflections of Randy Pausch or as bent on chasing down the story as Christopher Hitchens' last book--are shaped into an austere beauty, as when Sacks writes of being able in his final moments 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." If that promise of clarity is what awaits us all, then death doesn't seem so awful, and that is a great gift from Sacks. A fitting, lovely farewell.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2016

    Sacks's (Awakenings; The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) powerful look back at his remarkable life was published posthumously. The book chronicles the famous author's thoughts, wishes, regrets, and, above all, feelings of love, happiness, and gratitude even as he faced the cancer that ended his life last year at 82. In essays that originally appeared in print in the New York Times, Sacks relates what makes him happy--simply to be alive on a beautiful day, for example--as well as what causes him sadness as he ages. He considers people he has known and loved and how they approached death and candidly discusses his feelings upon learning that his cancer had metastasized and was terminal. Surprisingly, the writings feature themes related to physics rather than biology, with Sacks explaining that "Times of stress...have led me to turn, or to return, to the physical sciences, a world where there is no life, but also no death." While the book shows no dimming of intellect--indeed, the material offers incisive, poignant observations--the author's usual scientific narrative has in places been supplanted by wistful musings on life and love. The essays also tie up the strands of a career spent investigating and writing, mentioning various projects, mentors, and books along the way. VERDICT A perfect gift for thoughtful readers, and a title that belongs in science and biography collections.--Henrietta Verma, formerly with Library Journal

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Edith Cody-Rice, The Millstone "A series of heart-rending yet ultimately uplifting essays....A lasting gift to readers....unlike other writers who have reported from the front lines of mortality, Sacks did not focus on his illness, his medical ordeal or spirituality, but on "what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life--achieving a sense of peace within oneself. Sacks not only achieved that peace but managed to convey it beautifully in these essays. He found positive ways to think about everything, including his growing frailty: Perhaps, he suggests in the book's final pages, he was in the Sabbath of his life, "when one can feel that one's work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest." His tender book leaves readers with a similar sense of tranquility and, indeed, gratitude." --Heller McAlpin, Washington Post "Elegant....a lovely slim volume." --Melissa Dahl, New York Magazine "The neurologist and author died of cancer in August. Between 2013 and 2015, he wrote four moving essays, published in The New York Times, reflecting on his life and facing mortality. They are collected in this slim volume, a coda to Sacks' remarkable career." --Tom Beer, Newsday "A book defined by celebration, not sadness." --Danny Heitman, The Advocate "This is a worthy little chapbook for the lovers of Oliver Sacks."
  • Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star-Tribune "The volume is tiny--short enough to read easily in one sitting--but it's huge in heart. Oliver Sack's just-published book "Gratitude," consists of four essays the famous neurologist and chronicler of human quirks wrote in the months before his death of cancer this summer at 82. It is, in effect, a mini-memoir, a beautiful meditation on what it means to live a good life." --Sydney Trent, Washington Post "In these four graceful essays written in the two years before he died, Oliver Sacks looks at life, old age -- and death, square in the eye....First published individually in the New York Times, together these pieces form a wise and profound quartet."
  • Maria Popova, Brainpickings.org "Gratitude is a bittersweet and absolutely beautiful read in its entirety."
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