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Biography of Dr. Oliver Sacks

I’m incredibly excited to announce that my next book, a biography of Oliver Sacks, will be published by A.A. Knopf. I have exclusive access to the vast archive of The Oliver Sacks Foundation, and I have already found some new and intriguing information about Sacks’s life. Follow me here and on Twitter for updates on this project as my research continues.

Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship

I am thrilled and honored that the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, CUNY, has selected me to be the first Leon Levy/Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in Science Biography for 2019–2020.  I’ll be working on my biography of Oliver Sacks alongside fine biographers Abigail Santamaria, David Greenberg, Channing Joseph, and Matthew McKnight.

“The River of Consciousness” by Oliver Sacks

Published in the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2017

Oliver Sacks Travels Down “The River of Consciousness”

Madagascar’s star orchid intrigued Darwin. He inferred a moth must exist that could reach its nectar.

After roiling the world by publishing his book “On the Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin retreated to his estate’s conservatories, not to putter about in retirement but to seek further evidence for his theory of evolution by natural selection. His greenhouses became, in the words of Oliver Sacks, “engines of war, from which he would lob great missiles of evidence at the skeptics outside.”

Sacks, the neurologist and writer who died in 2015 at age 82, relished writing about Darwin. “The River of Consciousness,” a collection of 10 previously published essays, reveals Sacks as a gleeful polymath and an inveterate seeker of meaning in the mold of Darwin and his other scientific heroes Sigmund Freud and William James.

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Oliver Sacks

Curiouser and curiouser: A cup of tea with Oliver Sacks

Published at ted.com, May 23, 2016.

A memorable conversation with Oliver Sacks reveals what might have been his greatest attribute: undying curiosity.

I remember knocking at his door, nervously clutching an inscribed copy of my book The Philosophical Breakfast Club and a bag from a local chocolatier. I hoped I had chosen my gifts well. He had written to tell me how much he enjoyed reading the book — he had even put it on a list of “Five Science Biographies that Inspired Me” — and I remembered hearing somewhere that he adored dark chocolate. I was nervous: Would I bore him? Was I wrong about the chocolate?

Out popped Oliver Sacks, peering at me uncertainly. His prosopagnosia, or face blindness, made him unable to recognize me from my author photo. When I told him who I was, he engulfed me in a great big bear hug. Pulling back, he gestured to his faded T-shirt from the University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. “I wore this in your honor,” he proudly announced, knowing that I was finishing up a book about science and art in the Dutch Golden Age.

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Oliver Sacks “Inspired” by “Philosophical Breakfast Club”

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I’m incredibly pleased and excited that Oliver Sacks included The Philosophical Breakfast Club on a list of five science biographies that have inspired him.

Sacks is one of my favorite non-fiction writers, in part because he is able to connect wonderfully with a broad readership to interest them in, and educate them on, complex scientific issues related to neurology and psychology. He’s definitely one of the writers who inspires me, so it’s particularly wonderful to see my book on his list.

You can see the list here.

I can’t wait to read his new book, Hallucinations, out on Nov. 6!