The River of Consciousness - Oliver Sacks

Staff Pick

The ten essays Oliver Sacks gathered for this volume shortly before his death might at first seem like a miscellany, the meanderings of an inexhaustibly curious man, interested in everything. But The River of Consciousness (Knopf, $27.95), covering such classic Sacks themes as perception and misperception, memory, time, creativity, and how the abnormal illuminates normality, is a remarkably tight and focused collection. In making this coherence out of many disparate fields—biology, history, biography, medicine, photography—the book mirrors the title essay’s discussion of William James’ theories that the seemingly continuous state of consciousness is composed of innumerable discrete moments. James, one of Sacks’ heroes, returns throughout this book, as do Darwin and Freud. Like Sacks, these thinkers embodied an admirable “spaciousness of mind,” and Sacks profiles not their celebrated achievements but their lesser-known accomplishments in areas outside their specialties. He lays out Freud’s early work in neurology and Darwin’s late work in botany, a field that was mostly descriptive before Darwin’s six books and seventy-plus papers transformed it into an evolutionary science. Sacks also picks up threads from his own prodigious writing, revisiting many of his earlier books to add new information, revise conclusions, and, most of all, to ask more questions.

The River of Consciousness By Oliver Sacks Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385352567
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - October 24th, 2017

The Origins of Creativity - Edward O. Wilson

Staff Pick

By training and practice, Edward O. Wilson is one of the pre-eminent biologists of our time, and is perhaps unmatched in myrmecology, the study of ants. Luckily, Wilson has ranged far beyond his specialty, and as books like The Meaning of Human Existence show, Wilson is as much a philosopher as he is a scientist. He carries on this dual practice in his brilliant The Origins of Creativity (Liveright, $24.95), though he would say that science and philosophy are not parallel modes of inquiry, but exist along one continuum. This essential connection between the sciences and the humanities is the heart of the vision of a third Enlightenment that he outlines here. The two have always been linked, despite C.P. Snow’s diverging “two cultures,” forming parts of one mutually reinforcing coevolution, with language—the “supreme achievement, genetic in origin, cultural in its elaboration,” uniting them. Wilson’s own language is lucid, elegant, and irresistibly quotable: “the realm of science is everything possible in the universe, the realm of the humanities is everything conceivable to the human mind,” he says. And by utilizing these capacities to their fullest, we as a species can accomplish much, including solving the mystery of human consciousness and discovering “why we exist.” As apt to draw examples from film, literature, and music as he is from the natural world, Wilson, who has collaborated with the poet Robert Hass on The Poetic Species, is perhaps his own best example of the kind of wide-ranging, ever-inquiring mind he describes.

The Origins of Creativity By Edward O. Wilson Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631493188
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Liveright - October 3rd, 2017