Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mini-reviews: Upstream and Hallucinations

Mary Oliver is a writer known for her poems that praise the beauty of nature. In Upstream, she uses essays to examine her favorite writers and extol the ways that nature can give us hope and put things in perspective. For the reader familiar with her poems, it should be no surprise that her prose is sparse and beautiful. Some of the earlier essays deal with Oliver's childhood discovery that both the quiet forest and the pages of a book could offer companionship. Another essay holds her musings on the nature of creativity and the meeting of hard, regular work and the spark of inspiration. Some essays focus solely on the life of animals, like fish and turtles and even a single spider, as she reports her observations.

As always, reading words from Mary Oliver is a balm for the soul. These essays are a reminder for each of us to pay attention to our lives, to the small joys of every day, and to the wonders of nature all around us.

Upstream: Selected Essays
By Mary Oliver
Penguin Press October 2016
178 pages
Read via Netgalley

Hallucinations are a manifestation of mental illness, right? Dr. Oliver Sacks reveals that, instead, there are a variety of kinds of hallucinations and reasons for them to occur. Some people experience hallucinations because of injury or illness. Others purposefully seek out these experiences by taking drugs. In this book, we learn about the wide range of hallucinations from a doctor who wants readers to understand them instead of fear them.

I have been meaning to read something by Oliver Sacks for a while. When I saw this book recommended as a starting point for his work, I found the audiobook through my library. I usually find nonfiction a good genre to listen to, and this book was no exception. The narration is good and Dr. Sacks teaches you a lot without losing those of us who don't have advanced degrees in brain science. Just be prepared for some strange looks when people walk into the room and suddenly hear about malevolent voices or the appearance of tiny people....

By Oliver Sacks
Random House Audio November 2012
9 hours, 49 minutes
Listened via Overdrive through my library


  1. I love Mary Oliver's poems and have read many and posted snippets of a few now and again on my blog. She does make a person feel more calm, always good!

  2. Upstream sounds delightful. I love reading about authors and it's hard to say no to beautiful nature writing.

  3. Thank you for your reviews of two very different reads.

  4. Hallucinations sounds really intriguing. I haven't read anything by Oliver Sacks, but my husband has. I'll have to look into his books!

  5. Oh, I think Mary's writing is a balm for the soul as well. Loved Upstream and have read three or four of her collections. Have you read "Thirst"? I just picked it up for a cheap price.