The Island of the Colorblind: And, Cycad Island, Volume 15; Volume 95

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Vintage Books, 1998 - Fiction - 311 pages
61 Reviews
Oliver Sacks has always been fascinated by islands--their remoteness, their mystery, above all the unique forms of life they harbor. For him, islands conjure up equally the romance of Melville and Stevenson, the adventure of Magellan and Cook, and the scientific wonder of Darwin and Wallace.
Drawn to the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap by intriguing reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally color-blind, Sacks finds himself setting up a clinic in a one-room island dispensary, where he listens to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. And on Guam, where he goes to investigate the puzzling neurodegenerative paralysis endemic there for a century, he becomes, for a brief time, an island neurologist, making house calls with his colleague John Steele, amid crowing cockerels, cycad jungles, and the remains of a colonial culture.
The islands reawaken Sacks' lifelong passion for botany--in particular, for the primitive cycad trees, whose existence dates back to the Paleozoic--and the cycads are the starting point for an intensely personal reflection on the meaning of islands, the dissemination of species, the genesis of disease, and the nature of deep geologic time. Out of an unexpected journey, Sacks has woven an unforgettable narrative which immerses us in the romance of island life, and shares his own compelling vision of the complexities of being human.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Oliver Sachs is such a wonderful writer. - Goodreads
His research raises some fascinating questions. - Goodreads
Wonderful sociological insights as well. - Goodreads
My introduction to the writing of Oliver Sacks. - Goodreads

Review: The Island of the Colorblind

User Review  - Elizabeth Olson - Goodreads

Neuroscience, niche evolution, Micronesian culture, and good advice: never eat a cycad! Read full review

Review: The Island of the Colorblind

User Review  - Natasha Hurley-Walker - Goodreads

A fascinating travelogue and exploration of various rare medical conditions experienced by isolated island populations in the Pacific. Perfectly readable, fairly light, and a nice meld of fact and travel story. Read full review


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About the author (1998)

Oliver Sacks is a neurologist and author of seven books, including Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and An Anthropologist on Mars. He lives on City Island in New York.

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