Book Review | Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks
Hardcover, 45 pages
Publication date:
November 24th 2015
Knopf Canada
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.


“When people die, they cannot be replaced. They  leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate-the genetics and neural fate-of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.” (p. 19-20)

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the reasons I picked up Gratitude by Oliver Sacks was the book’s brevity. After all a short book of personal essays from a well-known writer was an intriguing proposition and fortunately it turned out to be just what I needed.

While I haven’t read anything else by him, Oliver Sacks’ writing in Gratitude felt incredibly down to earth, authentic and relatable. It was akin to having a causal conversation with a dear friend. And despite the serious and thought provoking manner of the four essays reading them never felt painful although the writing was definitely poignant.

Of the four essays in Gratitude, “Sabbath” remained without a doubt the one that I connected with the most. In it, Sacks describes how religion has influenced his life from his orthodox upbringing to later appreciating elements of it such as how openly and warmly he and his partner are embraced by his more orthodox relatives when he visits them in Israel. This he mentions was something that was unexpected as growing up he faced rejection from his own mother when she found out he was gay. And he formerly attributed his mother’s extreme reaction as a result of her conservative religious beliefs and her loyalty to the teachings of her faith. Yet it is an essay that concludes on a hopeful manner despite reality.

Gratitude is a short read, however it is one that is filled with meaning that will stay with you after you’ve turned the last page. Personally, I will be passing my copy of this book on to my sister who’s currently in medical school as I think she’d appreciate all that it has to say about science, life and death.

The greatest takeaway for all who come across this book should be that too often, when things are going great for us we tend to take things for granted and occasionally it takes something life changing and perhaps terminal to force us stop to appreciate what we have and had. And Gratitude reminds its readers that shouldn’t be the case and we ought not wait for life to force us to pause for a second to be grateful for what we have and had and will have.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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