PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewHe does not play down the anger of some patients who have felt betrayed by his portrayals of them, nor does he deny his frustration with wary ones who resisted being depicted ... this memoir is more a history of his career than an analysis of it ... With On the Move, he has finally presented himself as he has presented others: as both fully vulnerable and an object of curiosity ... The most attractive and most problematic qualities of his writing turn out to be what are best and worst in him. His immersion in his patients’ brokenness is mirrored here in his acknowledgment of his own brokenness, his belated empathy for his younger self ... The primary mark of a good memoir is that it makes you nostalgic for experiences you never had, and Sacks captures the electrifying discoveries he made, especially those in his early career, with vivid, hard-edge prose ... Sacks assumes sometimes that we know more of his past than we do, and sometimes that we know less. Parts of this undertaking read dismayingly like the book one might write for one’s grandchildren ... His writing sometimes has a tinge of exposé, and there is no evidence that his clinical skills outrank those of other neurologists. To dismiss him on either of these fronts, however, misses the central fact that translating between those two arenas has great value of its own.
Thomas Chatterton Williams
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhile [Williams\'] Self-Portrait in Black and White begins with assertions of his blackness, it evolves into a rich set of questions occasioned by the birth of his first child ... He rejects the anger endemic to so much current writing about race in America; he is refreshingly free of the punishing though brilliant invective of Ta-Nehisi Coates ... On the whole, Williams’s book is more rigorous than mournful, an account of solutions more than of problems, marked by self-deprecating humor and acute sensitivity ... Williams writes beautifully, but his pages include quotations from great men that sometimes seem like scattered proof of his sophistication, a reflection of insecurities he disavows. Some readers will find his rhetoric perfidious and reactionary, with its dismissal of identity politics and the concomitant particulars of the African-American experience. But he is so honest and fresh in his observations, so skillful at blending his own story with larger principles, that it is hard not to admire him. At a time of increasing division, his philosophizing evinces an underlying generosity. He reaches both ways across the aisle of racism, arguing above all for reciprocity, and in doing so begins to theorize the temperate peace of which all humanity is sorely in need.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt is a triumphal narrative of how determination, charm, readiness and linguistic fluency allowed the author to penetrate one of the world’s most insular societies, beginning as an enthusiast for the country’s avant-garde culture and ultimately becoming part of that culture ... There is a touch of the erotic throughout his exegesis, but there is also a feeling of linguistic and cultural diligence, of the author’s effort to learn this new place ... he treats his old self with a sort of avuncular geniality, as though to say, 'Yes, we are foolish when we are young, but oh, how lovely it all was.'
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn the earlier part of her memoir, her tight focus on her own story at the expense of anyone else’s can come off as self-indulgent, even self-aggrandizing, but it is part of her considerable art that by the end, it feels like a winning frankness. The reader is saved from diaristic fatigue by the sharpness of her observations ... she narrates what happened and how it felt to her. And she does so with insight, grace and excruciating clarity, in exquisite and sometimes darkly humorous prose. The same tinge of self-aware narcissism that makes the book at times so annoying makes it finally triumphant. Merkin is unlikely to cheer you up, but if your misery loves company, you will find no better companion. This is not a how-to-get-better book, but we hardly need another one of those; it is a how-to-be-desolate book, which is an altogether more crucial manual ... it is standard fare to say that books on depression are brave, but this one actually is. For all its highly personal focus, it is an important addition to the literature of mental illness.
MixedThe Washington Post...a meticulous, if somewhat too narrowly focused, history ... Oshinsky writes with particular vigor of Bellevue’s refusal to subscribe to popular prejudices, noting that the hospital welcomed Jewish doctors as well as Christian ones, female doctors as well as male ones, and African American staff ... Oshinsky’s greatest strength may be his capacity for admiration. But seldom do we really get to know these people; they appear in vignettes ... Bellevue is curiously lacking in emotional punch, expressing an almost hagiographic veneration for the very real accomplishments of the hospital, its doctors and its programs, but without deeply moving the reader ... his narrative of Bellevue feels admirable but limited.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe Gene has its own elegant, twisting structure, in which evidence is suspended between the spines of history and science. It never pretends to ingenuousness; indeed, one is often tempted to give the author an A for visible effort. But with a marriage of architectural precision and luscious narrative, an eye for both the paradoxical detail and the unsettling irony, and a genius for locating the emotional truths buried in chemical abstractions, Mukherjee leaves you feeling as though you’ve just aced a college course for which you’d been afraid to register — and enjoyed every minute of it.