“Light and fast-moving… Among the botanical and anthropological observations, one catches glimpses of Sacks’s inner life.”

The New Yorker

Oaxaca Journal

“I have been an inveterate keeper of journals since I was fourteen, especially at times of adventure and crisis and travel. Here, for the first time, such a journal made its way to publication, not that much changed from the raw, handwritten journal that I kept during my fascinated nine days in Oaxaca.” —Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is best known as an explorer of the human mind, a neurologist with a gift for the complex, insightful portrayals of people and their conditions that fuel the phenomenal success of his books. But he is also a card-carrying member of the American Fern Society, and since childhood has been fascinated by these primitive plants and their ability to survive and adapt. Now the best-selling author of Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat brings his ceaseless curiosity and eye for the wondrous to the province of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Oaxaca Journal is Sacks’s spellbinding account of his recent trip with a group of fellow fern enthusiasts to the beautiful, history-steeped province of Oaxaca. Bringing together Sacks’s passion for natural history and the richness of human culture with his penetrating curiosity and trammeling eye for detail, Oaxaca Journal is a captivating evocation of a places, its plants, its people, and its myriad wonders.

Oliver Sacks pictured amongst the ferns at New York Botanical Gardens

Oliver Sacks at New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Roberto Calasso

Ceradenia sacksii, “Sacks’ waxy-gland fern,” a newly identified fern named after Oliver Sacks

📷 Ceradenia sacksii, “Sacks’ waxy-gland fern,” a newly identified fern named after Oliver Sacks by botanist Michael Sundue.

An illustration of the cycad named after Oliver Sacks

Ceratozamia oliversacksii, a new species of cycad named after Oliver Sacks by Dennis Wm. Stevenson, Curator Emeritus at the New York Botanical Garden. Illustration by Abi Inman

A world in harmony.
Every plant in summer bloom,
to greet you all,
their fellow blossoming flowers.

Lyrics from the world’s first aria ever devoted to cycads—from Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman’s opera adaptation of Sacks’s 1973 book Awakenings.

Praise for Oaxaca Journal

“Sacks doesn’t waste a word. . . . He deftly characterizes people he meets along the way, smoothly slips facts from his wide-ranging reading into his narrative, expertly describes landscapes and raises up a hero: Boone Hallberg, a U.S.-born scientist who has lived in Oaxaca since the 1940s, working to conserve the priceless diversity of the natural world.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Light and fast-moving. . . . Among the botanical and anthropological observations, one catches glimpses of Sacks’s inner life: his preoccupation with dualities, his nearly Victorian sense of modesty, his fascination with the world around him.” The New Yorker

“The combination of his insatiable curiosity and rigorous scientific observation makes him an excellent travelling companion. . . . Mexico past and present emerges from these bursts of association and digression. . . . With so much of the world made superficially familiar by tourism, Oliver Sacks’s dogged pursuit of the exotic is especially welcome. He has, moreover, succeeded in striking that elusive balance of input between traveler and culture that makes for good travel writing.” Times Literary Supplement 

“Relaxed yet observant. . . . [Sacks’] thoughtful, sometimes wistful ruminations, no matter how expansive they may grow, are always rooted in the concrete details he has observed. . . . Those who read Oaxaca Journal will appreciate Sacks’ own diligence as an observer and his skill in translating the wonders of the material world into words.”Los Angeles Times

“Oaxaca Journal whipped up my appetite for a visit to Mexico, as the best travel writing does.”The Providence Journal