“[A] wonderful memoir, which richly demonstrates what an extraordinary life it has been. . . . A fascinating account—a sort of extended case study, really—of Sacks’ remarkably active, iconoclastic adulthood.”

Los Angeles Times

On The Move

“Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards.” Kierkegard

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction and then in New York, where he discovered a long forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions — weightlifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A.R. Luria, W.H. Auden, Francis Crick — who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer — and of the man who illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.


Add some musical accompaniment to your reading of On The Move with these Sacks-inspired tracks, curated by Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova, for SciFri Book Club.

Oliver Sacks with his motorbike

📷 Oliver Sacks, with his 250cc Norton Motorcycle in 1956.

Oliver Sacks lifting weights

📷 Lifting weights as a novice at the Maccabi Club in London, 1956.

Oliver Sacks with his partner Bill Hayes

📷 Oliver Sacks with his parter, Bill Hayes.

Praise for On The Move

“Intimate. . . . Brim[s] with life and affection.”The New York Times

“A glorious memoir. . . . In this volume Sacks opens himself to recognition, much as he has opened the lives of others to being recognized in their fullness.” The Atlantic

“Pulses with his distinctive energy and curiosity.” The New York Review of Books

“[A] beautifully constructed and moving memoir. . . . His life and work are a gift.” The Times Literary Supplement 

“The celebrated bard of the brain’s quirks reveals a flamboyant secret life and a multitude of intellectual passions in this rangy, introspective autobiography. Sacks’s writing is lucid, earnest, and straightforward, yet always raptly attuned to subtleties of character and feeling in himself and others; the result, closely following his announcement that he had terminal cancer, is a fitting retrospective of his lifelong project of making science a deeply humanistic pursuit.” Publisher’s Weekly

“Marvelous. . . . He studies himself as he has studied others: compassionately, unblinkingly, intelligently, acceptingly and honestly.” The Wall Street Journal

“Remarkably candid and deeply affecting. . . . Sacks’s empathy and intellectual curiosity, his delight in, as he calls it, ‘joining particulars with generalities’ and, especially, ‘narratives with neuroscience’—have never been more evident than in his beautifully conceived new book.” The Boston Globe

“[On the Move] is not only a record of his life-affirming characterological extravagance but also a meditation on what it is to be human in an age of medical arrogance and the numbing clout of technology.” The Los Angeles Review of Books