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On the Move summary

Oliver Sacks

A Life

4.5 (79 ratings)
31 mins

Brief summary

On the Move by Oliver Sacks is a memoir that chronicles the author's fascinating, unconventional life as a neurologist, motorcyclist, and writer. It's a captivating exploration of an extraordinary mind.

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    On the Move
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    A Taste for Literature

    The year was 1950, and Oliver Sacks was 17. Traveling by himself, he’d just completed a cross-country skiing excursion in Norway, and he was about to board a ferry to return to England. At the duty-free shop by the harbor, he purchased some souvenirs to take home with him: a pair of two-liter bottles of aquavit – a strong Scandinavian spirit, ominously labeled “100 proof.” 

    But then Oliver ran into a little problem. At border control, the Norwegian customs officers informed him that he was only allowed to bring one bottle of liquor into the UK. They were fine with him leaving the country with a second bottle, but their British counterparts would confiscate it upon his arrival to England.

    What should he do? 

    Well, sitting on the ferry’s upper deck in the frigid North Sea air, Oliver started drinking from one of the bottles to help keep himself warm. The other passengers had all taken shelter inside the cabin; Oliver was alone. But that was fine. He had his novel to read. And not just any novel, but Ulysses – James Joyce’s 700-page masterpiece.

    He became so absorbed in the book that he didn’t notice the passage of time – or the depletion of the aquavit, which he was gradually draining sip by sip. Before he knew it, the ferry had arrived in England, and the bottle was empty. But Oliver felt completely sober. The alcohol must not be as strong as it claimed to be, he thought. 

    He stood up – and immediately fell on his face. He was completely drunk. 

    This wasn’t the first time he’d fallen for a book. A couple of years earlier, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row had inspired him to want to become a marine biologist – the same profession as one of the novel’s main characters. Later, his interests shifted to neurology. But though he always had a scientific bent, Oliver also had a deep love of stories and storytelling. 

    Part of it came from his mother. When he was a child, they spent hours at a time together reading classic books by British authors like D. H. Lawrence, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Dickens. When he was a bit older, he read the American novels of James Fenimore Cooper, along with narrative-driven books about science, such as Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. And as a teenager, he became president of his secondary school’s literary society – a much more illustrious position than the one we left him in, lying flat on his face on the ferry’s upper deck. 

    Fortunately, one of the boat’s crewmen found him there and helped him hobble off the boat with the aid of his ski poles, which he used as makeshift crutches. 

    But although he couldn’t even stand up on his own two feet, Oliver felt triumphant – as if he’d won a victory over the system. As much as they might have enjoyed it for themselves, British customs wouldn’t be confiscating that second bottle of aquavit after all.

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    What is On the Move about?

    On the Move (2015) is a poignant memoir that tells the story of how Oliver Sacks became an acclaimed writer and neurologist. Published the year of his death, it provides a wistful account of his turbulent young adulthood – detailing his struggle with addiction and addressing his sexuality for the first time in print.

    On the Move Review

    On the Move (2015) by Oliver Sacks is an engaging memoir that takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the life of a brilliant neurologist. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With fascinating anecdotes and personal reflections, it offers a unique insight into the experiences of a medical pioneer.
    • Through the lens of his own life, Sacks explores important themes such as identity, love, and the human condition, making the book relatable and thought-provoking.
    • The author's adventurous spirit and zest for life shine through the pages, making this memoir a captivating and inspiring read.

    Best quote from On the Move

    One may be very glib and facile on amphetamines ... but it all blows away, leaving no imprint.

    —Oliver Sacks
    example alt text

    Who should read On the Move ?

    • Fans of Oliver Sacks   
    • Readers interested in medical writing
    • Anyone who likes a good coming-of-age story

    About the Author

    Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist and writer who spent most of his career in the United States. After receiving his medical education at Oxford University, he worked at various hospitals in San Francisco and New York City. He specialized in working with patients with unusual neurological conditions. Many of his books were based on case studies about those patients. They include Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. He also wrote about his own unusual neurological experiences in his books such as No Leg to Stand On and The Mind’s Eye. 

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    On the Move  FAQs 

    What is the main message of On the Move?

    The main message of On the Move is that life is an adventure, and embracing new experiences can lead to personal growth and fulfillment.

    How long does it take to read On the Move?

    The reading time for On the Move varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is On the Move a good book? Is it worth reading?

    On the Move is a captivating read that offers a unique perspective on the life of a neurologist. It is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in science, medicine, or human stories.

    Who is the author of On the Move?

    Oliver Sacks is the author of On the Move.

    What to read after On the Move ?

    If you're wondering what to read next after On the Move , here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin
    • The Age of AI by Henry Kissinger
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • Mortality by Christopher Hitchens