“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
—Oliver Sacks

Four essays, written over a few years, comprise this short but moving collection as Oliver Sacks reflects on his life, his terminal cancer, and coming to terms with his own death.

  1. Mercury — Just before turning 80 years old, Sacks discusses the joys of old age, and how he’s only just beginning to understand the meaning the life.
  2. My Own Life — When he’s 81, Sacks learns that his previously treated ocular melanoma now has multiple metastases in his liver, which will kill him.
  3. My Periodic Table — At the tender age of ten, Sacks became fascinated with the periodic table of the elements. Despite his prolific career in neurology, the chemical elements rooted him, and throughout his life he added to his periodic table collection. Now 82 and only months from his death, he relates his life and the treatment of his cancer to those elements.
  4. Sabbath — A few last reflections take Sacks back to his British roots, his relationship with Judaism, and his coming-out as homosexual.

These essays are heartbreakingly gracious, honest, tender, and bittersweet. Highly recommended for anyone who could use a profound and uplifting short read!