We’re always on the lookout for books that strike a chord with our readers. In our New & Notable series you’ll find selections that appeal to our editors and that we’d like to share. This week we were startled by neurologist Oliver Sacks’s revelations about hallucinations (“they don’t belong wholly to the insane”); enticed by the Alice Munro’s newest collection of short stories; and delighted to learn about the adventurous life of French feminist Benoîte Goualt.

 

Nonfiction 

Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks. Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body. (Excerpted from Knopf Doubleday, publisher.)

Review

“Fascinating. . . .Writing with his trademark mix of evocative description, probing curiosity, and warm empathy, Sacks once again draws back the curtain on the mind’s improbable workings.” —Publishers Weekly

Video: Living with Hallucinations (Click on “Check Out Related Media”)

 

Fiction | Contemporary Women 

Dear Life: Stories, by Alice Munro. Alice Munro’s peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but always spacious and timeless stories is once again everywhere apparent in this brilliant new collection. In story after story, she illumines the moment a life is forever altered by a chance encounter or an action not taken, or by a simple twist of fate that turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking. (Excerpted from Douglas Gibson Books, publisher.)

Review

“It’s no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada’s Munro is rewarding and that the best are stunning. They leave the reader wondering how the writer manages to invoke the deepest, most difficult truths of human existence in the most plainspoken language. . . . The author knows what matters, and the stories pay attention to it.”—Kirkus, starred review

 

Feminists | France | Biography

My Escape: An Autobiography, by Benoîte Groult. This witty autobiography captures the rich and varied life of a renowned French author and pioneering feminist, through the obstacles and movements in twentieth-century France. . . . She married four times, bore three children, underwent several illegal abortions, became a writer after she turned forty, and a feminist in her fifties. . . . At ninety-one years old, she concludes that she has been, and still is, a happy woman—lucky to have captured her freedoms, one by one, paying for them, delighting in them, and loving them. (Excerpted from Other Press, publisher.)

Review:

My Escape is a gem of a book, written by a woman who is an example to all of us—not because she is perfect, but because she is real, working tirelessly for the cause of Feminism whilst living and loving, doubting and struggling. She is a woman of passion and commitment and a woman I would love to meet. —Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog)