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Into It: Oliver Sacks

The author of 'Musicophilia' and 'Awakenings' chats about what he's reading, watching, and listening to.

... reading?

Music, Language, and the Brain by a colleague of mine called [Aniruddh] Patel. He himself is a good musician as well as a neuroscientist and a nice writer [with] a good feeling for language. A book [that] absolutely staggered me ... is The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History. It's by a brilliant young man in England called David Beerling, and it's such an incredible history of the last half billion years. It's the sort of book [that] Darwin would have blurbed. I also read some fiction, and I've become very attached to J.M. Coetzee.

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... Listening to?

I met Leon Fleisher and I've been to some of his concerts. Here in the office, I keep listening to Brahms: his concerto for piano and orchestra, the B flat major concerto, which he did with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra in the old days. By my bed is a lovely record he did when he was able to use both hands again, which is simply called "Two Hands." It's a variety of pieces, all of which I love, although I think I'm particularly taken by the Chopin Mazurka here because at one time I used to play most of the mazurkas myself.

... watching?

I occasionally like to watch old movies on public television Saturday nights. I saw the Charles Laughton one, Witness for the Prosecution, which I like very much. In general I like looking at nature programs. I do, as a matter of consciousness, try to listen to the Lehrer NewsHour, because I really don't read newspapers very much and I need to know what's going on.

Oliver Sacks has written 10 books, including "Awakenings." His most recent, "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain," is out Oct. 16.