587: Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

by Gerard

587.097274: Sacks, Oliver. Oaxaca Journal. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002. 159 pp. ISBN 0-7922-6521-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 580: Botany
  • 587: Pteridophyta
  • +097274: North America—Mexico—Oaxaca


First of all, this book is about ferns. It’s about people from all walks of life, all educational backgrounds, and all nationalities who love ferns. Oliver Sacks, noted neuroscientist and author, counts himself among their number. He is a legitimate card-carrying member of the American Fern Society. Ferns don’t get a lot of love from supposed plant lovers and botanists. They belong to the plant group Pteridophyta, reproduce by spores, and don’t have flowers. But Sacks loves them all. Some time back, he got to go on a “fern foray” to Oaxaca, Mexico with some fellow enthusiasts from the AFS. Oaxaca Journal takes us with him.

After reading this one, I wish I could have gone with him on his trip. His description of the people, landscape, and flora of Mexico is delightful and rich. Even if you are bored to death by the thought of a botany book, this one is interesting nonetheless, with bits about anthropology, food, and culture to help space out the plant science. He captures some of the glee of being an amateur scientist. He doesn’t have a research paper to write, or a lab to get back to, or even an agenda at all. He just wants to explore a new place that has a lot of the plants he loves to see and talk about. Being surrounded by others who revel in ferns doesn’t hurt either. It’s a short book for a short trip, and makes for a wonderful afternoon of reading. A quick and enthusiastic read.