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Oaxaca Journal, Oliver Sacks

Despite being well-known as a a psychologist and neurologist, Oliver Sacks is also a card-carrying member of the American Fern Society. So, clearly, he felt it his duty to record every minute of his nine-day staycation in Mexico, where he spent his time cataloging ferns and contemplating the mystery of mescal and chocolate.

In case you’re wondering, there are few better ways to spend your first minutes of spring than reading a book where every page is a real-life documentation of green things– lush palms, spindly-limbed cacti, and, obviously, ferns. But it’s not fern-central here in the Oaxaca Journal, because Sacks loves his tangents, and in this account there are many. You will soon learn the following:

  • How the Mayans made rubber
  • How to turn insects into red dye
  • How organic compounds turn into toxic waste
  • How the architecture of Greek, Roman, and Mexican buildings are metaphors for the psyche of their people.

Clearly, not just fern stuff.

As fun as it is to watch Sacks geek out over plants with his cohorts, it’s equally as cool to flip through all of the sketches he includes, which are pretty intricate. But just as Sacks writes about brain conditions with an unwavering familiarity, so he does with his botanical musings: they feel weirdly personal and warm, like you’re sitting on an arid, sandy desert under the Mexican sun.

Whip up a mojito, throw on your drug rug, and find a grassy knoll to plant yourself on. Welcome to summer*, people.

*It’ll be in the 70s for the next week and a half. So maybe don’t pop out the booty shorts just yet.