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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and…

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1970)

by Oliver Sacks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,180156560 (3.94)264
In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century" (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks's splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine's ultimate responsibility: "the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject."… (more)
  1. 122
    The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran (lorax)
  2. 30
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (hnau)
    hnau: Science fiction inspired by the works of Oliver Sacks (among others).
  3. 20
    Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain by Timothy Verstynen (Katya0133)
    Katya0133: A humorous and decidedly irreverent take on neuroscience which nonetheless manages to be incredibly informative.
  4. 20
    Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  5. 20
    Fractured Minds: A Case-Study Approach to Clinical Neuropsychology by Jenni A. Ogden (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: I read this for pleasure but have since learned it's used as a textbook. Quite probably it's not got so broad an appeal as Sacks' book but to me the Ogden not only seems more substantial but it's even more the page-turner.
  6. 20
    Toscanini's Fumble: And Other Tales of Clinical Neurology by Harold L. Klawans (joririchardson)
  7. 20
    The Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel (meggyweg)
  8. 10
    A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy (meggyweg)
  9. 10
    Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (clairecc)
  10. 10
    Bomb in the Brain : A Heroic Tale of Science, Surgery, and Survival by Steve Fishman (meggyweg)
  11. 00
    On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  12. 00
    The Burning House by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  13. 00
    The Barmaid's Brain: And Other Strange Tales from Science by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  14. 00
    Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio (ShaneTierney)
  15. 00
    The Rationality of Emotion by Ronald De Sousa (ShaneTierney)
  16. 15
    One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey may be paired with The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks or even Awakenings by the same author. All three books explore the idea that once a person becomes ill or is institutionalised, they lose their rights and privileges.… (more)

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» See also 264 mentions

English (138)  Italian (6)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
Certainly not a bad book by any means, but one that quickly went over my head. I was able to grasp some of it, but much of the explanation was completely beyond me.

Love the cases though. ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
Every science book should be as good as this. A near perfect survey of people whose deficiencies in interpersonal communications are compensated for by rich, beautiful, emotional interior worlds, and vice versa:

"But for William-- with his brilliant, brassy surface, the unending joke which he substitutes for the world (which if it covers over a desperation, is a desperation he does not feel); for William with his manifest indifference to relation and reality caught in an unending verbosity, there may be nothing 'redeeming' at all-- his confabulations, his apparitions, his frantic search for meanings, being the ultimate barrier to any meaning.

Paradoxically, then, William's great gift-- for confabulation-- which has been called out to leap continually over the ever-opening abyss of amnesia-- William's great gift is also his damnation. If only he could be quiet, one feels, for an instant, if only he could stop the ceaseless chatter and jabber; if only he could relinquish the deceiving surface of illusions-- then (ah then!) reality might seep in; something genuine, something deep, something true, something felt could enter his soul....

Our efforts to 're-connect' William all fail-- even increase his confabulatory pressure. But when we abdicate our efforts, and let him be, he sometimes wanders out into the quiet and undemanding garden which surrounds the Home, and there, in its quietness, he recovers his own quiet. The presence of others, other people, excite and rattle him, force him into an endless, frenzied, social chatter, a veritable delirium of identity-making and -seeking; the presence of plants, a quiet garden, the non-human order, making no social or human demands upon him, allow this identity-delirium to relax, to subside; and by their quiet, non-human self-sufficiency and completeness allow him a rare quietness and self-sufficiency of his own, by offering (beneath, or beyond, all merely human identities and relations) a deep wordless communion with Nature itself, and with this the restored sense of being in the world, being real."


"I believe the twins, seemingly so isolated, live in a world full of friends, that they have millions, billions of numbers to which they say 'Hi!' and which, I am sure, say 'Hi!' back. But none of the numbers is arbitrary-- like 62 squared-- nor (and this is the mystery) is it arrived at by any of the usual methods, or any method so far as I can make out. The twins seem to employ a direct cognition-- like angels. They see, directly, a universe and heaven of numbers. And this, however singular, however bizarre-- but what right have we to call it pathological?-- provides a singular self-sufficiency and serenity to their lives, and one which might be tragic to interfere with, or break."
( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
Could not read all of it but the first few chapters were fascinating. ( )
  leebill | Apr 30, 2020 |
Sacks is a lucid, witty, and concise writer who approaches the philosophy of self and being through this collection of essays about cognitive disorders. There are a few anecdotal pieces that could have been omitted, but overall the book feels like a cohesive work that is moving, enchanting, and provocative. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
Libro de Javier
  Crinyesto | Mar 30, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
In addition to possessing the technical skills of a 20th-century doctor, the London-born Dr. Sacks, a professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, sees the human condition like a philosopher-poet. The resultant mixture is insightful, compassionate, moving and, on occasion, simply infuriating. One could call these essays neurological case histories, and correctly so, although Dr. Sacks' own expression -''clinical tales'' - is far more apt. Dr. Sacks tells some two dozen stories about people who are also patients, and who manifest strange and striking peculiarities of perception, emotion, language, thought, memory or action. And he recounts these histories with the lucidity and power of a gifted short-story writer.
The book deserves to be widely read whether for its message, or as an easy introduction to neurological symptoms, or simply as a collection of moving tales. The reader should, however, bring to it a little scepticism, for outside Sack's clinic, things do not always fall out quite so pat.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Stuart Sutherland (pay site) (Dec 26, 1985)

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sacks, Oliverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cassel, BooTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldberg, CarinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moll-Huber, P.M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morena, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wensinck, F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To talk of diseases is a sort of Arabian Nights entertainment.

- William Osler
The physician is concerned (unlike the naturalist)... with a single organism, the human subject, striving to preserve its identity in adverse circumstances.

- Ivy McKenzie
To Leonard Shengold, M.D.
First words
Neurology's favorite word is 'deficit', denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).
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Book description
A romantic rendering of the daily sufferings of people with relatively obscure neurological issues.
Haiku summary
Neurology doctor
Studies people as people
Not sacks for strange brains (Marissa_Baden)

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