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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
9,676175554 (3.94)271
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. 123
    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 271 mentions

English (154)  Italian (7)  French (3)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
Fascinating case studies of people with rare neurological disorders; heartbreaking and funny ruminations on functions/qualities that make us human. My two biggest criticisms of the book are (1) the author’s two primary tones are either too detached/clinical or condescending (though in a weirdly earnest way) to his patients; and (2) that some of the stories are more like incomplete notes rather than a full portrait of the life of the human being featured. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
"The brain is the most interesting thing in the universe." - Oliver Sacks

This book is a collection of case studies from late neurologist Oliver Sacks. There's very little medical terminology in it, so the book can be read by anyone with an interest in the human mind. The underlying question that runs through the book is: what forms our self-identity? Out of the four themes, I found "Excesses" and "The world of the simple" to be the most intriguing.

In "Excesses" Sacks delves into Tourette's syndrome, which fills the paradox of an illness that presents like wellness. First described at the turn of the 20th century, this disease merges with the self to the point where you lose your identity. In the words of Sacks, you fall so ill that you become 'de-souled'. There's also a brief section on his drug trials with L-Dopa (a dopamine precursor) on post-encephalic patients in the late 1960's.

The most disturbing case studies show up in "The world of the simple". Here we meet Martin, a simpleton who can really appreciate the technical complexities of music. Though Martin has an amazing memory for random and meaningless facts, he takes true pleasure in the order the world of Bach communicates. There's Rebecca, the narrating self that gets lost in theater, and the savant twins who live exclusively in the world of numbers calculating primes.

Something in the narrative style of Sacks makes me uncomfortable. It is novelistic, a practice that has its roots in the late 19th century style of describing clinical anecdotes. It is like looking at a vivisection of the human mind. Here, in the distant borderlands of neurology, Sacks dissects self-identity in the same way most of us rinse fish. Respectfully, but without empathy.
( )
  nillanova | Apr 20, 2021 |
A book I really wish I could give four and a half stars. Sometimes it seems like Sacks is writing to a totally different, much more academic audience than the rest of the book, which is the incredible, amazing bits - heartbreaking and scary and hilarious all at once. "Watching" Sacks work is a real treat. I highly recommend this despite my rating. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
The word of the day with this book is dry. Interesting, but it makes me want to read something else, anything. ( )
  Firons2 | Jan 31, 2021 |
Ok, io mi entusiasmo facilmente e i miei entusiasmi sono spesso dei fuochi di paglia destinati a spegnersi a una rilettura più attenta, ma credo che questa volta sia diverso. "L'uomo che scambiò sua moglie per un cappello" è uno dei libri più belli che io abbia mai letto, non solo tra i saggi, ma in assoluto.
Questa raccolta di casi clinici affrontati dal Dottor Sacks durante la sua carriera contiene tre elementi che la rendono un'opera eccezionale:(1) l'interesse scientifico suscitato dalle strane anomalie che possono colpire il sistema nervoso umano,(2)l'umanità e la sensibilità dell'autore/medico nell'affrontarle e riportarle a noi lettori e (3), infine, il potenziale narrativo di ciascuno dei casi presenti.
Ogni storia descritta è un universo di emozioni e riflessioni che susciteranno in voi un vortice di domande importantissime sulla realtà, l'identità e come le percepiamo, domande che non vi lasceranno neanche quando finirete di libro. ( )
  JoeProtagoras | Jan 28, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (5)

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."

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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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