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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
10,338185551 (3.94)283
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
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 20
    Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  6. 20
    Toscanini's Fumble: And Other Tales of Clinical Neurology by Harold L. Klawans (jordantaylor)
  7. 20
    The Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir by Howard Engel (meggyweg)
  8. 10
    Bomb in the Brain : A Heroic Tale of Science, Surgery, and Survival by Steve Fishman (meggyweg)
  9. 10
    Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (clairecc)
  10. 10
    A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy (meggyweg)
  11. 00
    On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (chwiggy)
  12. 00
    The Rationality of Emotion by Ronald De Sousa (ShaneTierney)
  13. 00
    The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist (wester)
    wester: I don't know why Sacks' book is not mentioned in the bibliography of McGilchrists book, as it contains many excellent illustrations of its important points. The style is also similar: medical, but personal, poetic and accessible.
  14. 00
    Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio (ShaneTierney)
  15. 00
    The Barmaid's Brain: And Other Strange Tales from Science by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  16. 00
    The Burning House by Jay Ingram (geophile)
  17. 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 283 mentions

English (163)  Italian (7)  French (3)  German (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (183)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
The book consists of a series of short descriptions of a number of patients with neurological problems, from omissions, excesses, and other aberrations. They are portrayed with compassion and an appreciation for their mechanisms for coping. ( )
  snash | Jun 18, 2022 |
This went on hold - at least I thought it was on hold but no, it was permanent. I could not get into it at all. As it's been such a while, I can't remember entirely why. I have a vague feeling I felt Dr Sacks' characterisation of his patients was somewhat offensive, but I could be off the mark with that memory. It's been six years! ( )
  Vivl | Jun 8, 2022 |
Not that I did not suspect that we know very little about mental illness, but this book did confirm that. Sacks does an excellent job of including facts wherever necessary while making the characters and narrative engaging. This a good read for both laymen (like me) and professionals. ( )
  noisychannel | May 22, 2022 |
"The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is a book for the lay reader and fantastic window into the intersection of brain and mind.

Sacks' book is divided up into about 20 short cases through which he provides a concise explanation of minor and major brain disorders that manifest themselves in sometimes extraordinary ways. His cases are eloquently and empathetically written. The scientific aspects of the book would be fascinating in and of themselves. Sacks uses each case to emphasize the humanity of his patients, revealing talents and humanity where so many people see idiocy and incompleteness. ( )
  bennylope | Feb 24, 2022 |
I've been curious about this book for decades, as it was referenced more than once during psych classes I took during college. It's a short, thoughtful read of about 240 pages, discussing different and highly unusual cases of psychological and physiological patients encountered by Dr. Sacks in his practice. Some of them are quite disturbing, yet are consistently intriguing.

As the book is compiled of material written in the 1970s and 1980s, it's important to note that the book's terminology and breadth is quite dated, and must be regarded in the context of the time; this was particularly clear to me in the last section, which discussed some patients who are described as 'retarded' and 'autistic.' I kept cringing, and had to remind myself that we've come a long way in the past few years. Back at the time this was published, Sacks would have been outright progressive for his open-mindedness and positive outlook. ( )
  ladycato | Dec 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (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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