The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat and Other Clinical Tales

Sacks, Oliver W.

Book - 1998
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat and Other Clinical Tales
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."

Publisher: New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 1998
Edition: 1st Touchstone ed
ISBN: 0684853949
Branch Call Number: 616.8 S121m 1998
Characteristics: x, 243 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

Oliver Sacks' books are always a treat; amongst all of the neurological cases that Sacks' documents here are ones involving profound memory loss. A fascinating and sympathetic rendering of human frailties.

Join the discussion on March 17, 2015. Neurologist Sacks draws from his years of medical practice to present tales of real people who suffer from a variety of syndromes which include symptoms such as amnesia, uncontrolled movements and musical hallucinations. Sacks recounts their stories in a riv... Read More »

Presents a series of stories about men & women who, representing both medical & literary oddities, raise fundamental questions about the nature of reality.

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Dec 27, 2014
  • danielestes rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

In the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the author, Oliver Sacks, shares with us some of the strangest quandaries from his neuroscience practice. Yes, the very first story is about a man who did indeed mistake his wife for a hat and the rest of the stories are just as bizarre. The writing is a little wordy and is exhausting at times but overall the actual content of the case histories more than makes up for the pacing because these are real people with real, albeit very rare, disabilities.

May 01, 2014
  • 671books rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I thought this book was quite good; and actually quite scary. The book details what happens when the mind gives up, but when the body isn't ready to go along for the ride.

Full review here:

Dec 04, 2012
  • hmcgivney rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The good: many of the tales were very interesting and I did a lot of thinking about how I would feel if I had to deal with some of these problems. The bad: the writing was NOT for laypeople -- it was very clinical and there was way too much jargon. Further, it needed a better editing job because Sacks would make prolific use of some term, like "proprioception" (which means the awareness of where one's body is in space) and not define it until many pages or chapters later. Also, Sacks had published a very successful book Awakenings prior to this one and he very frequently referred to patients and situations from it, essentially presupposing that you had read Awakenings already. It was definitely interesting, but I had to bull through to the end. If you want a more accessible introduction to Sacks and some of his fascinating patients, seek out some of his radio work. He gives interviews about his books for NPR and often plays the neurological expert on a great show called Radiolab.

Sep 17, 2012
  • wplclaire rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

We've all heard the expression "truth is stranger than fiction." In fact, almost unbelievably stranger, as Sacks tells us in his lovely, lucid prose.

Nov 02, 2011
  • doeraymee rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Interesting. Not quite as readable as I'd expected.

Sep 15, 2010
  • paradisefound rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An incredible glimpse into the diverse hidden world of the diseased human brain. It is fascinating to read all the personal case studies; but the true benefit of reading this book is that you gain a greater understanding of yourself and the potential of the human spirit to overcome life's obstacles.

Jan 09, 2010
  • KittyKoko rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

The human brain is a pretty fantastic object to study and the stories in this book are interesting but this is nothing more than a book of clinical case studies. If you can understand words like labyrinthectomised, hemiplegic, and athetotic without having to look them up in the dictionary every few minutes you might enjoy it more than I.


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Sep 27, 2013
  • mariednguyen rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales is a 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients. The title of the book comes from the case study of a man with visual agnosia. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat became the basis of an opera of the same name by Michael Nyman, which premiered in 1986.

The book comprises twenty-four essays split into four sections which each deals with a particular aspect of brain function such as deficits and excesses in the first two sections (with particular emphasis on the right hemisphere of the brain) while the third and fourth describe phenomenological manifestations with reference to spontaneous reminiscences, altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in mentally retarded people.


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