I really liked it. A bit dry at times, but entertaining and informative. I only lost attention a few times, but those moments would most likely really interest someone who was a student of mental dis(?)orders.
I liked the reader quite a bit.
Suprisingly, upon reflection, I rated this book more highly than I thought I would right after completion, so for me, that means ut caused me to think, reflect, and even have stuff stick with me....my definition of a good book, movie, or study.
Oliver Sacks is such an engaging, exciting, and thoughtful author. These stories far surpassed scientific documentation of odd mental illnesses and instead discussed the lived experience of his patients as people. Sacks is a formidable writer. I highly recommend this book.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985) by Oliver Sacks is a collection of mostly fascinating and moving case study narratives about patients Sacks treated during his career as a neurologist.
In his Preface (nicely read by Sacks), Sacks explains that he's equally interested in diseases and people, being a theorist and a dramatist who sees both the scientific and the romantic in the human condition, especially in human sickness. Why "tales"? Because although case histories of diseases are important, they usually lack the human subject, and to restore the human subject to the center requires a story: "Classical fables have archetypal figures—heroes, victims, martyrs, warriors. Neurological patients are all of these—and in the strange tales told here they are also something more…. We may say they are travellers to unimaginable lands—lands of which otherwise we should have no idea or conception. This is why their lives and journeys seem to me to have a quality of the fabulous. . . and why I feel compelled to speak of tales and fables as well as cases. The scientific and the romantic in such realms . . . . come together at the intersection of fact and fable, the intersection which characterizes. . . the lives of the patients here narrated."
The book, then, is divided into four sections of "clinical tales." Part One, Losses, features accounts of people who through disease or accident have lost the ability to recognize faces or to remember anything after the year 1945 or to perceive their body (or a body part) as theirs or to stand upright or to see anything on their left, and so on. This section demonstrates that the things traditionally viewed as lacks or deficits are in fact much more complex, because they involve the victim trying to compensate, "trying to preserve his/her identity in adverse circumstances."
Part Two, Excesses, concerns the opposite kind of cases, disorders of excess in which patients exhibit extravagant proliferation, generation, enhancement, etc. in abilities or perceptions, problems arising when such growth becomes monstrous or disabling. Examples are patients suffering from Tourette Syndrome (excess of energy and hyper-quickness of thought and action, etc.) or Syphilis (excess of "frisky" euphoria), or too fertile, rapid, and incontinent an imagination for making up stories about oneself and other people.
Part Three, Transports, is about "the power of imagery and memory to transport a person with abnormal stimulation of the temporal lobes and the limbic part of the brain." Examples concern people who suddenly start hearing loud music they had forgotten hearing as children, a man who suddenly regains the vivid memory of murdering his girlfriend, and epileptic or migrainic visions, Sacks arguing that the organic or physical causes of such reminiscences and visions don’t detract from their spiritual power and meaning for the people involved.
The last part, The World of the Simple, concerns the perception of the world and special abilities of the "mentally retarded," autistic, and idiot savants, people who may seem to be dysfunctional "morons," but who actually are innocent, imaginative, and creative. Treating such "simple" patients taught Sacks that the traditional approach of "defectology" (exposing their lack of conceptual ability to, in effect, undermine them) is inferior to the romantic approach of "narratology" (permitting their natural affinity to the concrete to ground and free them via music, art, and narrative).
Throughout Sacks shows himself to have been an intelligent, resourceful, and caring doctor, trying to observe his patients with an open mind, asking them how they feel, reading and or hearing their life stories, respecting their individual manifestations of various brain-centered malfunctions, taking a romantic-scientific approach to their treatment including new drugs and empathic communication, wanting to encourage the growth of their souls by helping them find or letting them do what they love doing.
Along the way he writes some thought provoking lines, like "Wellness can be genuine even if caused by illness," and "Who's more tragic? The man who knew he was damned or the man who did not?"
Along the way he references and quotes from a variety of thinkers about the human brain and mind, including Freud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Russell, James, Leibnitz, and, of course, various earlier neurologists. He occasionally uses technical terms, but usually defines them, and his clinical narratives are absorbing rather than difficult.
Not all his clinical tales have happy endings! Sacks conveys the horror and sadness of losing control of one's perceptions or actions or memories, and doesn't shy away from the fact that we still (too often) can't find effective places for autistic "island" dwelling people in our society. But most often the human soul finds a way to survive.
Jonathan Davis gives his usual consummate reading of an audiobook.
Anyone interested in the human brain and its mysterious and wonderful and terrible permutations should find much of interest in this book.
Only the first half of it.
The first half of this book was so interesting. It always amazing me what can go wrong with the human body. But about mid-way through it just became repetitive and I felt like "you've heard one neurological study you've heard them all".
Very interesting. Informative. Easy to listen to. This book presents a subject that traditionally requires a massive educational process to enable you to debate it, listen to it and read it, in a very understandable way to people not familiar to the field of psychiatry. It is really well written and very well narrated. A definite thumbs-up from me!
I like the fact that this book was written by a doctor who sees his patients as persons, not things. These are real case histories, and these people are suffering from various forms of brain damage and defects. It is interesting to learn how they are coping, and how their personalities are being effected.It is also so fascinating to learn how much our organic physiology effects our personality.
The book ends by pointing our how many ways one of the authors patents could have their very special gifts employed in fruitful work, but also points out that instead the patents will probably (like many others) be overlooked and discarded for life to the back room of a public hospital.
It made me happy to know that some doctors really do care, and see potential, for the handicapped. It made me sad to think that so many people are discarded.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
In this 1985 book physician Oliver Sacks tells many strange anecdotal short stories of illnesses of the brain and their impacts on individual lives and behaviors. Some of the stories were undated in 2008 with brief author's post scripts. The title of the book is taken from the first short story.
My major issue with this book is that it is dry and often boring. The boring aspects become worse in the second half of the book. It is also seriously technologically decades out of date.
Just the right balance between fun stories and educational neuroscience that won't let you look at human consciousness the same way ever again. The book is a collection of clinical stories that are sad, funny, and uplifting. The stories are well read, and altogether enjoyable.
If you're interested in the brain, this book is for you. If you like clinical case study, this book is for you. I had a little bit of difficulty getting started but once the case studies started rolling, this was fascinating. The brain is mysterious and wonderful. This isn't so much about mental illness as it is about biological changes in the brain affecting behavior and interaction. Amazing diagnoses throughout.
The narrator did an excellent job personalizing it as though it was his case studies.
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
I had assumed that this book would be an interest, yet depressing and clinical examination of fascinating brain disorders. I was wrong. Oliver Sacks has written an uplifting, and unexpectedly beautiful book here.