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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales | [Oliver Sacks]

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

Oliver Sacks' 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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Groundbreaking neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a number of best-selling books on his experiences in the field, some of which have been adapted into film and even opera. Often criticized by fellow scientists for his writerly and anecdotal approach to cases, he is nevertheless beloved by the general public precisely for his willingness to exercise compassion toward his unusual subjects. In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the neurological conditions described therein.

Audible featured narrator Jonathan Davis is more than up to the task of bringing these case studies to life. He adopts a tone that is both sympathetic and authoritative. In fact, he sounds very much like the actor William Daniels, who voiced the car in the television show Knight Rider, or for a younger generation, played Principal Feeny in the television show Boy Meets World. The stories in this book concern matters of science, to be sure, but they also contain quite as much adventure into uncharted territory as either of those television shows.

The cases are divided into four sections: losses, excesses, transports, and the world of the simple. "Losses" involves people who lack certain abilities, for example, the ability of facial recognition. "Excesses" deals with people who have extra abilities, for example, the tics associated with Tourette's Syndrome. "Transports" involves people who hallucinate, for example, a landscape or music from childhood. "The world of the simple" deals with autism and mental retardation. Though this last section is perhaps the most obviously scientifically outdated section of the book, it also best demonstrates Sacks' deep feeling for the unique gifts of his subjects. Indeed, Davis anchors his delivery of the facts in these admirable empathies, demonstrating that in terms of the cultural perception of neurological conditions, Sacks' early work still has much to teach us. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

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' 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' 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".

PLEASE NOTE: Some changes have been made to the original manuscript with the permission of Oliver Sacks.

©1970, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 Oliver Sacks (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Dr. Sacks's best book.... One sees a wise, compassionate and very literate mind at work in these 20 stories, nearly all remarkable, and many the kind that restore one's faith in humanity." (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Dr. Sacks's most absorbing book.... His tales are so compelling that many of them serve as eerie metaphors not only for the condition of modern medicine but of modern man." (New York magazine)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-28-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-28-12

    But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Clinician's eYe, but a Poet's HEART"

    I love how Sacks, through his small clinical vignettes, exposes the complex, narrative powers of the brain. Written with a clinician's eye, but a poet's heart, I also love how he is able to show how these patients with all sorts of neurological deficits, disabilities, and divergences are able to adapt and even thrive despite their neurological damage. For the most part, they are able to find "a new health, a new freedom" through music, inner narratives, etc. They are able to achieve a "Great Health," a peace and a paradoxical wellness THROUGH their illness.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 03-19-12
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 03-19-12 Listener Since 2009
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    "Outstanding! Neurology perfection."
    What made the experience of listening to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales the most enjoyable?

    Oliver Sacks is the undisputed King of the medical neurology tale. Weaving drama, intrigue, suspense, and moving characters with incredible and extremely academically enlightening medical fact. The book, one of my favorites since college, (and one I re-read numerous times through medical school and my eventual neurology residency) is simply phenomenal. I have given copies to college students considering medical school, and medical students considering their residency. It truly reveals the brain, and the mind, better than any other book, text, or article.


    Don't be frightened off, however. The layperson, the non-physician, will be just as captivated, just as amazed. The intrigue, the mystery of some of the brain injuries, or pathology of the disease, captures better than any James Bond villain. The suspense more real, the issues more valid.

    I have read this book many, many times, but I must comment on the narration. The reader brings this story alive. He is slow, deliberate, and moves at the perfect pace. Inflecting, pausing perfectly, enunciation of each word, each idea; as good as any audible book in my library. (over 700, so this is rare, and high praise for me.).

    I give this a Thumbs Up. A home run by the Sultan of Neurology.


    30 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-08-12
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-08-12 Member Since 2015

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

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    "Creme de la Creme"

    I read this eighteen years ago. It was the most intriguing book I ever read to that date, as I was previously a fiction fan. This is a case by case story of Dr. Sacks most interesting patients, as well as other doctors patients that he met and found intriguing. I shared these stories with others years ago after first reading this, and you will, as I plan on doing again, have a blast sharing the idiosyncrasies of these marvelous humans, explored by a renowned neuropsychologist yourselves. The vernacular is heavy, and if you are not comfortable referencing a dictionary, google every once in awhile, or are a medical doctor it may be a minor disappointment for you, however I would guess context is enough for a layman to march through this still greatly satisfied.
    Don't pass this by because of its publication date either. I listen to many psychology and science audio here, and this is not going to give you that out of the loop feeling some books do. Enjoy this new and updated gem!

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie launceston, Australia 02-03-12
    Jamie launceston, Australia 02-03-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Jaw dropping... in a very strange way"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I found this book very touching and absolutely fascinating...


    What other book might you compare The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales to and why?

    Oliver Sacks' other books are similar, but i found not as broadly interesting. Apart from that i have not ventured to read anything like it.


    What does Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    not having a background in psycho-anything, i think that reading the text would have been very difficult. i think that the narrator makes it possible to get the meaning while not needing the background, as i have found in other audiobooks.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    over and over


    Any additional comments?

    even if you don't think this book will interest you, i would suggest you give it a try, i was very surprised. i literally caught myself with my mouth wide open in some of the stories!

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lynn ADELAIDE, Australia 07-07-11
    lynn ADELAIDE, Australia 07-07-11 Member Since 2015

    Hi I am a geologist that now lives in South Australia I work in remote locations and find audiobooks essential for my sanity.

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    "Wonderful compassionate and insightfull"

    One of the pleasures of login on to audible is the surprise of which books are new to download. I have owned a text copy of this book since 1990 until I started to listen to the recording I had almost forgotten what an excellent series of compassionate single studies formed the book. It could be considered vicarious, the detailed study of individuals each with one or more "deficits". However it ends up as a deeply moving study of these individuals and in the process it tells us of the thin line that we each tread between fully functioning and being lost in the world. Great audio with the author reading the introduction and Jonathan Davis's voice pitched at exactly the right pitch to convey the pathos of each circumstance.

    22 of 24 people found this review helpful
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    Alissa Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 03-26-12
    Alissa Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 03-26-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Amazing!"

    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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Sas 08-27-12
    Sas 08-27-12
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    "Simplifying of a "diffycult" subject"
    Any additional comments?

    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!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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    Elizabeth Provo, UT, United States 02-20-13
    Elizabeth Provo, UT, United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Started out strong"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Only the first half of it.


    What was most disappointing about Oliver Sacks’s story?

    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".


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 09-05-12
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 09-05-12 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "To my mind, the "original" Sachs book..."

    in the main because its eponymous essay was the first that I read of Sachs and because I have subsequently taught the essay many times (in actuality, Awakenings preceded Mistook by more than a decade). Like Selzer in Tales Of A Knife and Ramachandran in The Tell-Tale Brain, Sachs brings the reader startlingly close to his patients, revealing with poetic accuracy and detail the frightening, distressing, often bizarre and sometimes humorous effects of their neurological disorders. Sachs, again much like Selzer, is much more than a reporter, but a poet, a writer of vivid prose, not only bringing science to the layman but making it live for all.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Cape Town, South Africa 11-03-11
    Phillip Cape Town, South Africa 11-03-11
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    "Not your ordinary story book"

    Very well read - interesting subject matter - really enjoyed. Will listen to it again and again - worth its price, but not for just anyone.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
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  • Amazon Customer
    Brixham, United Kingdom
    4/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Neurology can be fun!"
    Would you listen to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales again? Why?

    I'll definitely revisit this book because it's full of fascinating observation, acutely noted, about strange tricks the mind plays due to small chemical imbalances... On first reading the major stories stick out. I'm hoping to revisit the book for detail


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales?

    The most memorable anecdote is probably about hyper osmia; the subject feels like a dog, led by his nose.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The reflections on what exactly makes us a person


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Just about


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely accessible

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • ashley greenaway
    7/24/15
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    "Neurological wonders"

    I found these anecdotes fascinating. I'd say that many of them deserve a book in themselves. The full case studies that Sacks wrote, on which these are presumably based, would interest me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    1/16/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Actually rather dull and quite upsetting"
    What did you like best about The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales? What did you like least?

    I thought some of the stories were interesting, but overall it's all rather anecdotal and unresolved which is rather unsatisfactory for the reader/listener. There are also some long passages where reference is made to experts in the field which are somewhat obscure to the listener (there are probably footnotes in the paper edition). The stories are fascinating as far as they go but we often have no idea if there was a cure or any hope for the sufferer. The truth is also that these poor people were/are very ill and sometimes their cases are very sad.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Oliver Sacks again?

    Probably not - you do need a certain level of expertise.


    What about Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ’s performance did you like?

    He reads well and has a very gentle style which is well suited to this type of book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • HMPS64
    London, UK
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Medical read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes to all student doctors. This is a fun way of learning neurology.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The stories.


    What does Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Can be a dry book to rwad on its own merits


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Some understanding of difficulties and human complexities


    Any additional comments?

    Get this book students

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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