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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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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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  •  
    Lori SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 08-05-12
    Lori SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 08-05-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Started off Interesting but hit low points"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    no. I think that you have to have some kind of interest in neuroscience. It's not just a book of stories. There is significant detail into the inner workings of the brain and the expermentation behind the studies.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting aspect were the interactions with the patients. The least interesting was the detail around the brain science and the diatribes about interactions with such-and-such famous colleague who had similar stories...etc.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ?

    The narration seemed to drone on at times. Maybe someone with more inflection.


    Do you think The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Traci VERNON, NJ, United States 05-11-12
    Traci VERNON, NJ, United States 05-11-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A tad too much rambling for my taste"

    Although the stories were unique and interesting, I found this audiobook tedious. On many occasions I was left thinking, "Get to the point already." I would have been a little happier with it had he gone a more scientific route when sharing the stories.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookmarque 04-17-12
    Bookmarque 04-17-12 Member Since 2007

    ksx2

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    "Interesting, but disconnected"

    Interesting, eye-opening, slightly scary and pointless. I kept waiting for some solution to people’s problems or a unifying theme for his clinical portraits, but there is none. At best this is a fascinating window into how very wrong the human brain can go and sometimes still function well in other areas and even excel in some. At worst it’s a useless collection of clinical essays meant to communicate to his peers how wise, insightful and caring the author is. I’m not sure, but I do hope nothing like this ever happens to me although if it does I think I’d much rather be one of those who has lost part of herself, but never realizes it.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Shaftsbury, VT, United States 03-27-12
    Judy Shaftsbury, VT, United States 03-27-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Not a great listen!"

    This book was too clinical and not engaging. It did not seem to hold my attention!

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HEATHER 10-07-12
    HEATHER 10-07-12 Listener Since 2009
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    4
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    "Definitely not a comedy"
    Would you try another book from Oliver Sacks and/or Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ?

    No, I did not realise this was a medical study


    Would you ever listen to anything by Oliver Sacks again?

    No, not my genre


    Would you be willing to try another one of Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ’s performances?

    probably not


    What character would you cut from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales?

    N/a


    Any additional comments?

    I purchased this title mistakenly thinking it was a comedy

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RoVing 05-28-12
    RoVing 05-28-12

    I commute about an hour each way to work and listen to audio books enroute. Sometimes I don't want to get out of my car because I'm at a really good place!

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    "Not enough tales"

    The cases that were presented were very interesting, but there weren't enough of them. There was way too much in side notes and too many adjectives to describe one noun. I got bored and drifted away several times.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Raymond Easton, MD, United States 09-18-12
    Raymond Easton, MD, United States 09-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Purple Flower"
    What would have made The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales better?

    The flowerly, purple prose of the author made this book, about some really interesting psychology, almost too sweet to swallow. It wasn't just in chapter beginnings, or case summation either, it was stitched into the fabric of this book and, I felt, did a complete disservice to the story he was trying to tell.


    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Wailuku, HI, United States 08-13-12
    Kathleen Wailuku, HI, United States 08-13-12 Member Since 2003
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    "Aaargh! I did it again--this narrator detracts."

    Someday I'll learn to listen to the sample recording before purchasing a book. This narrator has a tendency to weight every word with so much drama and meaning that, like overly-seasoned, rich food, I found myself longing for relief from his narration.

    Other than that, the book (which I read in print for the first time in 1985) hadn't lost its power to bring the plight of the subjects into clear focus. It is a bit dated, although Sacks apparently made an attempt to update the chapters in '94. One would have to go into more recent clinical literature to see developments in the field since then, but for the layman, this book illuminates the neurology adequately, while emphasizing the humanity of the sufferers.

    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
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