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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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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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  •  
    Gage SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States 01-11-15
    Gage SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States 01-11-15 Member Since 2011

    I love a good book

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    "A Compassionate Neurologist"
    Any additional comments?

    I've read this book several times and don't mind coming back to it. It's informative and interesting. Such strange stories about real people and the different neurological illnesses that beset them. Even though it's filled with neurological observations, the author's compassion comes through clearly. He really does care about these patients.
    An interesting read that I keep coming back to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale 01-07-15
    Dale 01-07-15
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    "Fascinating"

    Entertaining yet informative could not put book down. With mild autism and Tourette's in our family, opened more creative ideas to encouraging our life and function as a family.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Albert Hawthorne, CA 01-06-15
    Albert Hawthorne, CA 01-06-15 Member Since 2006
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    "Fascinating, but..."

    While his stories are very readable and entertaining, this degree of spirituality (or, indeed, any) from a clinician is, quite frankly, disturbing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 06-08-14
    Ben 06-08-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Sacks's Classic, but not his best"
    Any additional comments?

    This book is decent, but much more existential, and less thorough than Sacks's other works. I highly recommend you check out his book "Hallucinations" instead.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crystal Angier, NC, United States 11-03-13
    Crystal Angier, NC, United States 11-03-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Clinical is the key word..."

    Fascinating stories of strange illnesses fill this book. Unfortunately, I failed to keep in mind when purchasing this book that there would be a clinical aspect to the stories. The author dug a little deeper than I had anticipated; however, it would be a great book for someone who really wants to know the whys, hows, and ifs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 10-21-13
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 10-21-13 Member Since 2013
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    "This One Was Not For Me"

    This book was too technical for my interests. It wasn't that it was difficult to understand, but rather, I found the author's constant references to the work of others and the clinical tone were not to my liking. The individual stories were interesting, but there was not enough personal details to engage with them; it felt more like reading a case history than a story about the person's life and condition.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 08-12-13
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 08-12-13 Member Since 2014

    Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.

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    "Interesting, but heavy, and stop saying "moron"!"
    Would you recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales to your friends? Why or why not?

    This is one of those audiobooks where they let the author read the prologue. Then you can appreciate why it is they hire readers. Even with a talented reader the rest of the book, Sacks clearly likes lots of long complex sentences and big words and enjoys saying opposing things in the same sentence A LOT. If I had a paper copy here I could look for an example. It is that constant modifying of what you just said that makes everything the guy says more complicated than necessary. But still I enjoy this sort of case study and I found the book interesting. I think I would have found it more appealing overall if he modified his word choices a bit more. He talks a lot about people with developmental disabilities (not that he uses this term) but I have to cringe every time he says idiot, simpleton, moron, etc. I did not like the tale of Dr P., the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat very much. Dr. P. creeped me out. At various points Sacks questions whether various people seem to still have their souls though I don’t think he mentioned it in this chapter but this guy really didn’t seem human to me. Was amazing to think damage to the visual parts of the brain could have this result. It made me mad (weird I know) to think that you could lose not only your ability to correctly perceive visual things, but that that also means you would lose the visual portion to memories. A lot of the book deals with memory. I was very interested to learn more about the two kinds of amnesia. Retrograde amnesia (the loss of pre-existing memories to conscious recollection) is what those of us who watched soaps as kids are familiar with. To me this is what “amnesia” means. But the book deals with anterograde amnesia (the loss of long-term memory, the loss or impairment of the ability to form new memories through memorization) a lot. Retrograde amnesia is horrible. There is a man with anterograde amnesia in this book. I found this part fascinating. It was scary to learn that this condition can be caused by alcoholism as it apparently was with this guy. That is almost enough to make a person give up Pinot Noir. Anyway, a lot of these people’s stories are sad – of course we are dealing mostly with people in institutions so that is to be expected. I thought the story about the “simple” twins with the math powers was especially sad..I was interested in the story about the woman who lost her proprioceptive sense. It was interesting since until my son started OT I didn't even know people had a proprioceptive sense. And who knew you could actually lose it! I should mention too that I don’t recall Sacks himself doing anything amazing in these cases. Obviously this is the guy from Awakenings and that was amazing, but in a lot of cases he doesn't do anything anybody wouldn't do. Someone says they aren't leaning, he pulls out a mirror so they can see they are. Well, I could have done that. Or if a patient says they can’t use their hands leave their breakfast out of reach. Really? This did the trick? In all that person’s life nothing was ever out of reach? Still it’s an interesting book, even if it’s overly intellectual style made me want to go from that to the dumbest book I could find


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PORTLAND, OR, United States 02-19-13
    Amazon Customer PORTLAND, OR, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Very Interesting"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales to be better than the print version?

    I haven't ever read the print version, but there is no particular reason why it would be beneficial to own this book in one format over the other. The audiobook suited me fine since there wasn't anything in it that I ended up wanting to look up later.


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

    No, I listened during my commute to work one chunk at a time.


    Any additional comments?

    I thought this book would be more about mental disorders, but it is definitely about neurological disorders. While listening I craved a little more scientific explanation of the disorders he reviews, but I loved the case study format and how he brings the clients to life, even if it wasn't about the type of client I thought.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracey east amherst, NY, United States 01-11-13
    Tracey east amherst, NY, United States 01-11-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Heady, interesting but dense"
    Would you try another book from Oliver Sacks and/or Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ?

    yes but would preview first


    Would you recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales to your friends? Why or why not?

    no. it's an interesting story but too much technical detail and some superfluous tangents.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Sicklerville, NJ, United States 01-10-13
    Jennifer Sicklerville, NJ, United States 01-10-13

    Jennifer

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    "Interesting But Left Me Wanting"

    You’ve probably heard of Dr. Oliver Sacks—the neurologist whose collections of patient case studies have been the subject of various books and movies (including Awakenings). I’d been familiar with Oliver Sacks for years (my dad had many of his books) but never actually read any of his books. Despite the fascinating case studies described in the book (idiot savants, Left Neglect, memory loss), I found the writing off-putting and never really engaged with the book. I think it was a combination of Sack’s writing style (which might be too clinical despite being accessible) and my need for more personal details and depth than Sacks was able to offer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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