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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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 Though this last section is perhaps the most obviously scientifically outdated section of the book, it also best demonstrates Sacks' deep feeling for the unique gifts of his subjects.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
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.
"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)
Avid audiobook listener. Mostly into memoirs / autobiographies and other non-fiction.
Sacks' unique patients are certainly interesting, but I often felt as if I have just opened up his clinical diary to a random page and was expected to understand technical terms and other context without a primer. Other reviewers have spoken about Sacks' compassion for his patients and that is clear, but as a reader I would like more framing, signposting, and analysis to link each case to a broader point or argument. This book has its moments, but overall it failed to reach its potential.
very interesting stories or cases of mental illness of a special nature,, and the analysis by a knowledgeable professional. Mostly leaves me wondering how to extract the unique talents of people and provide an opportunity for them to shine in a useful meaningful way.
Such a variety of case studies that boggle and intrigue! The mind is so fascinating, this book illuminates this in so many ways! Humane and clinical the same time!
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Neurological dysfunction is Oliver Sacks field of study and training. The irony is that a tumor attacks his brain to end his life. Of course, he was 82. But somehow, a tumor attacking Sacks’ brain seems an unfair marker for his passing. Sacks opens the eyes of many to the wholeness of being human when a neurological dysfunction changes their lives. Sacks is the famous neurologist who wrote one book that becomes a movie and several that become best sellers.
Sacks is famous to some based on the movie “Awakenings” that recounts an experiment with L-dopa to treat catatonia; a symptom believed to be triggered by Parkinson’s. Patients may spend years in a state of catatonia; i.e. a form of withdrawal from the world exhibited by a range of behaviors from mutism to verbal repetition. Sacks wrote the book, “Awakenings” to tell of his experience in the summer of 1969 in a Bronx, New York hospital. The success and failure of the L-dopa experiment became a life-long commitment by Sacks to appreciate the fullness of life for those afflicted by neurological disorders. With the use of L-dopa, Sacks reawakens the minds and rational skills of patients that had been catatonic for years. In their reawakening, Sacks found that catatonic patients have lives frozen in time. Their mind/body interactions became suspended in the eyes of society. They were always human but they lost their humanness in neurological disorder.
Sacks is saying never give up on patients with neurological disorders. They are whole human beings. The neurologist’s job, as with all who practice medicine, is “first, do no harm”. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” illustrates how seriously Sacks took his calling.
The stories about the struggles of people and the way these stories are told: stories about our loved ones and not just 'research subjects'.
The ending. The gloomy reality of people who are forgotten, or ignored.
No. This was my first book by Oliver Sacks, and Jonathan Davis' performance.
This is a book about bizarre neurological conditions. Although many of the cases involve tragically crippled individuals, this is anything but a morbid catalogue of illnesses. Neither is it a dry scientific tract. Every story is suffused with a great respect for the human potential, and with a sense of wonder at the unimaginable complexity of the brain and the mind. Reading this book, you appreciate how little understood, how mysterious the functioning of the mind still remains after decades of research. You feel an almost spiritual awe while reading this book. It's a great antidote to the depressingly mechanistic, "love is hormone a plus hormone b" view of human nature. Oliver Sacks also emphasizes the importance of art (especially music) to the human mind and to the recovery of many of his patients. (The topic of music from the point of view of neuroscience is specifically explored in Oliver Sacks's book "Musicophilia," which I also can't recommend enough!) This book is fascinating, enlightening, and in its own way, inspiring. It's also written in an engaging, accessible, poetic, and profoundly sympathetic manner. In the book, the author mentions a need for "romantic science," and that phrase is probably the best description for it. I dare anyone who claims that human behavior is governed by well understood mechanical processes to read Oliver Sacks and not feel their opinion challenged.
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