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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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1157 )
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4.0 (961 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jon Boise, Idaho, United States 08-06-12
    Jon Boise, Idaho, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2014

    PatchDog

    ratings
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    5
    4
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    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing what can go on in the Human brain!"
    What did you love best about The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales?

    Just the strangeness of what is possible in the human brain


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

    The memory loss of some of the people detailed in the book is very poignant.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlos Irvine, CA, United States 08-06-12
    Carlos Irvine, CA, United States 08-06-12
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    1
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    Story
    "A lot of pomp and circumstance, little substance"
    What disappointed you about The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales?

    Long, victorian descriptions of simple stories, sounding like the author just LOVES to "hear himself" in his mind


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Leveraas Oslo, Norway 08-06-12
    P. Leveraas Oslo, Norway 08-06-12 Member Since 2011

    paal

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    25
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    "Deep dive into the quirks of human brains"
    If you could sum up The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales in three words, what would they be?

    Fascinating, funny, tragic


    What did you like best about this story?

    The novelties of the stories, some of them almost unreal.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Tales of the subconscious


    Any additional comments?

    This book explores the backwaters of our lifes, with a plethora of anecdotes from real life. The author shows genuine compassion for his "cases", and unravels the stories with philosophical reflectiveness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cassandra Bloomington, IL, United States 08-05-12
    Cassandra Bloomington, IL, United States 08-05-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating"

    This was an excellent read if you are interested in the workings of the brain. It underscores how dependent we are on our physical being for our experience of the world. Makes it seem fagile.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol 08-03-12
    Carol 08-03-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "More thay you may expect..."
    What made the experience of listening to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales the most enjoyable?

    Each story is told in a positive way. This positive look at the patients, in my opinion, adds a dimension to many "deficient" brain patients.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The Doctor because he looked at the full charter of the patient. He thought in more than clinical terms and really exhibited a true compassion for his patients and wanted to learn from each of them.


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

    I never have time to listen to a book all in one setting. Most likely I will listen to this book several times. Typically I am driving, cleaning or doing some chore when I listen to a book. When I find one that has as much interesting detail as this I typically listen to it several times to make sure I have absorbed it all. I did thoroughly enjoy this book. I find the brain very fascinating.


    Any additional comments?

    I really liked the tone of the reader and found it very pleasant and relaxing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel BRICK, NJ, United States 11-13-11
    Daniel BRICK, NJ, United States 11-13-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    4
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    "Tries to be too heady. Hard to follow."

    While the actual stories and analysis are quite interesting. The writing style makes it sound like the author wants to be seen as a hyper-intellectual. Almost embarrassingly riddled with $10 words and obscure references. I wanted to continue listening to hear the stories but couldn't bear the pedantic style of the author.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert WESTPORT, CT, United States 07-18-11
    Robert WESTPORT, CT, United States 07-18-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    3
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    0
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    "Way too slow"

    I was excited to this this title finally on Audible. My wife had read it when it first came out and remembered loving it. We decided to listen to it on a long car ride. We barely made it through chapter 2 and we quit after that. The material is now very dated and has been surpassed by many newer titles in it's insights and medical information. The narrator was a downer as well. Don't bother.

    9 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad Rockland, ME, United States 10-29-13
    Brad Rockland, ME, United States 10-29-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Terrible narrator, opposite of Sacks himself"
    What didn’t you like about Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ’s performance?

    I enjoyed the book itself, and I love Oliver Sacks, but this is one of the worst narrations I've heard on Audible. If you've ever heard Sacks, he sounds relaxed, conversational, and enthusiastic. Jonathan Davis sounds stuffy, monotonous, airless and slow. So slow! His total lack of enthusiasm is so much the opposite of Sacks I was shocked through the whole first hour of the book, and would have stopped if I didn't like the book so much. He reads the parts of the book that should be light and humorous no differently than the parts that are more somber. He sounds like the stereotype of a bad professor lecturing about something he doesn't care about any more, just to fill up some lecture time.


    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C.O. 11-27-13
    C.O. 11-27-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    41
    4
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    0
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    "Unable to finish"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The narration and writing were what I struggled with the most. The stories themselves are naturally interesting but I found this book incredibly difficult to listen to.


    What was most disappointing about Oliver Sacks’s story?

    The narration and writing made these naturally interesting stories seem dull and uninteresting for me.


    Any additional comments?

    Despite multiple attempts, including long trips in the car, I was unable to finish this book. Indeed, even when there was nothing else available to listen to on some of those longer trips in the car (no radio, etc.), I had to turn it off.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    johnkabana Venice FLorida 08-15-13
    johnkabana Venice FLorida 08-15-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Just wasn't for me. I became very bored with it."
    Would you try another book from Oliver Sacks and/or Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) ?

    No probably not.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Oliver Sacks again?

    No probably not.


    How could the performance have been better?

    It was clinical and didn't "grab" me like most audiobooks do.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Apathy.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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