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

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

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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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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 Though this last section is perhaps the most obviously scientifically outdated section of the book, it also best demonstrates Sacks' deep feeling for the unique gifts of his subjects.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

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

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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.

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ESK Moscow, Russia 02-23-13
    ESK Moscow, Russia 02-23-13 Member Since 2011

    There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin

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    ""Lest we forget how fragile we are...""

    The book kept me thinking how easy it is to cross the fine line between what we consider to be sane and insane, normal and abnormal. We take so many things for granted (like walking, sitting, remembering) that we don't really pay attention to them. But when a disaster strikes, and your body/mind doesn't feel the same way it used to, how do you react? Give up, or fight to feel 'normal' and 'together' again?
    It was eye-opening to listen to this fantastic book. I felt that the author had never held himself aloof from his patients. The book was written with such compassion and empathy that I was so absorbed I couldn't do anything else. It's a must-have for anyone interested in neuropsychiatry, neurology and psychology.
    The book is made up of 4 parts:
    1. Losses (with special emphasis on visual agnosia)
    Essays:
    The man who mistook his wife for a hat;
    The lost mariner;
    The disembodied lady;
    The man who fell out of bed;
    Hands;
    Phantoms;
    On the level;
    Eyes right;
    The President's speech.
    2. Excesses (i.e. disorders or diseases like Tourette's syndrome, tabes dorsalis - a form of neurosyphilis, and the 'joking disease')
    Essays:
    Witty Ticcy Ray;
    Cupid's disease;
    A matter of identity;
    Yes, Father-Sister;
    The possessed.
    3. Transports (on the 'power of imagery and memory', e.g. musical epilepsy, forced reminiscence and migrainous visions)
    Essays:
    Reminiscence;
    Incontinent nostalgia;
    A passage to India;
    The dog beneath the skin;
    Murder;
    The visions of Hildegard.
    4. The world of the simple (on the advantages of therapy centered on music and arts when working with the mentally retarded)
    Essays:
    Rebecca;
    A walking grove;
    The twins;
    The autist artist.

    10 of 10 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!

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas 09-05-12
    Douglas 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.

    8 of 8 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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    25 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-08-12
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-08-12 Member Since 2016

    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!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pauline Colorado Springs, CO, United States 08-03-13
    Pauline Colorado Springs, CO, United States 08-03-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Fascinating Look Into the World of Perception"
    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 stories.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It opened up the world to some of the oddest self-perception dysfunctions known to medical practice. Hard to believe the mind tries so hard to work around some truly enormous deficits in order to function.


    Which character – as performed by Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks (Introduction) – was your favorite?

    The fellow who truly mistook his wife for a hat.


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

    Yes, and almost was.


    Any additional comments?

    This book gained a new fan of Oliver Sacks stories. Elegantly read, and consumately written.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Moorabbin, Australia 05-13-12
    Phillip Moorabbin, Australia 05-13-12 Listener Since 2008
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    "True stories about how our brains effect us"
    What did you love best about The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales?

    I like the fact that this book was written by a doctor who sees his patients as persons, not things. These are real case histories, and these people are suffering from various forms of brain damage and defects. It is interesting to learn how they are coping, and how their personalities are being effected.It is also so fascinating to learn how much our organic physiology effects our personality.


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

    The book ends by pointing our how many ways one of the authors patents could have their very special gifts employed in fruitful work, but also points out that instead the patents will probably (like many others) be overlooked and discarded for life to the back room of a public hospital.


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

    It made me happy to know that some doctors really do care, and see potential, for the handicapped. It made me sad to think that so many people are discarded.


    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 12-09-15
    Jefferson 12-09-15 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Intersection of the Scientific & the Romantic"

    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985) by Oliver Sacks is a collection of mostly fascinating and moving case study narratives about patients Sacks treated during his career as a neurologist.

    In his Preface (nicely read by Sacks), Sacks explains that he's equally interested in diseases and people, being a theorist and a dramatist who sees both the scientific and the romantic in the human condition, especially in human sickness. Why "tales"? Because although case histories of diseases are important, they usually lack the human subject, and to restore the human subject to the center requires a story: "Classical fables have archetypal figures—heroes, victims, martyrs, warriors. Neurological patients are all of these—and in the strange tales told here they are also something more…. We may say they are travellers to unimaginable lands—lands of which otherwise we should have no idea or conception. This is why their lives and journeys seem to me to have a quality of the fabulous. . . and why I feel compelled to speak of tales and fables as well as cases. The scientific and the romantic in such realms . . . . come together at the intersection of fact and fable, the intersection which characterizes. . . the lives of the patients here narrated."

    The book, then, is divided into four sections of "clinical tales." Part One, Losses, features accounts of people who through disease or accident have lost the ability to recognize faces or to remember anything after the year 1945 or to perceive their body (or a body part) as theirs or to stand upright or to see anything on their left, and so on. This section demonstrates that the things traditionally viewed as lacks or deficits are in fact much more complex, because they involve the victim trying to compensate, "trying to preserve his/her identity in adverse circumstances."

    Part Two, Excesses, concerns the opposite kind of cases, disorders of excess in which patients exhibit extravagant proliferation, generation, enhancement, etc. in abilities or perceptions, problems arising when such growth becomes monstrous or disabling. Examples are patients suffering from Tourette Syndrome (excess of energy and hyper-quickness of thought and action, etc.) or Syphilis (excess of "frisky" euphoria), or too fertile, rapid, and incontinent an imagination for making up stories about oneself and other people.

    Part Three, Transports, is about "the power of imagery and memory to transport a person with abnormal stimulation of the temporal lobes and the limbic part of the brain." Examples concern people who suddenly start hearing loud music they had forgotten hearing as children, a man who suddenly regains the vivid memory of murdering his girlfriend, and epileptic or migrainic visions, Sacks arguing that the organic or physical causes of such reminiscences and visions don’t detract from their spiritual power and meaning for the people involved.

    The last part, The World of the Simple, concerns the perception of the world and special abilities of the "mentally retarded," autistic, and idiot savants, people who may seem to be dysfunctional "morons," but who actually are innocent, imaginative, and creative. Treating such "simple" patients taught Sacks that the traditional approach of "defectology" (exposing their lack of conceptual ability to, in effect, undermine them) is inferior to the romantic approach of "narratology" (permitting their natural affinity to the concrete to ground and free them via music, art, and narrative).

    Throughout Sacks shows himself to have been an intelligent, resourceful, and caring doctor, trying to observe his patients with an open mind, asking them how they feel, reading and or hearing their life stories, respecting their individual manifestations of various brain-centered malfunctions, taking a romantic-scientific approach to their treatment including new drugs and empathic communication, wanting to encourage the growth of their souls by helping them find or letting them do what they love doing.

    Along the way he writes some thought provoking lines, like "Wellness can be genuine even if caused by illness," and "Who's more tragic? The man who knew he was damned or the man who did not?"

    Along the way he references and quotes from a variety of thinkers about the human brain and mind, including Freud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Russell, James, Leibnitz, and, of course, various earlier neurologists. He occasionally uses technical terms, but usually defines them, and his clinical narratives are absorbing rather than difficult.

    Not all his clinical tales have happy endings! Sacks conveys the horror and sadness of losing control of one's perceptions or actions or memories, and doesn't shy away from the fact that we still (too often) can't find effective places for autistic "island" dwelling people in our society. But most often the human soul finds a way to survive.

    Jonathan Davis gives his usual consummate reading of an audiobook.

    Anyone interested in the human brain and its mysterious and wonderful and terrible permutations should find much of interest in this book.

    3 of 3 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

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    LEICESTER, United Kingdom
    2/13/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "beautiful insight into the mind"

    and how the brain works. fascinating and eye-opening. really superb reading performance too. enjoyed every moment

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Katharine
    11/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Truly inspiring . Pure poetry ."

    A must read for anyone, regardless of whether you or someone you know have ever come into contact with a brain injury / neurologist. Sachs is an inspiration for all. His empathy and the stories gave me goosebumps. One of those books you feel honoured to have read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • ashley greenaway
    7/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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
  • 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 2 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    1/16/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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 5 people found this review helpful

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