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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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 Though this last section is perhaps the most obviously scientifically outdated section of the book, it also best demonstrates Sacks' deep feeling for the unique gifts of his subjects.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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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40% of it was interesting

...the rest were a doozy. Stories about the patients were fascinating, but I wished the author would have written the explanation with normal-people words instead of fancy medical term. I listened to the whole first 2 chapters but then I gave up and just fast forwarded after the story was done to skip the blabbering part.

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Exceptional

An universe of diversity which was completely unknown to me is revealed. Empathy can be felt throughout the book and it is clear that dr. Sachs loves his patients.

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Harrowing and Humorous?

This was the book that started it all. The late great Oliver Sacks puts together a brilliant collection of anecdotes about his patients. Before I start, the only reservation I had was when I wondered whether his writing about his patients violated any codes of ethical conduct. Yes, the names are changed but I hope that Sacks sufficiently protected their identities.

Anyway, just to start with the title story--a brilliant music teacher who gradually loses the ability to discern the differences between human beings and objects or animals. What really struck me was how harrowing the disclosure was but also how the patient reconciled himself to his condition. And even more surprisingly, how his wife helped him cope with it by altering her conduct. The title comes from when the patient literally goes to put his wife onto his head at the end of the session with Sacks.

I came away from this book with both awe and sorrow. I was awed by how resilient people can be even when their brains inexplicably begin to misfire. But I was saddened by how random fate is. That of course is always the tragedy--as John Lennon put it "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Many of these patients were busy making other plans when life got derailed by their bodies and their brains. Sacks beautifully and compassionately records their cases and I am certain that they were fortunate to have a doctor as wise and warm as they got.

Audible 20 Review Sweepstakes Entry

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Great book! .

I wish the twins were reunited at some point. Dr. Sacks has a wonderful writing style and draws on many sources for his insights.

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a classic.

regardless of your profession, if you work with people, you should listen to this book. yes, some of the terminology is dated, but the ideas are not.

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increased appreciation for the human condition

the first half of the book i found really intriguing but the latter part with its generally shorter patient stories lacked the depth and lacked the wonder - although this probably is an inevitable result of the patients themselves. I'd still recommend this book to everyone, since it's a good piece of literature from the 80s' perspective and widens the understanding of human mind, at least to a layman such as myself

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  • Yafim
  • Or-YehudaIsrael
  • 10-22-17

I suppose was fascinating 40 or 50 years ago...

I suppose was fascinating 40 or 50 years ago... Now seems outdated and lacking new info

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incredible

great book, now know why it was and is so popular. the universe is mindblowing

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Dense and dated but undeniably compelling

I found this work to be beautifully written and highly intellectual/clinical but also with emotional intelligence. It is overall very interesting and I enjoyed listening to it. It's definitely not a book to use as background listening and requires real focus as it is fast paced and dense. I did find myself periodically distracted at some of the dated attitudes and terminology that the author applied to some of his patients that these days are considered offensive and reductive, but I'm chalking that up to the time in which this was written.

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  • Mor
  • Ramat Gan, Israel
  • 10-09-17

Insight into the neurology of the soul

this book gives an overview of cases surrounding neurological anomalies and their innovations in individuals.

It's told mesmerisingly and clearly to an unspecialised ear and speculates on how a person's soul can be affected.

Loved it!