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

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Unexpectedly good!

I really was not sure what to expect when I purchased this book. I was so pleasantly surprised - I could not stop listening. The fascinating stories that were encountered are phenomenal, and yes... I do 'geek out' a bit over this kind of thing. I usually do not subscribe to listening to this kind of book though, as often I have been bored. You will not be disappointed if you take the time to delve into these accounts!

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

I find the human condition fascinating and often marvel at how often it goes RIGHT when there are so many things that could go WRONG...

I found this book compassionate, interesting, fascinating, and, in places, funny!

A great read.

2 people found this helpful

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Neurological disorders for the layman

Dr. Sacks shows how respect for the patient, combined with compassion and curiosity are necessary in treating those with neurological disorders and other mental health issues. I wonder how many people, through no fault of their own, are arrested or otherwise cruelly confined because of circumstances over which they have no control. I recommended this Audiible book to a friend and told her about Dr. Sacks and his book Awakenings. I explained that Robin Williams played Dr. Sacks in the movie version of Awakenings. After listening for a minute, my friend asked if Robin Williams was the narrator. No, it's not, but the narrator sounds so much like Robin Williams that it's difficult not to picture him while listening.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dan
  • 2018-04-14

dated, but well read and entertaining

Was neat to see a neurologist from the 80s arguing for the intelligence of a patient he still called "a retard" while questioning whether the terminology of the day was appropriate.

1 person found this helpful

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Digestible and Fascinating

Oliver Sacks writes narratives that connect the science of the brain to real, human connection. The stories are fascinating, and Sacks informs, educates, and enthralls. However, he writes also as they did before the era of political correctness and so much of the lingo as pertains to developmentally disabled people may be considered both outdated and offensive.

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Talk of diseases is a sort of Arabian Nights ...

...entertainment. Sacks's cases read like detective stories but the puzzles ultimately fit together into profound questions.

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Truly excellent

A wonderful book and an exceptional narrator. A fascinating and engaging look into the realm of neurological issues.

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Intriguing insights into other’s lives

This is the first Oliver Sacks book I have read, and I expect I will read others. I have more empathy and respect for those dealing with severe mental health issues, something that I thought I already had. I was often inspired by the stories, so was disappointed when the last story, at first so promising, ended on such a dismal note. But perhaps this was meant to bring the reader down to earth. It leaves me with mixed feelings, again appropriate.

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Not the best read

While I found some of the stories to be interesting, the narration left much to be desired. It was not what I expected.

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Fascinating stories, soothing narration

So, I've technically "finished" this book a couple times. As much as I find the stories captivating, the narrator's voice is just so calm and soothing that I have fallen asleep to it a few times and slept right through until the end of the book. Really, truly, the stories are interesting and not in the least boring! But I just find the voice so easy to fall asleep to. So this book serves dual purpose for me - riveting stories by day, and a cure for insomnia by night.

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  • Rusty
  • 2015-09-04

I rarely stop reading a book halfway through...

This book feels like it was written in 1885, not 1985. Granted, it isn't Oliver Sacks' fault that the brain is so poorly understood, but he comes across as a gentleman scientist in the Victorian era who studies patients in his parlor. He often uses very demeaning and unscientific vocabulary to describe people. In the chapter I'm on now he describes a man as an "amiable simpleton," and often refers to behaviors as bizarre and strange. Seriously? You are a neuroscientist man! If a person walked in with blood running down their leg no one would say, How Bizarre! That blood is supposed to be on the Inside of the body! What the heck is is going there?

I expected to be educated about brain function, but in most cases he doesn't explain what happened and why, but does throw in the occasional technical term with no explanation. For instance I can summarize the chapter on a woman who had a stroke thus: a woman had a stroke. One whole side of her brain is dead. She can't see anything to the left. Isn't that bizarre? He hooked up a video camera to show her the left side of her face on the right. She freaked out. End of chapter. Another: Johnny hasn't been able to retain any memories since 1946. He might have killed part of his brain with alcohol but who knows. The author doesn't seem particularly interested. Johnny thinks he is 17 but he is 60, so the doctor shows him his face in a mirror. HA HA! You are old! Johnny freaks out. He wonders if Johnny still has a soul (????) and the sisters at the home say he does because he pays attention during mass. Oh and he likes to garden. And he never gets better.

That's been more or less the shape of each chapter. Person has traumatic accident or illness, manifests difficulty doing ______, the doctor makes notes on all their "bizarre" symptoms, and can't do anything to help them. In one chapter he DOES help a woman regain use of her hands and I was so relieved. Finally!

I'm putting this book because I've learned nothing much I didn't know about the brain. And if I am going to read sad stories about people struggling to live day to day life I need to feel that something was accomplished by recording their stories, but there is little evidence in this book that studying these people would result in scientists being able to help someone else.

84 people found this helpful

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  • ESK
  • 2013-02-23

"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.

76 people found this helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 2012-05-28

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.

48 people found this helpful

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  • lynn
  • 2011-07-07

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.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie
  • 2012-02-03

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!

25 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2015-06-11

A bit of a disappointment

This book has its moments, but overall I would have to say that it is a disappointment. In it a neurologist reflects on some of his most bizarre cases. Some of them are certainly interesting, and it does help you to understand the way brains work and also shows how humans are capable of coping with some cruel disabilities, such as not having any awareness of their own body (proprioception), walking at a tilt, having music playing constantly inside the head, and living without any short term memory.
Some of the therapies he uses to help people live with their problems are ingenious and the stories of recovery are uplifting, but they weren’t enough to make this audiobook a hit for me.

I guess the disappointments are as follows:

1. It’s just one story after another. After a while you realise that if the part of the brain controlling some particular function is destroyed or damaged by a disease such as a stroke or a tumour, then that function will be lost or affected in some way – once you realise this, the stories become a bit repetitive

2. It’s very dated (from the 1980s I think). This gives it a quaint ‘old-time’ feeling, but you do feel you are missing out on many insights of modern neurology

3. While being a neurologist, he treats the existence of a spiritual soul as if it is a scientific fact. He even consults nuns to ask if a patient with a severe memory disorder still has his soul. I find this bizarre. I don’t have a problem with him believing in the concept of a ‘soul’, but to incorporate it into his neurological analysis is very strange

So, if I was suddenly stricken with a neurological disorder whereby I immediately forgot the last audiobook I listened to, it wouldn’t be too much of a problem in this case.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Phillip
  • 2011-11-03

Not your ordinary story book

Very well read - interesting subject matter - really enjoyed. Will listen to it again and again - worth its price, but not for just anyone.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Guns4all
  • 2012-12-05

intriguing--my first book by this guy

I really liked it. A bit dry at times, but entertaining and informative. I only lost attention a few times, but those moments would most likely really interest someone who was a student of mental dis(?)orders.

I liked the reader quite a bit.

Suprisingly, upon reflection, I rated this book more highly than I thought I would right after completion, so for me, that means ut caused me to think, reflect, and even have stuff stick with me....my definition of a good book, movie, or study.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Robert
  • 2011-07-18

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.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 2012-09-05

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.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2022-05-21

wonderful

I just loved it! It's a very good lecture, a very interesting book. I really recommend it!