Cristian's Reviews > The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
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Jan 23, 2011

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bookshelves: psychology
Read in January, 2011

A very enlightening book, particularly for someone new to the fascinating world of neurology and the physical basis of the mind. While this was not my case, the book nevertheless did a good job of reminding me of the immense fragility (and only illusory continuity) of consciousness and identity, as well as other core workings of our mind which we all too easily take for granted.

Interestingly, beyond the obvious division into chapters, there is a hint of secondary structure to the book, as Sacks progresses from the most hopeless and horrifying of cases (including patients that have been deprived of such key functions that it is impossible to imagine them having any human experiences at all), to end with the stories of those who, while still permanently disabled, somehow manage to transcend their limitations and show promise for a, if not human, then at least quasi-human, and worthwhile, existence.

The book does have its stylistic flaws, understandable since Sacks is first and foremost a neurologist, and only secondarily a writer. Some of the stories and speech seem slightly contrived (if not outright suspicious), and Sacks is prone to frequent flights into philosophical and spiritual depths with not much regard for the reader less prepared in this area.

P.S. Funny thing - even though I only read about it after I had finished the book, I somehow instantly guessed that the patient "Stephen D" was actually Sacks himself. Hrm.
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Carmen Interesting, sounds like something I should read.

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