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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  200,417 ratings  ·  8,447 reviews
In his most extraordinary book, Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. These are case studies of people who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people or common objects; whose limbs have become alien; who are afflicted ...more
Paperback, First Touchstone Edition, 243 pages
Published April 2nd 1998 by Touchstone (first published 1985)
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Maria Paiz No book is too advanced or inappropriate. Give it a shot! If you don't like it, you can always let it sit on your shelf for a few more years. :)…moreNo book is too advanced or inappropriate. Give it a shot! If you don't like it, you can always let it sit on your shelf for a few more years. :)(less)
Wynne Lee Best way to find out "how he did it" is to read Sacks' last book, his autobiography "On the Move", which was published (April 2015) a few months befor…moreBest way to find out "how he did it" is to read Sacks' last book, his autobiography "On the Move", which was published (April 2015) a few months before his death in August 2015. His own story is every bit as amazing as those of his many patients & other phenomena (e.g. cycads) in the world he loved so much. Bet you'll be surprised by his unique, gutsy, sometimes very challenging life that was full of gusto, anguish, false starts, triumphs, hardships & many keen friendships. A great man IMO. (less)

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Patrick
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's rare that I read non-fiction. It's just not my bag.

That said, this is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. I'm guessing I've brought it up hundreds of times in conversation.

It's written by a neurologist who works with people who have stranger-than-usual brain issues. And not only are the cases interesting, but the way he writes about the people invovled is really lovely. It's not clinical at all. Not judgemental. It's very... loving, I would say. It's interesting to see someone
...more
Dru
Feb 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Dear Dr. Sacks,
On page 112 of the paperback edition of your book, the second paragraph begins with the following sentence:
"And with this, no feeling that he has lost feeling (for the feeling he has lost), no feeling that he has lost the depth, that unfathomable, mysterious, myriad-levelled depth which somehow defines identity or reality."
I've read this sentence at least twelve times, and I still don't even have the slightest inkling of what the hell it means. What is the subject? What is the ve
...more
Sheffy
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
Despite so many people recommending this book, my high expectations were disappointed. Yes, it's perversely interesting to hear about neurological conundrums that afflict people in peculiar ways, but Sacks isn't a particularly good writer, nor does he have a good grasp on his audience. At times he obliquely refers to medical syndromes or footnotes other neurologists, as if he is writing for a technical physician audience, but on the whole his stories are too simplistic to engage such an audience ...more
Mark Lawrence
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an utterly fascinating book, a collection of case studies by neurologist Oliver Sacks, presented in an eminently readable style.

These studies deal with the most extraordinary mental conditions, often arising from damage to the brain, from the title case where a man in full charge of his faculties is unable to identify the purpose of any object (thus his mistaking his wife for a hat) to individuals who, again otherwise wholly reasonable, will deny ownership of one of their limbs.

This isn
...more
Dr. Appu Sasidharan
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine

This book contains case studies written in a philosophical way by a British Neurologist, Oliver Sacks. You will be bewildered at times while reading this book if you are not a Doctor as the author throws you into the fanatical world of complicated medical jargon bolt out of the blue. If you can tolerate this minor snag, you are in for a treat here. Even though the author tells us about difficult health conditions that people had to suffer, which might be painful for some people to read, the
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
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 is a 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients. Sacks chose the title of the book from the case study of one of his patients which he names "Dr. P" that has visual agnosia, a neurological condition that leaves him unable to recognize even familiar faces and objects. Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat became
...more
Supratim
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, medical
When I had come across the title of the book on Goodreads, I had mistakenly assumed to it to be a humour novel. But, when I finally found the book during one of my book hunts, I learnt that it is a non-fiction book where the author, a neurologist as well as a gifted writer, has presented some fascinating case studies about his patients with unique afflictions.

The book has been divided into 4 parts wherein each section contains the case studies pertaining to a particular category of neurological
...more
PattyMacDotComma
5★
“He also appeared to have decided that the examination was over and started to look around for his hat. He reached out his hand and took hold of his wife’s head, tried to lift it off, to put it on. He had apparently mistaken his wife for a hat! His wife looked as if she was used to such things.”


This is such a classic that all I can do is share some stories. Oliver Sacks was the much-loved, highly regarded neurologist who opened up the world of the mind and brain not only to doctors but also to
...more
Barbara
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it



Dr. Oliver Sacks


Dr. Oliver Sacks was a physician, author, and neurology professor who published several books about people with neurological problems. In this book Dr. Sacks discusses patients whose brain malfunctions cause a variety of 'maladies' including: a musician who lost the ability to see faces or recognize familiar objects; a former sailor who believed the year was permanently 1945; a man who thought his leg belonged to someone else; and other unusual afflictions. To provide a feel for
...more
Simon Clark
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of popular science books in my time, and in one way or another they have always felt cut from same cloth. Similar language used, similar structure, drawing on the same inspirations. After a while it almost feels like you are reading the same book over and over again, with only slight variations in content.
So The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat came as a complete breath of fresh air. A blast, in fact. Oliver Sacks has written a book rather unlike anything I've read before, both
...more
Tim
May 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because I am a fan of Oliver Sacks and his various speaking engagements (lectures, public radio interviews, etc)...but I have to say I was fairly nonplussed with it.

While the case studies in and of themselves make for interesting reading, the tone of the writing is fairly "clinical" and...removed. Despite the review blurbs stating that these are "personal" and "touchingly human" looks at neurological disorders, I saw only a few glimpses of this warmth (an example that sprin
...more
Rosh
In a Nutshell: Expected something very different. Learnt a lot. But didn’t enjoy this read. Might work better for those familiar with neurological terms.

Acclaimed neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks has been called the ‘Poet Laureate of Medicine’ by the New York Times. This book, first published in 1985, is a collection of twenty-four of his most intriguing case histories, each dealing with a peculiar issue connected to neurological health. The book is divided in four parts: Losses – which deals with
...more
Mona
Apr 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about this book when my biology professor mentioned it in class in reference to right-brain and left-brain disorders. Just last year, I had the good fortune to see the author himself - Dr. Sacks - speak at the university in my hometown. He was a dynamic and entertaining speaker and from then on, I resolved to try out his books. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat matched its author. The book is a collection of case studies on Dr. Sacks's patients with neurological disorders. Sac ...more
Riku Sayuj
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is not a series of medical case studies, but a series of philosophical musings on the human condition. Full Review to follow (in time)
Sean Barrs
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a book about people with neurological disorders centred on issues with perception and understanding the world.

The brain receives so much information each second, information we will never be consciously aware of. But what happens when the pathways start to break down? Weird and wonderful things evidently. Sacks reminisces over some truly bizarre case studies he encountered over his career. And, like the title suggests, one involves a man who mistook his
...more
Greta G
I guess I'm just not smart enough to fully appreciate this book.
But I do realize that an awful lot can go wrong with our brains, and when that should happen to me, I would be very lucky with such an empathetic and humane doctor.
Yet, his writing is dry and clinical, which is a shame because there were really interesting cases. I enjoyed reading some parts of the book, but not enough to feel satisfied about reading this book.
Especially the chapter "The Visions of Hildegard", in which he describ
...more
Hamad
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.”

🌟 I have been intrigued by this book’s title as soon as I first heard it. I thought it was a fiction book but then discovered that it is Non-fiction and I decided to read it this year as part of my challenge to read some non-fiction books.

🌟 Then, I di
...more
India M. Clamp
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jo (The Book Geek)
This was an interesting delve into neurological patients and their lives that Oliver Sacks has encountered in his field of work. To appreciate this, I do think one needs to first have an appreciation for neurology, which I do, and for the most part, I think it is truly fascinating.

This book was set into chapters, and those chapters contained the stories about his most interesting patients, or, ones that challenged him the most. I found certain patients cases to be more readable than others, as a
...more
Muhammed Hebala
[English / Arabic review]
الريفيو العربي بعد الريفيو الإنجليزي


" Is there any 'place' in the world for a man who is like an island, who cannot be accultured, made part of the main? Can 'the main' accommodate, make room for, the singular? "

That was the main inquiry of this insightful, compassionate, moving and Remarkable book.. the lucidity and power of a gifted writer.

A wonderful book … full of wonder, wonders and wondering. Sacks brings to these often unhappy people understanding, sympathy, a
...more
Collin
Apr 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
Dry. Reading this book is like eating saltine crackers without anything to drink. He only briefly discusses the cases (these are, ahem, the interesting parts of the book) and then embarks on tedious philosophical discussions about neurology. He does seem very proud of himself and his education, though; I will give him that as a backhanded compliment.
Glenn Sumi
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Review to come. This was a hard one to rate. Lots of 5 star sections but some needless academic jargon, particularly in the introductions to sections. I can see why this is considered a classic. Such fascinating case histories. The brain is truly a mysterious thing.
Lena
Nov 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great non-fiction, interesting and page-turning even after the years. Dr. Sacks not just gives us the retail of his medical research but tells heartbreaking stories about his patients and their struggle with uncommon deceases. That makes this book quite emotional and exciting to read. Moreover, without boring and difficult science it gives you understanding of complexity of human brain and consciousness. We can see how little we know about our own nature and how easily our reality can be ruined ...more
Laala Kashef Alghata
This book isn't easy to review, because it's not a novel, or short story collection; it's not poetry, or essays. It's straight up non-fiction in the form of case studies and clinical analysis of different bizarre neurological cases that Oliver Sacks came across. There's everything from the titular character -- a man who really did mistake his wife for his hat -- to people with Tourette's, both severe and manageable; from excesses to people with IQs of 60 but who possess amazing talents.

There is
...more
Deedee
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago and maybe Sacks was a more skilled doctor than writer but a lot will depend on why you're reading this book to begin with. I felt, still do, that Dr. Sacks humanised his patients and that's not necessarily easy given the subject. The brain has such layers of complexity that are not fully understood. Sacks attempts to issue clarity on the matter, no pun meant, it could happen to you or a loved one~ trauma, a stroke, lasting or transient confusion. To have someone in you ...more
Steve
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Over the course of his long career as a neurologist, Sacks has had plenty of interesting cases. It makes you appreciate what a complex organ the brain is when you see all the different ways that impairments can manifest themselves. Sacks is at his best when he's describing the most unusual quirks. The first chapter -- the case that gives the book its title -- is a good lead-in to the weird behaviors that follow.

At the time the book was written, these disorders must have seemed even more unusual.
...more
Bettie
Jan 16, 2009 rated it liked it
"the man who mistook his patients for a literary career"

Oliver Sacks dies in New York aged 82
...more
mark monday
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: he-said-she-said
“I think it is effective to constrict your anus 100 times, dent your navel 100 times in succession everyday. You can do so at a boring meeting or in a subway without being noticed for you to do so. I have known 70 year old man who has practiced it for 20 years. As a result, he has good complexion and has grown 20 years younger. His eyes sparkle. He is full of vigor, happiness, and joy. He has neither complained nor born a grudge under any circumstance.”

― Hiroyuki Nishigaki, How to Good-Bye Depre
...more
Bradley
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I remember seeing this book in the bookstores in the '80s and thought it was a fantastically weird title.

Humor? Nah. But I stored it away in my head, thinking it was just some pop-psych stuff and I was SO not into pop-psych stuff because I was going to be a full-on psychologist.

It was a dream, right alongside being a world-famous writer.

And then I mistook my wife for a hat.

It's weird how cyclical reality is. :)

Honestly tho, I wanted to know more about the condition that prevented people from r
...more
Cecily
I picked this up at a railway station, shortly after it was published, not quite knowing what to expect. Frankly, I think it was the extraordinary title (and my lack of time) that made me grab it.

All these years later, I remember it well. It was my first introduction to all sorts of bizarre psychological, psychiatric, and neurological conditions that are now more widely known to the general public, and left me amazed at the power and quirks of the human brain. And it was my first introduction to
...more
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Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks was the youngest of four children born to a prosperous North London Jewish couple: Sam, a physician, and Elsie, a surgeon. When he wa
...more

Articles featuring this book

"Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete...
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“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.” 406 likes
“If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story--his real, inmost story?'--for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us--through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each of us unique.” 204 likes
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