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

  • by Oliver Sacks
  • Narrated by Jonathan Davis, Oliver Sacks - introduction
  • 9 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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 In his introduction to this audiobook, Sacks himself explains that much of the content is now quite outdated, but he hopes, proudly in his soft British lisp, that The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat still resonates for its positive attitude and openness toward the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


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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- Darwin8u

"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)
The man who mistook his wife for a hat;
The lost mariner;
The disembodied lady;
The man who fell out of bed;
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')
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)
Incontinent nostalgia;
A passage to India;
The dog beneath the skin;
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)
A walking grove;
The twins;
The autist artist.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-21-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios