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


$13.59 $16.99 Save 20% Current price is $13.59, Original price is $16.99. You Save 20%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25


In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders.

Oliver Sacks’s 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’s 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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684853949
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 04/28/1998
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 13,152
Product dimensions: 5.46(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford, California, and New York. He is professor of clinical neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is the author of many books, including Awakenings and A Leg to Stand On.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

London, England


B.M., B.Ch., Queen's College, Oxford, 1958

Table of Contents




1 The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

2 The Lost Mariner

3 The Disembodied Lady

4 The Man Who Fell out of Bed

5 Hands

6 Phantoms

7 On the Level

8 Eyes Right!

9 The President's Speech



10 Witty Ticcy Ray

11 Cupid's Disease

12 A Matter of Identity

13 Yes, Father-Sister

14 The Possessed page



15 Reminiscence

16 Incontinent Nostalgia

17 A Passage to India

18 The Dog Beneath the Skin

19 Murder

20 The Visions of Hildegard



21 Rebecca

22 A Walking Grove

23 The Twins

24 The Autist Artist


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat' by Oliver Sacks. I'm so glad that I bought this book. The author is a neurologist who describes some of his most fascinating patients. I feel like these characters will stick with me for the rest of my life. Among the characters you'll meet in this book are a music teacher(the title character) who can no longer recognize faces, twins diagnosed retarded who can generate six-digit primes, and a murderer who forgets his crime. There's also a sailor who is convinced that it is still 1965. The cases themselves are amazing but Sacks treats their stories with a beautiful kind of dignity. Sacks never loses sight of the person, of the soul, that he treats. This book left me with a deep sense of gratitude and a fresh hope in humanity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This great read was long overdue and I could not put it down. I would recommend this story, filled with love and courage, to anyone. Shannon Morgan
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was very fascinating and really showed how people in the clinical cases and people with the same brain disorders or brain malfunctions lived. The book attempted to explain how, but more importantly, what was lost or gained because of the person's trauma or neurological disorder. It achieved its goal and showed a view from both the patient and the doctor. Even though the human mind may not be functioning properly, when closely looked at, the person has gained more than lost without them knowing it. This is the beauty of the brain and all of nature.
AMcGoey More than 1 year ago
I must confess that I have a love-hate relationship with Dr. Sacks' writing as this is the second title of his that I have read. He is brilliant. I am not. His writing and story telling is remarkable & entertaining - & requires me to always have a dictionary present. I love how this book was written in short vignettes as it made it easy to read a chapter before my 2 children pulled my attention away. I also love how he incorporates the arts into the science of neurology as it is perfect for my science students at a performing arts high school to relate to their own lives. If you are fascinated by the mysteries of the brain, love science, love the arts, or love writing with meticulous grammar and advanced vocabulary, then this book is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook his WIfe for a Hat was an teresting read, unlike anything I have previously encountered. It told the stories of several mentally and physically impaired patients struggling to live a normal life. Sacks is a neirologist who wrote about what each of his patients were experiencing and how it affected their life. He described it in such humanistic terms you could almost feel what that patient was enduring through the pages. Sacks not only gave the scientific explanation, but also included what was gained and lost in that person's life due to their disability. The book took you from the comfort of your own life of normalcy, and exposed you to what life would be like without a perfectly functioning body. I would reccomend this read to everyone; it allows you to see life through new eyes and gravitates you into the office of a neurologist with some pretty interesting patients whose stories give you an insight to a side of reality you otherwise wouldn't encounter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr Sacks is a neurologist and a people observer rolled into is amazing how he narrates neurological disorders not just in medical terms but also in a humanistic way..reading the book transports you from the comforts of your normal life to the world of a lost memory and other abberations with a sense of kindness and sympathy to the people with neurological disorders. Definitely a refreshing medical book written in an artistic way accesible by our humanistic and sympathetic nature as humans..
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are few science or medical writers who have the ability to make their case- histories so vivid and interesting as Sachs does. He writes with tremendous insight and sympathy about worlds of mental aberration and strangeness which truly are beyond ordinary imagining. The world seems a stranger and more troubling place after reading this book. But the reader too has the sense that he has been given insights into areas of reality he would never by himself have come across.
Pineapples More than 1 year ago
Oliver Sacks The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, is a great book. This book is a wonderful insight to the world of neurology, and the bizarre medical conditions of the patients. This book describes each case with both a medical view and a sympathetic view about a man that genuinely sees his patients as something other than an astonishing abnormality. Sacks recounts his many tales about individuals with short term memory loss and cerebral vision impairments, he talks about how amazingly his patients have been able to overcome all of the odds and actually live in peace with their unfairly given disadvantage. This book gives readers a bigger insight into someone's life who has to deal with a struggle constantly every day, and shows how they live through it, some of the patients in the book can't even see life without their disorder, and eventually learn to (in its own different way) love it. As well as treating the patients, Sacks also connects with them on an emotional level, actually getting to them as a person. This book is definitely worth worth reading, although some of the diction might be a little bit difficult to comprehend due to the medical terminology. I can say i had my dictionary right by my side, to look up some of the words that were a little difficult to understand. All in all this book is amazing and I very much think that reading this book will be a new and amazing learning experience.
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
Sacks thoughtful narration and reflection on these clinical tales provides a rich investigation into human nature and value. He subtlely questions the typical understanding and treatment of those deemed outside the normal. Beyond the consideration of these particular cases, I found this exposition helpful for thinking about the diversity of human spirit and intelligence and the implications for relationships and teaching. I recommend the book for any curious about human nature and psychology as well as those who teach or deal with special needs people.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks is a collection of intriguing instances of neurology in some of his patients. Oliver talks about these patients and their strange but interesting disorders. For instance, the title character has a difficult time seeing certain things like faces and other images, and in one instance, he pulls on his wife's head because he thinks it's his hat. One of my favorite excerpts is about a neurological disorder of the temporal lobe in the brain, which can be called "musical epilepsy."  Basically, a few elderly women were experiencing seizures which would cause music to be playing loudly in their heads. Sacks said, "Conversation was far from easy, partly because of Mrs. O'C's deafness, but more because I was repeatedly drowned out by songs-she could only hear me through the softer ones." Sounds humorous, but the patients couldn't "adjust" the volume or "choose" their songs, so it's kind of like being in the car when another person is in charge of the radio. In between the vignettes, there was a lot of doctoral gibberish.  Well, to me it was gibberish.  But I read as much as I could and skimmed through the rest of those parts. If these strange neurological instances sound like something you'd want to read about, pick up a copy of the book.  Just keep in mind that you might need to or want to skim through the more technical aspects of a lot of these stories, which mainly occurs in the postscript. What's the strangest medical condition you know of? Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book
KiwiKim More than 1 year ago
Oliver Sacks has a great ability to tell a story and suck you in. These short stories about real cases are intriguing and thoughtful. I am eager to read his other works as well.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oliver Sacks presents a series of case studies from his own files to explain various neurological conditions. I was awed by the compassion with which he views his patients. Writing decades ago, he was ahead of his time in terms of valuing each patient for his or her strengths and uniqueness. His thoughts about what would constitute a "cure" for various patients, and what would be lost in each case, touched my heart and gave me a much deeper perspective on valuing diversity.I found the book difficult at times because Dr. Sacks seems to vary between writing for the general reader and writing for those who study neurology. There are several references to other doctors and case histories that I was not familiar with, and which are not explained in the book. That being said, it is still worth reading to gain insight into humanity, the human brain and the human spirit.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oliver Sacks's book about neurology and some of the more interesting workings of the mind is generally good, though lacks something as a result of his writing style; overall, I prefer works like Pinker's 'The Language Instinct'.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a collection of essays by a neurologist, written about some of his most unusual and extraordinary patients. He divides the cases into four sections - deficits, excesses, transports, and the "simple" - but what unites all of them is the suggestions they make about how amazing, complex, and nuanced our brains/psyches must be. Oliver Sacks is a caring doctor, and he writes about every one of his patients with compassion and genuine interest in them. But some of the cases are horrifying - the woman who has been 'disembodied' by her mind, or another who is trapped within a 'super-Tourette's' in which she runs through mimicry of everyone around her rapidly. Fascinating, but also heartbreaking when Sacks concludes that their condition has not, or cannot, be treated, as some of them cannot. This is an amazing book which opens up the complexities of our neurology, and how delicately we, and our 'self,' have been crafted
eleanorigby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful journey through the odd and fascinating world of neurological deficits. Sacks' compassion show through his documenting of the triumph of the human spirit.
ashishg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating collection of amazing and unimaginable mental illness (neuropsychological) revoking horror, sadness and wonder at the same time. You cannot imagine what could go wrong with you as much as you try.
eagletusk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neat, but a bit short.
Snakeshands on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Completely changed my philosophy of mind. Very accessibly, and anecdotally, takes a look at the ways a person's entire personality or concept of the world can be warped by simple and localized damage to the brain. Sacks is definitely playing the affable old med school prof here, spinning anecdotes into sweet little stories about the strange yet lovable people he's met in his research. Still, his writing is fantastically clear and the stories drag you in, from the man with no long term memory (so much stranger and more affecting than depicted in the movie Memento--and I love that movie), or the loss of the hidden sixth sense of knowing you're in your own body.If there's any clear starting point for someone interested in popular cognitive science, it's absolutely here. A little of the science has been surpassed since then, but the basics are all there and, and the discipline's way of looking at the mind is branded into your brain.
bohemima on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a wonderful book about people who suffer from a variety ofneurological disorders. Note that: the book is about people and how these diseases effect their lives.Dr. Sacks divides his book into four sections, orgainized by the effect of the disorder on the patient. The author is possessed of a powerful imagination, an empath for his patients, and an insatiable curiosity about the workings of the human brain. He uses these traits here to illuminate the lives he portrays, causing the reader to be both amazed at human strength and courage and dismayed by the ravages casued by quirks, diseases or defects. This is a moving, thought-provoking, heartbreaking book. Well worth reading.
Moniica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr Sacks describes some of the extraordinary patients whom he has studied as a neurologist. From the mentally retarded, to a man who had a dream about being a dog which came slightly true the next morning with his heightened senses - in particular, smell.I have enjoyed reading this book and all the interesting people involved. Never would I have thought of half these things being possible, nor even imagined such a thing.
CKmtl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating collection of neurological case studies, compiled by a curious and sympathetic doctor.It can take a while to get acclimated to Sacks' somewhat florid writing style, and his habit of waxing philosophical can be off-putting to a read who is more interested in the cases than in their implications.
barbaretta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a collection of "case studies" describing how a range of neurological conditions affect the brain and people's behaviours. Sacks is a neurologist, so one can assume the cases are accurately portrayed. On the one hand, this book could be regarded as a fascinating insight into brain diseases and disorders. On the other,it could be regarded as a professional person,exploiting the distressing situations in which some of his patients found themselves to add to his probably already substantial income, and to satisfy the voyeuristic curiosity of the broader public. I'm in the second camp. I wonder how the patients would have felt, seeing themselves and their distressing conditions so publicly portrayed. For me, this book overstepped the ethical line. It was written to be entertaining about a subject that shouldn't be entertaining. I found it to be exploitative and distasteful.
dvf1976 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was probably a reference for every neurological/psychological disorder movie that Hollywood has produced. I see stories similar to Memento, Rain Man, and Awakenings (which this guy also wrote/experienced).
sgerbic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed June 1999 Second time reading this book. I owed it at one time but loaned it out somewhere (2008 just purchased it again). The first time reading it I was enthralled by the stories but lost in the tech talk. we are asked to read and report on a psychology book, and I thought of this one and decided to reread it now that I am so much more "educated". Well the stories are still very interesting but the tech talk is still there. I also find De. Sacks way over my head in areas of music and philosophy, he quotes poets and authors I've never heard of and generally just runs on. (It's now 2008, wonder if I'm educated enough to try again?) how was this book ever passed by an editor I will never know. Either it's a book for reference by other neurologists or it is a book for the curious. Dr. Sacks compassion for humans is charming, but then would you really expect him to write himself any other way? The title story I didn't enjoy as much and the stories of, "the Lost Marine," "The Twins," and "A Walking Grove."I would have liked to have seen a lot more follow up and less searching for souls that he seems to be hoping to find. Apparently Dr. Sacks is the doctor from "Awakenings," which I loved and seen many times. In the movie the doctor had little to do with humans and rarely related to them until he woke several. This Oliver Sacks sees to be a strong people person. (2008 edit) have Since read the book, "Awakenings" and realized how cleaned up the movie was. Very tragic story originally.
nevusmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am amazed at the things that can go wrong in the brain. The author presents some unusual cases he has faced, in a somewhat clinical manner. Having read many case studies that were directed only towards doctors, I think Sacks did a fine job of using plain English to describe what was going on with the patients. Still, the habit of writing dispassionately about a case is clearly ingrained in him. There were a couple of instances where it was apparent he really "clicked" with a particular patient, and in those cases, his writing became more personal. A fascinating book.