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Showing 1-10 of 440 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 670 reviews
on December 24, 2016
This is my first book by Oliver Sacks. I must admit I was expecting more science, less "novel." Dr. Sacks writes in a literary style and loves multiple complex sentences that make the argument indeed richer, but also intricate. So, if you want a simple reading, you'll be a little surprised.

The book consists of four parts:
1) Losses
2) Execess
3) Transports
4) The World of the Simple

Each section relates to a different set of neurological problems resulting in a mental disorder.

1) In the "Losses" the author describes nine cases.
"Neurology's favourite word is 'deficit', denoting an impariment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of vision, loss dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties)."

2) In the "Execess" find five "stories".
"What then of the opposite - an execess or superabundance of functions?"
and next
"... we consider their excesses - not amnesia, but hypermnesia; not agnosia, but hypergnosia; and all the other 'hypers' we can imagine."

3) The chapter "Transports" describes six cases.
"...'transports' - often of poignant intensity, and shot through with personal feeling and meaning - tend to be seen, like drimes, as psychical: as a manifestation, perhaps, of unconscious or preconcious activity..."
and next
"...to be seen as psychoses, or to be brodcast as religious revelations, rather than brought to physicians."

4) And at the end of "The World of the Simple" (four "stories"). Dr. Sacks describes cases of people whose neurological disorders outfitted with extraordinary abilities, such as "seeing the numbers," eidetic memory, an excellent sense of smell, etc. (Ie. brilliant savants).

In his book, Dr. Sacks often refers to the study of well-known Russian psychologist A. R. Luria.

Dr. Sacks style of reasoning, not everyone will like it. Besides, there are many similar books, though written from a different perspective than neurological such as "Tales from the Couch: A Clinical Psychologist's True Stories of Psychopathology" by Dr. Bob Wendorf.
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on December 2, 2016
What a surprise to see the context of the stories written by Oliver Sacks in 1970. I was expecting short stories written by an author whose famous story became a movie staring Robin Williams. He writes from the experiences of an MD with conclusions from his treatments, observations, and diagnosis of patients with varying levels of neurological illnesses. MY first impression of the stories was negative in a quick glance thru. The mindset had to change. . As I read further, the author's style showed in the thoroughness with which his observation and medical expertise explained the physical bases for so many neurological symptoms presented by his clients. He uses documented author's works that have a bearing on damaged minds and explain symptoms relating to injured brain areas. He uses tools available to aid in the diagnosis and prognosis of brain damage. Very interesting conclusion: A relatively non-technical book, but engaging in a fluid writing style that makes people and their conditions understandable and makes me appreciate the author. Well done. Recommended.
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on June 24, 2016
I first read this book in a college Intro to Neuroscience class, and I've been a Dr. Sacks fan ever since. It was sad to hear of his passing recently, but it also reminded me what a great book this is for any potential neuroscience or even more general medical student. I purchased this copy as a gift to a graduating high school student who has expressed an interest in neuroscience. Although most of us will change our minds over the course of college, this is still a great book for getting acquainted with the subject and some of the interesting things that can go wrong with our brains.

The thing I like about this book (and all of his books) is that they manage to do justice to a complex topic while still remaining highly accessible to people of average intelligence and background knowledge. Sacks was also a great writer, with that rare and wonderful ability to know what's interesting about a topic and weave a compelling story. It's a shame he's no longer with us, but I'm sure this book and many of his others will continue to delight curious readers for years to come.
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on March 5, 2014
A very well put together collection of stories about unusual changes to the brain... The two points that I really felt were driven home through these stories are:

1. The human brain is not some sort of organ separate from our soul/consciousness/self. It IS our consciousness. When it gets changed, we are changed. I think a lot of people implicitly think of the brain as just something that memorizes dates and facts for school, and don't really think of it as the core of their self.
2. The brain, while impressive, is not really a truthful measurement machine. In reality, it's kind of slapped together from a bunch of co-processors and self delusion to make us think our senses are telling us the true story of the world. If one of those co-processors is damaged, weird stuff happens. For example, the title story. The brain does not observe impartially. Human faces are not processed in the same way that hats are processed. If that part of the brain is damaged, then one can, indeed, mistake their wife for a hat.

One minor nitpick I can think of is that the author spends a lot of time grandly editorializing about the philosophical implications of the stories after telling each one. I would have preferred to keep this a bit more minimal and let the stories speak for themselves - they are full enough without him pointing it out. Another thing that personally kind of puts me off is the fact that the whole book is predicated on the Freud/Jung school of psychology, which I think too often was not really based in observation and scientific method. I am sure you can find all sorts of half-truths and unsupported claims in the book if you really start to dig into and research the stories. Still, it makes for great reading.

And that's the thing; this is chiefly a pop-psychology book. No matter the minor flaws in writing, or patchy science, or flawed observation, it doesn't strongly detract from the central ideas of the book. I would consider this book one of the few universally important books I've read, because the stories themselves cut so close to the core of our life experiences. Not just in the obvious ways (ex. trying to explain to a child why Alzheimer's disease is affecting their grandfather), but also in understanding why we are the way we are.

Sorry, I just realized I made myself guilty of "grandly editorializing about the philosophical implications of the stories"... It's hard not to do!
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on March 31, 2014
If you've ever wanted to read up on some of the most interesting psychological abnormalities out there, and you like to read books by well-known psychologists in the field, you won't be disappointed here. This book is an easy read, comprehensive, and interesting.

I'm currently a sophomore in college, and I had to order this book for my Introduction to Psychology as a Major course last semester. Of all the books that I had to read for school that semester, this is the only one I read cover to cover without being told to. I believe that for the course itself, I only had to read about nine of the short stories; but I read every single one of them. I couldn't put it down.

The book is written in simple, easy to read English; unlike a number of other books that you'll most likely need to read for psychology. In fact, I don't even think you need to be studying psychology to buy and enjoy this book. I would recommend this to my friends who have nothing to do with psychology. It's amazingly eye-opening to see so many different conditions that you've never even heard about, or perhaps even think about ones that you've already heard of in a completely new way!

I remember one passage in particular about a man who had Tourette's syndrome; most people would assume that such a condition would have a negative impact on one's life, and that those who have it would want to be rid of it. But this isn't the case in this passage; in fact, the man in question takes medicine to control his Tourette's and feels even worse afterward. He says it erased a part of his personality, and he doesn't feel quite the same without it. This, and other interesting stories lay inside this book.

Not only do I think this book is great for college students or anyone else who wants to read it, but getting it through Amazon was a pleasure as well. It was nearly half the price of the one my school was trying to sell in the bookstore, and it came with a bonus additional section on the back that the version being sold by my college didn't have. I have Amazon Prime, so it also shipped very quickly and was there by the time I needed to start reading it for class. Excellent buy, overall.
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on April 24, 2017
Oliver Sacks was an established neurologist who earned his neuroscience degree from the Queen’s College, which is a part of the larger Oxford College in Oxford, England. This degree in neuroscience is essentially what caused him to become a famous author in addition to being a neurologist, as the majority of his literary works revolve around the subjects of neuroscience and the brain. Personally, I was excited to read his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, as I find neuroscience to be quite fascinating. However, upon finishing the book, I fear that Dr. Sacks has let his popularity as an author from his previous works, Awakenings and Musicophilia, distract him from educating the general populous about neuroscience and has instead gravitated towards more sensational writings which are themed around neuroscience, as evidenced by The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Admittedly, my general viewpoint on The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is harsh, but that is due to my disappointment in how lackluster the neuroscience content is. However, my hindsight tells me that I too was drawn to the book for its curious title and therefore should not be complaining as much as I am because I may not have been his target audience.
The book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, chronicles the experiences and patients that Dr. Sacks encountered throughout his career as a neurologist. It seems that the purpose of this book was to highlight and explore the more puzzling and bizarre neurological anomalies in a way that is both engaging and educative to both the casual reader and to the person who is more well-versed in neuroscience. The book achieves this through separating itself into four sections: losses, excesses, transports, and the world of the simple. Each of the four sections relates to a specific type of functioning in the brain, an example of this would be how the section titled losses pertains to a client’s loss or dampening of normal cognitive or physical functioning as noted by Dr. Sacks. With the book being divided into four sections, it allows the reader to either read the book linearly, as a normal book is intended, or the simply pick a section that interests them and start there. Personally, I felt that the book was too simplistic, which is also probably why it was to popular. I say this because, if you were to flip to a random page in the book, you would most likely be able to comprehend everything on the page. I would even go as far to say that the average person probably would not feel challenged intellectually while they were reading it. However, from a business perspective, this is readability is undoubtedly a strength because if more people are able to comprehend the book and feel comfortable reading it, the more potential sales. However, upon finishing the book, it seemed all too clear that the book’s main purpose was only to sell multiple copies, much like a book you might find at an airport and not to broaden one’s understanding of neurological concepts.
As I had mentioned earlier, I was a tad disappointed that there was not much neuroscience content, especially when the author is such an acclaimed neuroscientist, which also seems to support my theory that the main purpose of the book was primarily for the sales as opposed to highlighting some of the fascinating neurological disorders. However, before I start addressing how there was a severe lack of stimulating neurological content, I will address that there are a few neuroscience terms sprinkled throughout the book such as temporal lobe, amygdala, and L-Dopa. Both the temporal lobe and the amygdala are some of the most memorable parts of the brain, whereas L-Dopa is a lesser known amino acid. Initially, I was excited when I saw that L-Dopa was included in the book because I am very interested in how amino acids, neurotransmitters, and hormones effect the brain but unfortunately, L-Dopa is the most advanced subject of the book and is also rarely touched upon in the book. Also, the majority of the neuroscience content is only in the prefaces and the post scripts, both of which make up the smallest portions of the book.
In continuation with my criticisms of the book, I felt that Dr. Sacks also seems to be constantly rephrasing what he has stated earlier in each of his journals. Most of this seemed subtle, such as bringing up topics that were previously addressed in the chapter or changing his wording around slightly but other instances made me feel like I was constantly re-reading something that I had just read a few paragraphs earlier. I found this issue of rephrasing to be most prevalent in “The Lost Mariner” where Dr. Sacks keeps rewording the term memory loss. I do understand that from a story telling perspective that it is important to illuminate key themes, but in the case of “The Lost Mariner”, it almost seems ironic that Dr. Sacks, much like his patient, keeps repeating things that he has established in the past.
While I didn’t feel that the book was a great fit for me, if the reader is someone who is beginning to develop a curiosity about neuroscience, then this book is a fantastic tool to help satiate that curiosity. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat does a great job of framing the world of neuroscience in a fun and engaging way through Dr. Sack’s recollections of previous patient interactions. These interactions are worded in such a way that any reader can understand what the patient is suffering from and how the brain is involved with the strange behavior or disabilities that is occurring in the patient. In addition, if the reader was still hungry for more information about the previous cases, Dr. Sack’s also does a great job at illuminating what he thinks may have been occurring in some of the post-scripts and he even goes as far to provide current research done on the topic or updates the reader on the new developments in the client’s cases.
To conclude, while I found this book to be a bit of a disappointment, I believe this was due to me not being Dr. Sack’s intended audience for The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. My reasoning behind this is that I believe it was Dr. Sack’s intention for this book to be targeted towards people who have a budding interest in neuroscience and not someone who has or is beginning to develop a background in neuroscience. If you are a part of that audience, then I firmly believe that this book will help to lead the reader down an exciting and engaging trail of bizarre, and at times heartbreaking, client interactions all of which are easy and fun to read. However, if you are like myself and crave something more stimulating, then I feel that the book is not a great fit for you and that you are better suited pursuing something more challenging.
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on April 25, 2017
Oliver Sacks was a neurologist, author, and a professor. He grew up and studied in London, England. Dr. Sacks moved to the United States to complete his residency program in neurology and stayed in the U.S. to work (Oliver Sacks, M.D. 2017). He has written many best selling novels about neurology that eventually became movies. The book that I read, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales” is a collection of short stories based upon case histories that Dr. Sacks personally experienced with his patients. The main idea of this book is to explain to readers about certain neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. At first I thought this book would be difficult to read as it focuses on complex medical diseases and conditions of the brain. I envisioned his book being filled with complicated medical terminology that would be difficult to understand. To my surprise, Dr. Sacks wrote the book in an engaging way for general readers to comprehend. He explains his patient’s multifaceted neurological disorders in a simple, emotional, and understandable language. I enjoyed the book and it was easy to navigate through each of the individual stories. It consisted of 24 separate short stories that were categorized into four different sections. Each section had a specific theme. The four themes of the book were losses, excesses, transports, and The World of the Simple.
In the section about losses, Dr. Sacks explains nine different case histories of patients who have lost a specific neurological function of their brain. One person lost the ability to remember anything after 1945. This patient thought he was nineteen when in reality he was much older. Another patient has no proprioception and has lost the ability to feel her body. In the second section about excesses, Dr. Sacks explains five different case studies about people who have an excessive amount of emotions or energy. For example, Dr. Sacks explains the story of a man with Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s syndrome causes repetitive movement and a Tic Disorder. However, this patient had quick reactions. Another story was about a ninety year old women with syphilis who now feels more energetic. In many cases Dr. Sacks tries to treat his patients with medication to slow them down, however after he gave them the medication he felt the patient’s would be better off without it. The third section on transports is about patients, who have hallucinations, spiritual journeys, visions, or dreams that transport them to a different state. These patients have undergone psychological and physical changes. There was one story about a medical student who thought he was a dog. The patient actually sniffed like a dog. Another story is about a girl with a brain tumor who thought she was back in her country of India. Part four was the last section of the book and it was about the world of the simple. These patients have thoughts that were simple and innocent to remember but they didn’t understand their thoughts. One story was about a 21 year old young man named Jose who had autism. Jose does not talk but he was a remarkable artist. People criticized Jose and called him an idiot, but Jose could draw an object or scene with great focus and detail.
I found Dr. Sack’s stories very interesting particularly because they were related to true case histories. His own personal experience and interactions with his patients offers creditability for the knowledge he shares with us. Dr. Sack’s descriptive explanations of the case histories helped put complex neurological diseases in perspective. He used simple terminology and easy to understand examples. Many of his stories were relatable to the topics we discussed in class such as the functionality of the brain.
One of most interesting stories Dr. Sacks discusses was related to the title of the book “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”. Dr. Sacks was treating a patient who had a massive tumor that was damaging his visual cortex and other visual parts of his brain. This patient could not process sensory information and therefore had difficulty differentiating reality from fantasy. Physically the patient felt fine and did not even realize he had a problem. However in reality he was encountering progressive cognitive failure to identify faces. The term for this neurological disease is prosopagnosia. People who are diagnosed with prosopagnosia struggle recognizing people faces and sometimes cannot even recognize their own face. Dr. Sack’s patient was also affected by another neurological disease called agnosia. Agnosia is the inability to recognize places and things. In this case Dr. Sack’s patient literally mistook his wife for a hat and attempted to grab her head and place it on his. His patient’s only sensory function, the sense of smell assisted him in identifying simple objects.
In each story Dr. Sack’s explained his patient’s symptom and gives a background of the patient’s life. He further explains what neurological conditions the patient had and why they had this condition. Dr. Sack’s used neurological examples that were explained in a simple way and were easy and interesting to understand. Dr. Sack’s arguments that described his patient’s disorders were well-constructed and well explained using neurological evidence to validate his statements.
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on May 11, 2016
The book is a science-y read, so it may be hard to follow. It requires the nerd in the most literary, neuroscientific, philosophical, psychological scientific type of way. Thus, I loved it! But it may not be for everyone. Not only does this book explore what it's like to be neuro-abnormal, but it also exemplifies the thinking brain of Oliver Sacks, the author, who has a different, yet intriguing, style of writing/thinking. I appreciate the different, as I am as well.
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on January 16, 2016
Dr. Sacks' stories from his work as a neurologist are absolutely fascinating. Most of the time, he tells the story in a manner that is easily understood by laymen. He avoids jargon and tells the story rather than fills out a report. However, there are portions of the book that can be difficult to understand.
The book examines disorders that everyone has heard of as well as those we can scarcely imagine. Dr. Sacks seeks to promote understanding for these pathologies of the mind which are, by their nature, invisible. Aside from that, the various stories found in this book are exceedingly enjoyable.
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on January 3, 2017
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
by Oliver Sacks

Rating: **** (4 stars)
Book Lenght: 243 pages
Genre: Psychology, Nonfiction, Neuroscience

Sacks is a neuropsychologist who through his career has seen a number of interesting cases. Sacks started in his field when there was so much unknown about the brain. While there is still so much for us to learn, case studies, like those found in this book, have increased our understanding.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales is a classic of psychology literature. It is a collection of case studies that have inspired research and even featured films. Nearly every introductory psychology textbook will include information on the man who actually did mistake his wife for a hat. Although, I found most of that reading more interesting than the actual story in this book.

The case studies themselves are pretty succinct. They do not give you a whole sense of the person behind them. Each patient could have an entire book written about them. Many times I was left wishing that I knew more about the individuals.

As reviewed on The Book Recluse Review
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