The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – Book 74

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?



20 thoughts on “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – Book 74

  1. I’ve been reading this one for a while now (a story now and then) and there are so many interesting (to us bystanders at least) conditions described. The ones with the music that you wrote of, and the ones where people seem to be “stuck in the past”, unable to form new memories or relate to life around them…
    I also like Sacks’ very compassionate and sympathetic attitude towards his patients. Sometimes I have thought that if I had such a serious mental condition as described there, I would wish someone like him to treat me.


    • I had picked it up and read a few of the stories over a year ago, and then just never picked it back up until recently. It definitely is one of those books you can pick up now, and then again a month from now, and still get lots of value out of it.

      I hope that you never end up with an “interesting” mental condition that would need any neurological help!

      I spent a lot of the book wondering how much the research and data have changed since the novel was written, since it’s an older book.


  2. That does sound interesting, and to think we consider getting songs stuck in our head as inconveniences – suddenly they seem a lot more trivial (not that they were huge to begin with, but, you know).


    • I know what you mean! It just makes you think about your “big” issues and how they might not be so “big” after all. But really, while the book might put things into perspective, Oliver Sacks is gentle while describing his patients, and does so factually so you don’t end up feeling bad for the patients or anything.


  3. I’ve been thinking about reading this book for awhile now. Oliver Sacks sounds like such an incredible doctor. It would amaze me to come across some of these mental conditions myself.


  4. Both my mom and I have Synesthesia (I smell colors and she has colors for days of the week), which is pretty random. I know of some other conditions, but they are things I’ll share with you in a Google Hangout because they aren’t for all ages 😉


  5. I have been reading reviews of this book for months, and I still don’t know if I want to read it or not, but I think I should because looks interesting. And look at Allison, for example!! 🙂


    • I think you’d enjoy the actual stories, but you do have to wade through some of the “tougher,” doctoral parts that are very hard to read. I think it’s something you might want to check out from the library or find inexpensively.

      It’s worth reading because the conditions are so unique and interesting. And then it’s pretty easy to skip or skim through the tougher wordy parts.


  6. Pingback: February Mini-Reviews | Love at First Book

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