Mar 11, 2008

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

and Other Clinical Tales
by Oliver Sacks

In the same vein as An Anthropologist on Mars, this book is a collection of twenty-four stories describing various neurological patients. They suffer from a wide variety of maladies involving perception- a woman who cannot tell where parts of her body are located, a man who has entirely lost his sense of balance, various patients with phantom limbs, Tourette's syndrome, strange kinds of memory loss and more.

I first came across this book when a college roommate was reading it years ago. The title story seemed so bizarre I was a bit incredulous. The experiences related in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat are a bit harder to relate to than those in An Anthropologist- it's easier to imagine what it's like to be a blind man with restored sight than a person who continually perceives one object to be another entirely. If anything, that makes this book even more fascinating.

Rating: 4/5                            233 pages, 1970

More opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot
Stuck in a Book


  1. At the beginning of your post I had started to wonder where you found these books--sounds like a book my old roommate would really like as well. She was a psych major; I'll have to pass the info onto her.

  2. I think my roommate was a psych major too, it's been so long I hardly remember. She recommended several books to me that sparked an interest in the subject which I've never yet grown tired of.

  3. Both of these sound FANTASTIC...and even though i teach bio I was a pscyh major!! Did you read The Echo Maker? He refers to cases like these in the book.

  4. I finally read this book last year, after reading a couple of the stories for my intro to psych class fours years ago. I'm hoping to read his newest book, Musicophilia this month. :)

  5. Anonymous3/13/2008

    I read this for a writing class - you might be interested in the "Vital Signs" column in Discover magazine - it's like House for people who don't watch TV.

  6. Juli and Eva- thanks for adding two new titles to my TBR! I hadn't heard of these, but definitely want to read them now.

    Amelia- thanks for the recommendation.


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