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67. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks



67. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks - 256 pages (8/10)

I like how the cover matches my usericon, hah. Yay, Magritte.

I've been meaning to read this book for years. How could you not with a title like that? Dr. Oliver Sacks is a guest star on a podcast I regularly listen to, Radio Lab, and after hearing certain cases, I knew it was long past time I read his book. Sacks has been a neurologist for many years, and this book was his first. Published in 1985, it details the strange and amazing cases he's come across during his career. This book is amusing, fascinating, and touching.

One interesting case was a man who had alcohol amnesia. He was in his late fifties, but he thought he was 19 in 1945. Whenever he mentioned his brother, he mentioned that he was in accountancy school and was engaged to a nice girl, even though at the time of the book his brother had been an accountant for thirty years. Up until the age of 19 he could remember his life perfectly, but everything after that was a blur. Sacks would see the man one day and the next day the patient would introduce himself again. Each case detailed in this book is unique and varied.

The book is well-organized: "The book comprises 24 essays split into 4 sections which each deal with a particular aspect of brain function such as deficits and excesses in the first two sections (with particular emphasis on the right hemisphere of the brain) while the third and fourth describe phenomenological manifestations with reference to spontaneous reminiscences, altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in "retardates" (Sacks, 163)

I always took advantage what it was like to go through day-to-day life with no neurological disorders. I can't fathom what it must be like to not be able to trust your sight, or to not be sure where your body parts are, or to not remember ten minutes ago. Sack's main thesis of the book is that human identity is still preserved, no matter how debilitating a disorder an individual has. A person with severe amnesia can still recognize someone he or she loves. A person with severe mental disabilities can still love deeply and find passion in past times. Identity persists.


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