52 Books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales is the first Oliver Sacks book I’ve read.  It’s one of the Xmas books.  It was an interesting read that goes well with a couple of other neuroscience books I’ve read (like V. S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain).  The first full section dealt with stories of people losing huge chunks of their memory, proprioception, or even the ability to tell the difference between another human and a grandfather clock: essentially, stories about people losing vital parts of their humanity that we take for granted.  It was a bit of a tough read because, even though Sacks sought to use the neurological disorders as a jumping off point for deeper philosophical discussions, it triggered for me a memory I have of stopping off at some gas station somewhere in Virginia some time ago, standing in line behind an old guy suffering from Tourette’s–swear words and erratic facial tics–and watching him trying to muffle the profanity yelps with a balled-up handkerchief.  Sacks worked hard to abstract everything in the latter-halves of each essay, but, man, I just couldn’t stop thinking of that guy.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn anybody off to this book, because I did enjoy it.  But if you decide to read this book, also read other, more recent, books on the field of neuroscience.  It’s incredible how far we’ve come since the pseudoscience of Freud.

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