The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Dear The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,

I will definitely look at the world differently with the experiences of those you spoke about in my mind. Is it better to let people know about a neurological disorder or is it sometimes better to let someone figure out how to live without being labelled? Being human is complicated, yet there is so much to learn from one another.

With Love,

P.S. Book Details
Author: Oliver Sacks
Book Length: 243 pages
Book Genre: Nonfiction//Psychology
Publication Date: 1985
Awards: N/A
Synopsis: If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it. Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities; who have been dismissed as autistic or retarded, yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales illuminate what it means to be human.


Humans are remarkable. The way we adapt to circumstances and situations we thought inconceivable. The flexibility and malleability of our brains and how we make sense of the world, even if we are unable to communicate what we are seeing. The uniqueness of humanity is highlighted in this book about various neurological disorders chronicled by a neurologist, Oliver Sacks.

I found out about this book a few years ago in my undergraduate, but just never got around to it. Then, I joined a new book club and this book was picked for November. There are so many stories in, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the book club had a difficult time discussing it. Every story is unique and will pique someone’s interest. For this reason I think everyone can get something out of it. Mainly the discussions were around the meaning of being human with everyone’s varied experience, and appreciating personal health.

The language is clinical at times or Sacks will use terms that were common in the 1980s. It did not detract from my enjoyment, until he was writing about neuro-diverse people (term from Steve Silverman’s NeuroTribes). I felt myself cringe with some of the terms I have been taught to avoid or specifically told to not use. However, I took it in stride, because he is an expert in these areas and was writing in the 1980s. I tried to focus more on the stories than the wording that hung me up.

We probably came out of the book with more questions than answers, which felt fun. It made me want to pursue knowledge in some specific areas brought up. While I had read other books by Oliver Sacks before, this one was probably my favorite. I would not hesitate to recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat to anyone. The terminology can be difficult if you are new to neurological disorders, however the stories go beyond simple labels. I believe if you choose to read this book, you will have a new relationship with what it means to be human in a way you would not have had otherwise.

Goodreads | Book Page


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