Monday, March 26, 2012

Review and Book Club Report: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Genre: NF
Rating: **
For: Book Club
From: The Library

I think the book club, when deciding what books to choose from the book club set last year, was intrigued by the strange and funky title of this one... and so we voted it in! We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

This is a compilation of clinical stories about this particular doctor's experience helping neurological patients. The first story is about this music professor who suddenly can't see properly, in fact, things just seem to have disappeared for him, though he wasn't quite blind either. Anyway, one time, he thought his wife was his hat and tried to grab her head and put it on. Funny and sad. But he compensated for this loss by using his ears, and since he was so musical, he used music to also make it possible to see and function nearly normally. Interesting.

And so it goes from there, with several other stories about interesting cases where people have suffered really terrible brain problems and yet seem to overcome them and continue with life.

I found it to be okay reading, but got frustrated with the medical terms and yearned just for the stories. I kept thinking... if only he would have just written it like a story so it would "read like a novel"... but he didn't. We think that maybe they were never meant to be a book for the masses in the first place. I  have no idea.

Anyway, I managed to get through half of the book before deciding I'd had enough and needed to move onto other things... plus it was book club day and why keep reading it after book club was over?

I have nothing much to add from our book club discussion, which was actually really short. Everyone was on the same page with their thoughts which were basically these:

  • too many medical terms, not enough story
  • out dated, with way too many derogatory references to patients (the use of the words "retarded" and "defective" for instance)
  • out dated as far as treatment options, we wondered what these patients would have for help today
  • confusing all around, the terms and references to patients we hadn't met yet. 
However, as I said, it was quite interesting too!  And so...

Bottom line: I liked it okay.

Other Reviews from a couple of book clubbers:


  1. I've actually heard about this one. It sounds crazy.

  2. it does have an intriguing title, I thought it might be Absurdist or something.


  3. Thanks for the link! I didn't love this one, and I wouldn't have picked it out on my own. But, I'm not completely sorry that I read it. It did have some interesting stories buried in there. I am sad that I missed the discussion, if only to see everyone and talk about bookish things.

  4. LOL! I wondered if you'd bother finishing it. ;)



Related Posts with Thumbnails