The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks

‘The last thing one settles in writing a book,’ Pascal observes, ‘is what one should put in first.’ So, having written, collected and arranged these strange tales, having selected a title and two epigraphs, I must now examine what I have done – and why.

– Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks remains one of the world’s best-known neurologists, even after his death in 2015.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat is a collection of Sack’s more notable patients encountered during his career. Divided into four sections, Sacks groups these patients into four parts; Losses, Excesses, Transports and The World of the Simple.

It’s a fascinating, and heartbreaking, insight into neurology and the way the brain works. I studied Psychology at A Level and have always enjoyed learning about why we are the way we are, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat captivated me at once.

From the man who was unable to ‘see’ faces, to the woman unable to stop the radio playing in her head – the stories are equally unique and fascinating.

Sack’s patients stirred an array of emotions in me; humour at the absurdity, pity at the incurable, and sadness at the loss of memories, and of self.

We often forget to marvel at ourselves. We the most complex of puzzles – not just a mix of bone, muscle, neurons and cells, but the PERFECT mix. Our bodies are put together in just the right way for us to walk, talk, breathe, think etc.

Considering just how delicate this mix is, it’s surprising how few people suffer from the wrong mix. The majority of us go about our daily lives without pausing for thought about how wonderfully impossible we actually are.

(Yes, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat may push you down a rabbit-hole!)

This can be a bit of a difficult read in places – there’s a lot of technical and medical terminology – but for those who are interested, a rewarding one. Rather than read it all in one go, I would take breaks between each chapter. This would give me time to consider each patient’s case and stop me from getting overwhelmed.

I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit different.

4 Stars (4 / 5)


  1. I’ve had a few of Oliver Sacks’ books sitting on my shelves for awhile and somehow I still haven’t read them. I was a psychology major in college so they should definitely be interesting for me to read. Your review of this has given me a little push to get to at least one of them sometime soon. 🙂 Great review!!

    • Louise Dickens Reply

      I always find non-fiction a different reading experience to fiction – but Oliver Sacks’ work is fascinating. Thanks for reading my review, I’m glad it’s given you the nudge you needed 😛

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