The man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks

This is an oldy but goody. Oliver Sacks was a neurologist in 1980s that told stories about bizarre cases he experienced with his patients. One of the most interesting stories is of course “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” – and yes you read it right! In this story, Sacks told us how incredibly scary our brain can be when it’s injured. The man in this story is a great musician, very sharp, but has difficulties in telling faces. Not only faces, he basically can’t differentiate any solid objects. So he would talk to a fire hydrant because he thought it was one of his pupils in his music class, he could not tell if he already wore shoes because apparently his shoes and feet look alike to him, and when he finished talking to Sacks he grabbed his wife’s head because he thought it was his hat.

I mean, how crazy is that?! Before I read this book, I did realise how vital a brain is for our body, but I never imagined the depth and length of complication that can be built up from a brain injury.

Another story that brought tears to my eyes was this ex-army that was stuck in the year of 1945. His brain basically has no capacity to store new memories since then. Almost like the movie 50 First Date! After reading this story, I can’t agree more with a quote that began the story:

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realise that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all.

I couldn’t hold my tears when Sacks asked this patient if he enjoys his life and he said “I can’t say that I feel anything at all”, which makes sense because hey how could you enjoy your life if you couldn’t even remember what happened 10 minutes ago? Then Sacks continued asking “You feel alive though?” in which he replied – get ready for this! – “Feel alive? Not really. I haven’t felt alive in a very long time”. 😦

Indeed the whole book is a bunch of sad stories about people having rare brain problems, but trust me those tears you’re about to lose are totally worth it! With 24 beautiful well written real stories fresh from the neurologist, you’ll dive into the world full of gratitude of having a fully normal functioning brain.

However bear in mind that this is an old book, so many cases in this book sadly had no cure. I haven’t done any further research on this, but I do hope we’ve got these people covered with modern health technologies.


This book is on sale! To keep this blog going and to support literacy-related project in Indonesia, I’m selling the books I’ve read and reviewed. Stay tune on my instagram @lalalangit for further details 🙂

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