Book Club: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

I have been in serious literary nostalgia mode this week. This weekend I read an excerpt from a letter written by one of my favorite writers of all time, Roald Dahl, about losing his young daughter to the measles. The letter is heartbreaking. Despite its somber words, the letter reminded me of Dahl’s magical works. From James and the Giant Peach to Matilda, The BFG and Boy, I have a hankering to reread them all. But, in keeping with the medical theme of the ThriveAP Book Club I will refrain from discussing them today and stick to the latest book club pick.

What did you think of the latest Book Club read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat? I have to admit, one chapter in I was disappointed in my literary selection. The token story of the novel, a case study of a man with visual agnosia, didn’t really spark my interest. With so many recent movies about fantastical cases of memory loss and agnosia, neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book seemed like more of the same- only without a visual. But, I forged on past the opening case study and found my initial disinterest in Sacks’ work premature.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales is comprised of twenty-four short essays each a case study of one of Sacks’ neurology patients. Each case explores an aspect of cognitive function from deficits, such as losing the sense of having a limb, to cases of excess neurological function such as is found in Tourette’s syndrome.

As I read Sacks’ tales, fascinated by his peculiar patients, I couldn’t help but to come to admire Dr. Sacks himself. Practicing in an era without easy access to advanced neurological imaging and the bureaucracy and red tape of third party payers, Sacks is free to explore the personal lives of his patients. His genial clinical approach is less about fixing a problem and more about helping his patients live their lives as fully as possible despite limiting neurological conditions. In his Tourette’s case study, for example, his patient thrives on the spontaneity the disorder brings to his life. So, he makes a compromise to function within a less understanding world. He medicates himself during the week taking weekends free of pharmaceuticals.

Sacks’ deeply human approach to medicine, his collection of intriguing neurological tales, and glimpse back into medicine’s glory days make The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat a worthwhile read for nurse practitioners. 

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What did you think of the book?


Join ThriveAP in reading our next pick Born On a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. Bestselling author Daniel Tammet sees shapes, colors, and numbers and can perform extraordinary calculations in his head. A savant, he has even memorized the number pi to 22,000 digits. His novel, Born On a Blue Day, describes what it’s like to live with this unimaginable mental power. 


You Might Also Like: 2015 Reading List for Nurse Practitioners


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