I recently finished reading Oliver Sack’s book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. It’s a pretty good book. My Abnormal Psychology professor mentioned it during a lecture and I thought I’d give it a read.
For those of you who are not familiar with the book, it is basically a collection of case studies—mostly consisting of Sack’s patients—of persons with strange neurological disabilities that seem almost fictional.
The book itself is organized into four sections: Losses, Excesses, Transports, and The World of the Simple, each with a brief introduction.
One of the most fascinating case studies, at least in my opinion, was the one entitled The Lost Mariner. The Mariner was a man whose memory was stuck in the past. He could not remember anything after a particular year in his life, and he could not form new memories. He himself knew something was wrong but could not quite figure it out. Of course, since he could not make new memories, every time he did figure out something was wrong, he would eventually forget about it—bound to forever be lost in time.
But my favorite case was that entitled A Walking Grove, that of a man with the ability to memorize hundreds upon hundreds of songs. Not only that, but he could remember who they were written by, the different artists who performed the pieces, when and where they were performed, and so on. I’m fascinated by individuals whose brains give incredible abilities in an attempt to compensate for certain disorders. I think what amazed me the most was that even though the man had slight retardation, he actually got cocky about his memory.
Overall, this is a fascinating book—a highly recommended read for those studying any of the cognitive sciences or anyone who is simply interested in the subject. The book itself is not too technically. With enough interest (this in itself is created by Sack’s intriguing narration into the particular person’s life before and after the disorders) anyone can readily understand the subject at hand.
The only thing that bothered me about the book was that some sentences were too long and complex, making it a bit distracting and hard to follow. But overall, the content trumps this minor inconvenient.