Saturday, August 11, 2012

Books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

"Theory of knowledge" was one of my favorite courses in high school. Instead of trying to teach you material, TOK tried to teach you how and why learning happens in the first place. Metaphysics, science, and religion were all fair game in our pursuit, and class periods were usually spent discussing some interesting topic or work of nonfiction, like "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat":


The book is a collection of "tales" written by neurologist Oliver Sachs. Each "tale" is a clinical narrative about a patient with an unusual neurological condition. The symptoms of these conditions are often bizarre - there's a man who cannot remember anything after WWII, a woman who has lost all sense of where her body is in space, and the titular "Man," who has not only lost much of his ability to recognize things visually, but has also lost his inner visual knowledge, as well.

Thankfully, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is not a freak show. Sachs goes beyond simply listing his patients' abilities and defects, and tries to capture how each person's condition has impacted his or her life on an emotional level. The book gives you an appreciation of how someone manages a problem that most of the outside world cannot understand. Some cases are tragic, some are inspirational, but all are human.

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