Tag Archives: books

Innovations in India’s Health Care

After reading this Bloomberg article, Heart Surgery in India for $1,583 Costs $106,385 in U.S., I couldn’t resist thinking about the end of Atul Gawande’s book, “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance“…cost comparisons to India inevitably bring up discussions along the lines of, “Well, just how good can their health care be?” Certainly, it’s hard to think of apples to apples metrics that would allow us to compare quality of care between the U.S. and India due to selection bias: patients in India who are able to go through heart surgery (and pay for it) may have a different health profile than the average American who undergoes that treatment.

Still, Gawande’s closing chapter in “Better” argues that even in relatively poor conditions, real, industry-changing innovation can occur due to necessity. In this final chapter, Gawande describes spending time in India as a visiting surgeon to see how innovative medical care was possible in comparatively squalid circumstances. The Nanded hospital he describes below serves 1,400 villages, about 2.3 million people, with just 9 surgeons (Gawande says that’d be comparable to the state of Kansas having 9 surgeons):

Among the many distressing things I saw in Nanded, one was the incredible numbers of patients with perforated ulcers. In my eight years of surgical training, I had seen only one patient with an ulcer so severe that the stomach’s acid had eroded a hole in the intestine. But Nanded is in a part of the country where people eat intensely hot chili peppers, and patients arrived almost nightly with the condition, usually in severe pain and going into shock after the hours of delay involved in traveling from their villages.

The only treatment at that point is surgical. A surgeon must take the patient to the operating room urgently, make a slash down the middle of the abdomen, wash out all the bilious and infected fluid, find the hole in the duodenum, and repair it. This is a big and traumatic operation, and often these patients were in no condition to survive it. So Motewar did a remarkable thing. He invented a new operation: a laparoscopic repair of the ulcerous perforation, using quarter-inch incisions and taking an average of forty-five minutes.

When I later told colleagues at home about the operation, they were incredulous. It did not seem possible. Motewar, however, had mulled over the ulcer problem off and on for years and became convinced he could devise a better treatment. His department was able to obtain some older laparoscopic equipment inexpensively. An assistant was made personally responsible for keeping it clean and in working order. And over time, Motewar carefully worked out his technique.

I saw him do the operation, and it was elegant and swift. He even did a randomized trial, which he presented at a conference and which revealed the operation to have fewer complications and a far more rapid recovery than the standard procedure. In that remote, dust-covered town in Maharashtra, Motewar and his colleagues had become among the most proficient ulcer surgeons in the world.

BTW, I whole-heartedly recommend Gawande’s “Better”, written in 2008. It extends upon his previous work, Checklist Manifesto, which was best known in its New Yorker incarnation.

Engineering and A-holes

I’ve been a huge fan of pop science author Mary Roach’s work ever since “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers“, her entertaining book on how we use and dispose of corpses. Her latest book, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (non-affilate link here), is a similar quirky but informative work that focuses on the human digestive system, from the point at which food lands on your tongue to the long trip it takes to the toilet.

Her inspiration for this topic? The “gross” process of digestion has, in Roach’s opinion, relegated it to obscurity:

Feeding, and even more so its unsavory correlates, are as much taboos as mating and death. The taboos have worked in my favor. The alimentary recesses hide a lode of unusual stories, mostly unmined. Authors have profiled the brain, the heart, the eyes, the skin, the penis and the female geography, even the hair, but never the gut. The pie hole and the feed chute are mine. Like a bite of something yummy, you will begin at one end and make your way to the other.

The book appeals to a broad audience, but I think the engineer in me especially appreciates Roach’s curiosity. Eating…and everything that happens after it…is such a routine, mundane, yet hidden and essential process that we don’t perceive it as being complex or interesting, just as we generally ignore the amazingly complex sewage systems that make our cities livable. The best engineered works almost always involve details and logistics we don’t care to think about.

An example from Roach’s book: the flammability of farts. Though great material for YouTube today, this was apparently a serious concern in space exploration. In NASA’s early days, Roach writes, they were so worried about the build-up of human gas in the sealed space capsules that it was suggested that astronauts should be selected only from “that part of our population producing little or no methane or hydrogen.”

Roach’s book covers more than the waste-part of human eating, but I think her most memorable passages come at the end. First, here’s an engineering joke that seems to be told to every incoming freshman engineering class:

An electrical, a mechanical and a civil engineer all sat down one day to try and decide of which of their faculties god must be to design the human body.

The electrical engineer says god must be an electrical engineer, for you only have to look at the complex nervous system powered be electrical impulses.

The mechanical engineer was sure that god must be a mechanical engineer, for the advanced mechanical systems, the heart a pump, the veins pipes and the tendons and muscles an advanced pulley system.

Finally after hearing the civil engineers arguments, both the mechanical and electrical engineer both agreed that god must be a civil engineer, for who else would run a sewer system through a recreational area!

The joke is meant at the expense civy engineer’s lack of aesthetics, but author Mary Roach presents an amusing rebuttal, of sorts; it’s not careless planning, but a bonafide miracle of engineering:

Any discussion of the sexuality of the digestive tract must inevitably touch on the anus. Anal tissue is among the most densely enervated on the human body. It has to be. It requires a lot of information to do its job. The anus has to be able to tell what’s knocking at its door: Is it solid, liquid, or gas? And then selectively release either all of it or one part of it. The consequences of a misread are dire. As Mike Jones put it, “You don’t want to choose poorly.”

People who understand anatomy are often cowed by the feats of the lowly anus. “Think of it,” said Robert Rosenbluth, a physician whose acquaintance I made at the start of this book. “No engineer could design something as multifunctional and fine-tuned as an anus.”

“To call someone an asshole is really bragging him up.”

-via Roach, Mary: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (pp. 216-217). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

The New York Times’ history of covering (up?) breast cancer

After Roger Ebert’s death last week, I picked up The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which was recommended during a discussion on how the war on cancer seemed hopeless. I’m not finished with the book yet, but I can already recommend it for being one of the best medical non-fiction books I’ve ever read.

The facts in Mukherjee’s “biography of cancer” seem to indicate that “no simple, universal, or definitive cure is in sight – and is never likely to be”, but Mukherjee also believes that medical science continues to make profound progress in understanding and treating cancer. And if anything, we might be farther along had we funded cancer research with the resources and commitment it requires.

After World War 2 drained interest and funding from cancer research, Mukherjee writes, “cancer again became the great unmentionable, the whispered-about disease that no one spoke about publicly.” As an example, he retells a story from the 2001 book, The Human Side of Cancer, in which a breast cancer activist describes being shunned by the New York Times:

In the early 1950s, Fanny Rosenow, a breast cancer survivor and cancer advocate, called the New York Times to post an advertisement for a support group for women with breast cancer. Rosenow was put through, puzzlingly, to the society editor of the newspaper. When she asked about placing her announcement, a long pause followed. “I’m sorry, Ms. Rosenow, but the Times cannot publish the word breast or the word cancer in its pages. “Perhaps,” the editor continued, “you could say there will be a meeting about diseases of the chest wall.” Rosenow hung up, disgusted.

The original source for Rosenow’s story – The Human Side of Cancer, by Dr. Jimmie C. Holland – has an upbeat coda:

However, [Rosenow and her friend] persisted, and their devoted efforts resulted in what is widely known as Reach to Recovery, a worldwide support program for women with breast cancer, administered today through the American Cancer Society.

Sixty-five years after the era of the Cleaver family, we’re still having serious debates over whether mothers should be allowed to breast-feed children in public. And Lady Justice herself was shamed about her wardrobe malfunction not too long ago. That the Times, still a stodgy paper today, would be too squeamish 65 years ago to print the word “breast” seems, well, self-evident. And so Rosenow’s story has been repeated in much of the major media coverage of Mukherjee’s book, including NPR, the Boston Globe, and even the New York Times itself.

What Ms. Rosenow described may have actually happened (it’s not like she or the Times society editor had Google or Lexis-Nexis back then), but a quick search of the New York Times digital archive shows that the Times had published articles about breasts and cancer throughout the 1950s.

For example, on September 24, 1950, the Times ran a story headlined “Movie Aids Cancer Detection:”

A color film designed to aid women in recognizing early signs of breast cancer is available for showings before Brooklyn women’s groups. Titled “Breast Self-Examination,” it was produced by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of the United States Pubic Health Service.

Besides running notices of which local theaters were screening “Breast Self-Examination,” the Times also wrote several articles about the movie’s educational impact: “Cancer Film Saves Lives”, the Times reported on April 22, 1951. And, a year after the film’s introduction, the Times reported its success: 911,000 SAW CANCER FILM; Year’s Record Cited in Showing Self-Test for Women. And of course, the Times found fit to print the obligatory self-back-patting hug-your-newspaper-today feature: NEWSPAPER AID PRAISED; Cancer Experts Say Sufferers Gain by Care Publicity:

Newspapers and the radio were credited today with helping doctors fight cancer by causing sufferers to seek early treatment.

“There is no question but that the information made public by newspapers, radio, and other news services is making it possible for us to see patients with breast cancer earlier than ever before,” Dr. J. Elliott Scarborough, Jr., declared.

In fact, the breast cancer advice that the Times printed in 1952 doesn’t seem far removed from what you’d find in any contemporary medical column:

SELF-EXAMINATION URGED: Women Must Detect Early Stage of Breast Cancer, Doctor Says

If breast cancer is to be detected in its early stages, it is the women themselves who must do it…Dr. Haagensen said the breasts should be examined at least every two months to be reasonably sure they are free of cancer signs…Physicians, Dr. Haagensen said, should teach women self-examination.

Of course, cancer is a far more common topic of public concern and media coverage today. As Mukherjee himself points out, that’s because until relatively recently, humans generally didn’t live long enough to die from cancer. One of the earliest mentions of breast cancer in the Times archive occurs in 1852, in its column titled, Weekly Report of Deaths in the City and County of New York. Between January 10-17, the Times noted 324 deaths, the majority of them children. The top killers are diseases we rarely hear today: 54 deaths from consumption, 28 to convulsions, 20 to scarlet fever, 18 to “Dropsy in the head.” In contrast, “Cancer” and “Cancer of Breast” accounted for 1 death apiece. That cancer has become medicine’s public enemy number one is almost a sign of wealth and progress. In impoverished countries, cancer doesn’t even rank among the top 10 in causes of death.

If you’re interested in taking a depressing trip through medical history, type “cure for cancer” into the Times’ digital archive. You’ll find headlines from every decade – if not every one or two years – since 1852 touting a promising development in the fight against cancer:

If the war against cancer seems like an unending series of misguided schemes and false hope – much like our ongoing wars against terror, drugs, and poverty ‐ it’s because, like those wars, the enemy was never just one monolithic opponent that one kind of “weapon” (and lots of it) could ever defeat. So it’s fitting that the facts may be more complicated than they seem in Ms. Rosenow’s anecdote – because that’s the case with everything related to cancer. One of the most interesting things about Mukherjee’s attempt to write a “biography” of cancer is how, when the literary framing is inadequate for describing cancer, it serves only to more fully illuminate the scope of this war.

Catching Ernest Hemingway for Vogue

I’m done buying physical books – except when I go to The Strand in the East Village, where I seem to never leave without buying something.

Vogue: The Editor’s Eye is my latest purchase. I have enough photo books but I liked that this one is purportedly about the influence of the fashion editors on the magazine’s photography. As a photographer, I’ve come to realize that editing is as important as the actual on-camera skills. Maybe even moreso in this day of near infinite film rolls.

For every hour I spend taking pictures, I probably spend five to ten hours picking out photos, organizing, and then publishing them. Even on my Flickr account, where I dump photos for archival purposes, I probably upload fewer than 1 out of 50 photos that I actually take.

Anyway, The Editor’s Eye is still worth it for the photography alone. The book covers eight fashion editors and devotes a few pages of text to their biographies. But the process of editing – it being more a confluence of personality, experience, and temperment as much as it is skill – is hard to capture in words and the book doesn’t shed any particular light on the work. It’s not a surprise, then, that fashion editors were uncredited until Anna Wintour took over in 1988.

The above 1950 photo by Clifford Coffin of Ernest Hemingway and Jean Patchett is one of my favorites in the book. The fashion editor then, Babs Simpson, said she was sent to Havana to “catch” Hemingway, without even a single phone number to reach him at. She went to the Ambos Mundos, one of his favorite drinking spots, and got his phone number from the manager.

Simpson described the circumstances of the difficult photo session to writer Dodie Kazanjian:

We wanted to start early in the morning before it got hot. When we got there at eight o’clock, as agreed, nobody was in sight. Two champagne glasses were bubbling away, though, and finally Hemingway appeared, with a very young and good looking Basque priest.

Hemingway took a great shine to Jean, of course, and I got on very well with the Basque priest…but it got worse and worse as the day went on, because Hemingway and the priest got drunker and drunker…Isn’t [Hemingway] revolting? They wanted us to go and see the pelota or something or other with them afterward. They wanted to spend their lives with us. So we got the first plane we could out of there.

You can order Vogue: The Editor’s Eye from Strand’s Website. Apparently HBO did a documentary with the same title a few months ago.

The cost and benefits of being a bellman

I’m currently reading “Heads in Beds” by Jacob Tomsky, a purported insider’s account of the hotel business. Besides being pretty entertaining, it’s full of interesting facts (it costs $30 to $40 to turn over the average hotel room), helpful advice (speak out the employee’s name when making a request you don’t want said employee to forget), and unpleasant anecdotes, such as what happened to a pro athlete’s bottle of cologne when the athlete stiffed his bellman.

The worth of a bellman is a recurring topic in the book. Even in the age of wheeled suitcases, a good bellhop can still make a living. While the wages are low – the median salary is $20,880, according to current Labor Department statistics – a Manhattan bellhop who’s a “real hustling bullshit artist” might make “well over a hundred thousand dollars” annually, Tomsky claims, from an endless stream of ones and fives. And a guest who is too cheap to spare a couple bucks? Tomsky writes: “He shouldn’t use his toothbrush that night (or ever again, really).”

So when Tomsky, then a recent college graduate and college loan debtor, is offered a promotion to be a bellman or a manager, it’s not a straightforward decision. The bellman position pays much better for fewer hours. But his general manager frames the tradeoff in a memorable way:

(emphasis mine)

“I trust you, Tommy. I’m going to offer you a choice. You’re done with the front desk. I heard you’ve started to loosen up down there, started in with the jokes.”

“Oh, well, I hope I haven’t—”

“Not to worry. It’s natural. You’ve outgrown the position. So I’d like to offer you two opportunities. Whichever one you want is yours. As you are aware, there is a bellman position recently available. Extremely recently. It’s yours if you want it. You are fantastic with the guests. Or.”


“Housekeeping manager. Management, Tommy. Take over the evening position down there. You’d be in charge of turndown, scheduling, purchasing, and a thousand other things. A staff of 150.

“Let’s talk money. Housekeeping means ten-hour shifts or more, on salary. When you break it down hourly, you will make less than you are making now. You’ll have to purchase your own suits. The work is physically demanding, the staff is large and can be difficult. It’s a very challenging position. Bellman? You’ll double your money immediately and keep the eight-hour shifts. Zero responsibility.”

“You think I should take the bellman position?”

“Do that, and you’ll never be anything else in your life. Hate to say it, but it’s true. I’ve seen it my whole career: Show me a twenty-year-old kid getting his first job as a bellman, and I’ll show you a seventy-year-old bellman who started fifty years ago. You grow accustomed to that pay grade, and taking a step forward will always mean cutting your money in half. No one takes that step.”

“Housekeeping,” I said.

Not a bad lesson, for the hotel business or any business.

Excerpt via: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality (non-affiliate link) by Jacob Tomsky (2012).

A relevant 2001 essay: “How to Correctly Tip a Bellman

The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions

Well, I’m not quite done with my promised revision of the Bastards Book of Ruby. Or of Photography…but I’ve decided, oh what the hell, I should write something about regular expressions.

Actually, there is some method to this madness. As part of the process of updating the Ruby book, I realized I needed to spin off some of the larger, non-Ruby related topics. So, at some point, there will be mini-books about HTML and SQL. Regular expressions, as I keep telling people who want to deal with data, are incredibly important, even if you think you never want to learn programming. Hopefully this mini-book will make a strong case for learning regexes.

The second motive is I’ve been looking for a html/text-to-pdf workflow. So this is my experiment with Leanpub, which promises to turn a set of Markdown files into PDF/mobi/etc, while handling the selling process. I don’t expect to sell any copies of the BBoRegexes, but I hope to get a lot of insight about the mechanics behind Leanpub and if it presents a viable way for me to publish my other projects.

Check out the Leanpub homepage for my tentatively tiled book, The Bastards Book of Regular Expressions. Or, you could just read the mega-chapter on regexes in my Ruby book.

Small habit-forming advice, via “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg

I’ve just started digging into Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit,” which, besides being fascinating reading, has gotten me back into the habit of actually reading again.

Over the past year I’ve gone through some great books about the mind, including Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Robert Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. “Power of Habit” isn’t as technically cerebral as those, but it contains a surprising amount of interesting, usable advice, and has caused me to rethink how I set goals in the future.

One tip from Duhigg’s book that I read this morning: taking the time to write out goals, including mundane details as necessary, is much more helpful than just having goals.

In fact, the mundane details may be the difference in success. Duhigg describes this finding from a 1992 British study involving lower-class elderly patients – averaging 68-years-old – who were recovering from recent hip or knee replacement surgery. A psychologist was examining ways to increase the patients’ willpower to keep up with the arduous rehabilitation process:

The Scottish study’s participants were the types of people most likely to fail at rehabilitation. The scientist conducting the experiment wanted to see if it was possible to help them harness their willpower. She gave each patient a booklet after their surgeries that detailed their rehab schedule, and in the back were thirteen additional pages—one for each week—with blank spaces and instructions: “My goals for this week are __________ ? Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to go for a walk this week, write down where and when you are going to walk.”

She asked patients to fill in each of those pages with specific plans. Then she compared the recoveries of those who wrote out goals with those of patients who had received the same booklets, but didn’t write anything.

It seems absurd to think that giving people a few pieces of blank paper might make a difference in how quickly they recover from surgery.

But when the researcher visited the patients three months later, she found a striking difference between the two groups. The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not

They were putting on their shoes, doing the laundry, and making themselves meals quicker than the patients who hadn’t scribbled out goals ahead of time. The psychologist wanted to understand why. She examined the booklets, and discovered that most of the blank pages had been filled in with specific, detailed plans about the most mundane aspects of recovery.

One patient, for example, had written, “I will walk to the bus stop tomorrow to meet my wife from work,” and then noted what time he would leave, the route he would walk, what he would wear, which coat he would bring if it was raining, and what pills he would take if the pain became too much. Another patient, in a similar study, wrote a series of very specific schedules regarding the exercises he would do each time he went to the bathroom. A third wrote a minute-by-minute itinerary for walking around the block.

As the psychologist scrutinized the booklets, she saw that many of the plans had something in common: They focused on how patients would handle a specific moment of anticipated pain. The man who exercised on the way to the bathroom, for instance, knew that each time he stood up from the couch, the ache was excruciating. So he wrote out a plan for dealing with it: Automatically take the first step, right away, so he wouldn’t be tempted to sit down again…

Put another way, the patients’ plans were built around inflection points when they knew their pain—and thus the temptation to quit—would be strongest.

The patients were telling themselves how they were going to make it over the hump.

from Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (p. 144). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I have goals, and I have sub-goals for those goals. But I write them quickly in my todo list, like, “Write Bastards book of Python”…which should probably come after “Learn Python.”

I’m going to try to start sketching out details now. Being more disciplined about having small sub-goals on the way to the big ones is obvious. But I don’t write enough about anticipated failures. Not sure in terms of individualized learning how to go about this…as the “inflection points” are generally: I’m too tired to learn/write.

But to start small, maybe: Get a latte. Write a section of a chapter. When my mind wanders, add sugar to latte, take another sip.

(And then it’ll be time to start having a real exercise routine. Luckily, Duhigg’s book has a few insights on that as well)

Lumps of clay for hands: Dr. Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”

Last week, I bought a paperback version of Dr. Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” just because I liked the title, and it’s been the best purchase I’ve made in months and the first book I’ve read through in about a year. It’s a collection of clinical tales of abnormal neurology and psychology. The titular essay is about a man who had perfectly fine eyesight and taught music at a prestigious school, but had a massive defect in internal visualization, hence, seeing a hat (and trying to pick it up) where his wife’s head was.

In many ways, it’s a depressing glimpse to at how our personalities, mannerisms, even our “souls” are so dependent on the material of the brain. In one chapter, a man murders his daughter under the influence of PCP and is blissfully unaware of the tragedy, until a massive head injury blissfully causes him to relive the memory as his own personal hell. On the whole, some of the anecdotes are inspiring, illustrating how what is perceived as abnormality by our society can be the basis for artistic genius. In one chapter, he describes a man with Tourette’s Syndrome who, despite constant outbursts of profanity, is able to live not only a relatively normal life, but also one in which is music and athletic skills are enhanced by the spastic neurons in his brain. When Dr. Sacks gives him a drug to mitigate his Tourette’s, the man finds he’s clumsier, less inspired…and gives up the drug rather than live a dull “normal” life (he ends up compromising by taking the drug during the workday, and letting his “normal” self shine on the weekends).

The following story probably has been made into a Lifetime movie, but is pretty inspiring no matter how normal your neurological condition may be:

Madeline J. was admitted to St. Benedict’s Hospital near New York City in 1980, her sixtieth year, a congenitally blind woman with cerebral palsy, who had been looked after by her family at home throughout her life. Given this history…I expected to find her both retarded and regressed.

She was neither. Quite the contrary: she spoke freely, indeed eloquently, revealing herself to be a high-spirited woman of exceptional intelligence and literacy.

“You’ve read a tremendous amount,” I said. “You must be really at home with Braille.”

“No, I’m not,” she said. “All my reading has been done for me – by talking-books or other people. I can’t read Braille, not a single word. I can’t do anything with my hands – they are completely useless.”

She held them up, derisively. “Useless godforsaken lumps of dough – they don’t even feel part of me.

I found this very startling. The hands are not usually affected by cerebral palsy…Miss J’s hands…her sensory capacities – as I now rapidly determined – were completely intact.

There was no impairment of elementary sensation, as such, but, in dramatic fashion, there was the profoundest impairment of perception. She could not identify – and she did not explore; there were no active ‘interogatory’ movements of her hands – they were, indeed, as inactive, as inert, as useless as “lumps of dough.”

Dr. Sacks then wonders if that Miss J’s hands are functionless because, being blind and tended to her whole life, she had never used them:

Had being ‘protected’, ‘looked after’, ‘babied’ since birth prevented her from the normal exploratory use of the hands which all infants learn in the first month of life? And if this was the case – it seemed far-fetched, but was the only hypothesis I could htink of – could she now, in her sixtieth year, acquire what she should have acquired in the first weeks and months of life?

Dr. Sacks devises a simple test of his hypothesis, to prod Miss J to use her hands out of necessity:

I thought of the infant as it reached for the breast. “Leave Madeleine her food, as if by accident, slightly out of reach on occasion,” I suggested to her nurses. “Don’t starve her, don’t tease her, but show less than your usual alacrity in feeding her.”

And one day it happened – what had never happened before: impatient, hungry, instead of waiting passively and patiently, she reached out an arm, groped, found a bagel, and took it to her mouth. This was the first use of her hands, her first manual act, in sixty years, and it marked her birth as a ‘motor individual’.

And then – this was within a month of her first recognitions – her attention, her appreciation, moved from objects to people…She started to model heads and figures, and within a year was locally famous as the Blind Sculptress of St. Benedict’s.

For me, for her, for all of us, this was a deeply moving, an amazing, almost a miraculous experience. Who would have dreamed that basic powers of perception, normally acquired in the first months of life, but failing to be acquired at this time, could be acquired in one’s sixtieth year? What wonderful possibilities of late learning, and learning for the handicapped, this opened up.

The rest of the chapter is as moving as this excerpt. It’s an old book, almost a classic as its first print was in 1970. If you’re like me and always far behind on your reading list, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is worth picking up for its timeless scientific insight and wonder.