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Extended Audio Sample Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets Audiobook, by Luke Dittrich Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Luke Dittrich Narrator: George Newbern Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2016 ISBN: 9780147523037
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“Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King”* in this propulsive, haunting journey into the life of the most studied human research subject of all time, the amnesic known as Patient H.M. For readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks comes a story that has much to teach us about our relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • New York Post • NPR • The Economist • New York • Wired • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage


In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world.

Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.

Praise for Patient H.M.

“An exciting, artful blend of family and medical history.”The New York Times

“In prose both elegant and intimate, and often thrilling, Patient H.M. is an important book about the wages not of sin but of science.”The Washington Post

“Spellbinding . . . The fact that Dittrich looks critically at the actual process of scientific investigation is just one of the things to admire about Patient H.M.”—The New York Times Book Review

Patient H.M. tells one of the most fascinating and disturbing stories in the annals of medicine, weaving in ethics, philosophy, a personal saga, the history of neurosurgery, the mysteries of human memory, and an exploration of human ego.”—Sheri Fink, M.D., Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Five Days at Memorial

“This is classic reporting and myth-making at the same time.”—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

*Kirkus Reviews
 (starred review)
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Quotes & Awards

  • An exciting, artful blend of family and medical history. The New York Times
  • At the heart of this breathtaking work . . . is [Luke] Dittrich’s story of his complicated grandfather, his mentally ill grandmother, and a long-held family secret, with Molaison stranded ‘where the past and the future were nothing but indistinct blurs.’ Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
  • Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King in a piercing study of one of psychiatric medicine’s darker hours. . . . A mesmerizing, maddening story and a model of journalistic investigation. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • Remarkable. Wired
  • Beautifully told . . . a book that will rank with Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the realm of outstanding medical ethics narratives. Associated Press
  • In Patient H.M., Luke Dittrich explores the limits of science and the mind. In the process, he rescues an iconic life from oblivion. Dittrich is well aware that while we are the sum of what we may remember, we’re also at the mercy of what we can forget. This is classic reporting and myth-making at the same time. Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
  • The machinations of scientists and researchers—their personality and ambition, power and hubris—are of equally vital (and cautionary) importance in Dittrich’s unusual and compelling mix of science and family history. Booklist, starred review

    Patient H.M. tells one of the most fascinating and disturbing stories in the annals of medicine, weaving in ethics, philosophy, a personal saga, the history of neurosurgery, the mysteries of human memory, and an exploration of human ego. A monumental contribution to our understanding of medical research, and of ourselves, Patient H.M. is sweeping, meticulous, and seamless—with an ending that, like the best of scientific investigations, challenges everything that came before it.
  • It felt as if I read this book in one breath. Patient H.M. is a fascinating, powerful investigation, a matryoshka doll of nested stories about the past and present, remembering and forgetting. Luke Dittrich’s quest to understand the amnesic patient who taught the world so much about memory leads him to the shoals of his own family tragedy and an ending that will break your heart. But it’s his beautiful unfolding of the story, the art of his sentences and reportage, that you’ll never forget. Michael Paterniti, author of The Telling Room
  • Luke Dittrich has achieved something remarkable in Patient H.M. This book succeeds on every level: as a fresh look at the most famous patient in medical history, as an exposé of our dark history of psychiatry and neurosurgery, and, most powerfully, as a deeply personal investigation into the author’s past. And yet it’s still a page-turner that reads like a thriller. It deserves a spot next to the great medical histories The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Ghost Map, and The Emperor of All Maladies. Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire
  • In prose both elegant and intimate, and often thrilling, Patient H.M. is an important book about the wages not of sin but of science. It is deeply reported and surprisingly emotional, at times poignant, at others shocking. . . . A scintillating book, infused with humanity. The Washington Post
  • Spellbinding . . . The fact that Dittrich looks critically at the actual process of scientific investigation is just one of the things to admire about Patient H.M. The New York Times Book Review
  • Astonishingly insightful . . . A fascinating story in its own right to anyone interested in the history of modern science’s attempts to understand the causes of mental illness along with the many botched attempts to treat it . . . [Patient H.M.] is indeed about memory, madness, and family secrets and, in that sense, about the paths that shape the core of the self, in each and every one of us. Psychology Today
  • Dittrich’s account raises entirely new questions about the way in which the research on H.M. was conducted—and about the conclusions that have long been incorporated into our understanding of memory. New York Magazine
     
  • “[A] courageous mix of scientific investigation and memoir… woven around the history of neurosurgery…[A] breathtaking work.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King in a piercing study of one of psychiatric medicine’s darker hours…A mesmerizing, maddening story and a model of journalistic investigation.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • "[A] fascinating medical detective story.”

    BookPage

  • “Combining memoir, biography, and science writing, Dittrich has written a fascinating and at times deeply disturbing account of the history of psychosurgery that’s accessible to the layperson.”

    Library Journal

  • “Newbern’s delivery is warm but unhurried and seems untroubled by the medical, psychological, and scientific terminology.”

    AudioFile

  • A BookPage Top Pick for August 2016
  • A Kirkus Reviews Pick of Best Nonfiction of 2016
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About the Author
Luke Dittrich is a National Magazine Award–winning journalist, and a contributing editor at Esquire. This is his first book.
About the Narrator

George Newbern is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a television and film actor best known for his roles as Brian MacKenzie in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II, as well as Danny in Friends. As a voice actor, he is notable for his role as Superman on the Cartoon Newtork series Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. He holds a BA in theater arts from Northwestern University.