Ananthaswamy explores the minds of individuals suffering from a variety of complex neuropsychological conditions through emotionally layered and in-depth interviews. The book follows Ananthaswamy as he accompanies a body integrity identity disorder (BIID) sufferer to Asia for an amputation, sits in the living room of a couple battling with the daily heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, stands with a woman with schizophrenia at the same spot where she nearly ended her own life years earlier, visits a man on a farm in France whose epilepsy brought about pleasant seizures, and even attempts to induce an out-of-body illusion in himself to better understand the experience.
THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE made a huge media splash when it came out in hardcover last August, launching with a fascinating conversation between Ananthaswamy and Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. The book received outstanding coverage in Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, Nature, Popular Science, Men’s Journal, Forbes, Discover, and many others.
If you are like me and like to read true stories regarding psychological and neurological disorders then you will want to check out this book. I found this book to be an very thought-provoking, intriguing read. I was had heard of and was kind of familiar with BIID (body integrity identity disorder) but if asked I could not really describe to you what this disorder is all about. This disorder really fascinated me. The way that sufferers experience depression towards their healthy limbs because they feel that the limbs are foreign objects that need to be removed. The fact that there are surgeons out there that will remove these limbs for BIID patients is what shocked me the most. Well that and the transformation that these people have after the surgery of being a "normal" person with an happy outcome for life as if they had just been born for the first time.
Mr. Ananthaswamy also explorers in this book Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia, Depersonalization, Out-of-body experiences, and Ecstatic epilepsy. Again, some of these disorders I am not familiar about. So I learned a lot about these disorders while reading this book. I found the stories sad but at the same time I am glad that more and more people are bring to light these disorders and the people suffering from them are not the exception. Therefore, the need to help is greater. Although, as I was reading this book there were times when Mr. Ananthaswamy would get to explaining the disorder or quote a reference that seemed to be over my head with words that I had never heard of. I would have to re-read sections. Overall, this book is well edited and could be a table top book or one for a book club discussion.