An Indonesian man so encrusted with warts he’s been dubbed the “tree man” by his fellow villagers. A former model turned teacher who, despite her best efforts to practice impeccable personal hygiene nevertheless reeks like rotten fish. A young New Yorker who experiences horrific seizures whenever she hears the song “Temperature” by Sean Paul. A Canadian woman unable distinguish one human face from other picks up the wrong child at her daughter’s daycare center. A German classical musician cursed with a sense of hearing so hypersensitive he can hear his own eyeballs moving back and forth in their sockets.
With a book filled with crazy stories like these, I could not resist grabbing Ann Reynolds and Kenneth Wapner’s Medical Mysteries: From the Bizarre to the Deadly . . . The Cases That Have Baffled Doctors when I stumbled upon it during my last trip to the public library. Published in 2009 as a companion piece to ABC’s Primetime TV series, the book is a collection of short, light but entertaining vignettes with each one devoted to a particular medical oddity. While I wouldn’t put this book in the same league as stuff by Oliver Sacks and Robert Desowitz, it’s still fun to read. If you’re a fan of the TV show House, this book is probably right up your alley. (The other morning while hanging out in one of my neighborhood coffee shops and reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the show’s theme song, “Teardrop” by the British band Massive Attack being played on the shop’s stereo, presumably courtesy of Pandora.) While Medical Mysteries isn’t fancy, it’s interesting and entertaining enough to supply you with some great material to share at your next cocktail party.