Books by Peter D. Kramer

Peter D. Kramer, M.D., recently named host of the national, weekly public radio series, The Infinite Mind, is "possibly the best-known psychiatrist in America," as The New York Times put it. Peter Kramer received his M.D. from Harvard and is the best-sel


ORDINARILY WELL by Peter D. Kramer
NON-FICTION
Released: June 7, 2016

"Written with the compassion, verve, and style that are the author's trademark, this book offers an invaluable overview on the state of treatment and the options available."
The 1993 publication of Kramer's Listening to Prozac set off a controversy about the use of mind-altering drugs in the treatment of mental illness that has still to be resolved, a situation the author finds deplorable. Read full book review >
FREUD by Peter D. Kramer
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Nov. 21, 2006

"The book, while missing features useful to general readers, remains a clear and sometimes eloquent introduction to the life and thought of the world's first shrink."
A generally sympathetic treatment, though also attentive to those many occasions when Emperor Freud wore no clothes. Read full book review >
AGAINST DEPRESSION by Peter D. Kramer
NON-FICTION
Released: May 9, 2005

"A clear, valuable exposition of the progress researchers are making in understanding an all-too-common disease."
A heartfelt argument that depression is not, as many would have it, a source of heroic melancholy and artistic genius, but, rather, a pathological condition that should, if possible, be eradicated. Read full book review >
SPECTACULAR HAPPINESS by Peter D. Kramer
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 17, 2001

"The voice—measured, pensive, soft-spoken, self-deprecating, lightly ironic, quizzically humane—recalls the early Walker Percy. Just think what Binx Bolling might have made of himself if he'd quit going to the movies and started blowing up his neighbors' houses instead. "
This debut fiction from psychiatrist Kramer (Listening to Prozac, 1993; Should You Leave?, 1997) is a love letter a fond father writes to his long-estranged son while he waits for the FBI to gather evidence that will convict him of a series of terrorist bombings. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Sept. 9, 1997

Not only is this a stunning and moving look at the many- layered complexities of intimacy, it is also a neat literary trick. In the wake of his hugely successful Listening to Prozac (1993), psychiatrist Kramer was tempted to join the parade of psychotherapists who write books of advice; his would deal with the question of when to leave a troubled relationship. Instead, he has written a much bolder book that uses the tools of the advice trade while showing up their shortcomings. Addressing the reader as ``you,'' he also recalls the style of postmodern fiction—and indeed, that is what his admittedly fictive case histories often read like, as he presents the basic facts of a case, then recasts them over and over in various theoretical and therapeutic molds, each perspective leading to a different possible outcome in terms of what advice he might offer. Drawing on the work of Harry Stack Sullivan, Jean Baker Miller, and other theorists, he examines the poles of autonomy and intimacy, betrayal and trust, identification and differentiation as they affect relationships. A Jewish man marries a Catholic woman; they agree they will not raise their children in either religion; years later the wife decides their daughter must be taught the catechism. Should he leave? A husband and wife were high school sweethearts, brought together by the unhappiness of their family lives; but her new creative and successful career is fortifying her while her husband begins to whine and then almost takes a lover. Should she leave? In the guise of trying to give advice to the people in these and other cases, Kramer simultaneously explores the near-impossibility of giving advice: People are ultimately unknowable, their situations too complex, the therapist blinded by his own biases. Beautifully illustrating the passion, curiosity, intellect, and sensitivity therapists bring to their work, Kramer has produced a tour de force, a book of non-advice more illuminating than any how-to could ever be. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 1, 1993

A provocative volume that sets up the mood-altering Prozac as a tool to examine the growing—and often troubling—use of drugs in the treatment of psychological illness. Brown University professor Kramer (Moments of Engagement, 1989—not reviewed) is a practicing psychiatrist who uses traditional techniques of therapy but also prescribes Prozac and other psychopharmaceuticals for his patients when they seem appropriate. Thanks to exposure on TV talk shows, Prozac is associated in many people's minds with suicide and violence, but only in the last chapter here—an appendix, really—does the author argue directly against these charges. What he explores instead are the far-reaching implications of the generally positive changes in temperament triggered by Prozac and other drugs prescribed to relieve anxiety and depression, and what these medications have taught us about how character and temperament are shaped. Prozac relieves mild depression, for instance, by elevating levels of serotonin in the brain. Knowledge of that fact opens the door to further investigation of chemical pathways in the brain, individual variations in levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, and perhaps even to early diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders. But, as Kramer points out, it also opens the possibility of altering brain chemistry to order, perhaps transforming a shy, sensitive individual into a sociable, assertive personality—the kind that present society most values. Acquisition of such a temperament, in fact, is the effect that Prozac has on many of Kramer's patients. But what has been lost when sensitivity is replaced by assertiveness? What is the ``real'' personality? Such thoughtful questioning is supported throughout by case histories and meaty reports on recent research. Some of the material suggests that if Freud was wrong about the content of childhood trauma (the Oedipal attachments), he was not wrong about its far-reaching effects. A wise and unflinching examination of the ramifications for society—and for the individual—when the capsule replaces the couch. Read full book review >