Vastly edifying and vigorously written—a much-needed update on how far the psychiatric industry has come, both medically and...



An intelligent, encouraging survey of the psychiatric industry.

Though he considers the profession he’s dedicated his life to as the most “distrusted, feared, and denigrated of all medical specialties,” former American Psychiatric Association president Lieberman (Psychiatry/Columbia Univ. College of Physicians and Surgeons) writes with pride of his livelihood in this exuberant and comprehensive dissection of the trade. A profession once “clouded by ideology and dubious science,” the author applauds psychiatry’s grand advancements in the medical world and the progression of modern society’s impressions of it. Lieberman offers a broad historical perspective of how the mental health profession acquired its notoriously pseudoscientific reputation through chapters mining the processes of diagnosis and treatment, including a generous section highlighting the trailblazing career of Sigmund Freud, whose work as “CEO of the psychoanalytical movement” inspired the author to become a psychiatrist. Lieberman also discusses psychiatry’s historic role regarding issues of sexual orientation, the treatment of PTSD and the riddles involved in diagnosing schizophrenia (“sometimes schizophrenia skipped entire generations, only to re-emerge later in the family tree”). The author describes the documented barbarism of psychosurgical lobotomy treatments, insulin-induced comas, chloral sedation, progressive psychopharmacology and electroconvulsive therapy—though Lieberman also documents positive results with ECT performed on patients early in his career. The practice has dramatically outgrown its negative connotations, writes the author, with the implementation of a pluralistic viewpoint toward mental illness. Technological innovations like MRI neuroimaging and advanced genetic testing also paved the way toward a long overdue appreciation of psychiatric clinical practice. Furthermore, a complement of radical, renegade neuroscientists continues to revolutionize and destigmatize psychiatry throughout its modern-day renaissance. Lieberman’s exploration of what he dubs as psychiatry’s “dark comedy of fanciful missteps” optimistically concludes with Hollywood’s evolving interpretation of mental illness through films like The Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Vastly edifying and vigorously written—a much-needed update on how far the psychiatric industry has come, both medically and from a public perception standpoint.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-27886-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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