Category Archives: Book Reviews

New Book! Constructing Pain: Historical, Psychological and Critical Perspectives

Now available from Routledge is Robert Kugelmann’s Constructing Pain: Historical, Psychological and Critical Perspectives. As described on the publisher’s website,

Everyone experiences pain, whether it’s emotional or physical, chronic or acute. Pain is part of what it means to be human, and so an understanding of how we relate to it as individuals – as well as cultures and societies – is fundamental to who we are.

In this important new book, the first in Routledge’s new Critical Approaches to Health series, Robert Kugelmann provides an accessible and insightful overview of how the concept of pain has been understood historically, psychologically, and anthropologically. Charting changes in how, after the development of modern painkillers, pain became a problem that could be solved, the book articulates how the possibilities for living with pain have changed over the last two hundred years.

Incorporating research conducted by the author himself, the book provides both a holistic conception of pain and an understanding of what it means to people experiencing it today. Including critical reflections in each chapter, Constructing Pain offers a comprehensive and enlightening treatment of an important issue to us all and will be fascinating reading for students and researchers within health psychology, healthcare, and nursing.

The volume was recently reviewed as part of History of the Human Sciencesbook reviews initiative.

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Barbara Gittings, Gay Rights, and DSM Reform

Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John E. Fryer in disguise as Dr. H. Anonymous. Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen

The Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health has just published a review of the recent book Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer. As Jack Drescher notes in his review Gittings, as part of a lifetime of LGBT activist efforts, pushed to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Drescher notes,

Gittings, at Lahusen’s suggestion, sought an openly gay psychiatrist to present at a 1972 APA symposium entitled “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals? A Dialogue.” Along with Gittings and [Frank]  Kameny, the panel included a gay-friendly heterosexual analyst, Judd Marmor. As none of the gay psychiatrists she knew would appear openly gay in public—at the time, one could lose one’s medical license because homosexuality was illegal in almost every U.S. state—Barbara Gittings convinced John Fryer to appear in disguise as Dr. H. Anonymous.

Fryer, wearing an oversized tuxedo, a rubber Richard Nixon Halloween mask, and a fright wig, explained to his fellow psychiatrists the pain of the professional closet. [Kay Tobin] Lahusen’s photograph of the masked Dr. H Anonymous, now gone viral on the Internet, is a chilling, yet humorous, iconic moment in the history of the LGBT civil rights movement. Further, the panel and the hard work of Gittings, Lahusen, Kameny, and Fryer led to the APA’s removing “homosexuality” from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-II) the following year.

More on Gittings and Tracy Baim’s biography can be found here.

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New Book: The Friendship of Kahneman and Tversky

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman

A new book on the famous collaboration – and friendship – of psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman has just been released. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, is written by Michael Lewis whose previous book Moneyball was turned into a motion picture in 2011. Reviews have appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker and an excerpt from Lewis’s book was recently featured in Vanity FairAs Lewis writes,

When they wrote their first papers, Danny and Amos had no particular audience in mind. Their readers would be the handful of academics who happened to subscribe to the highly specialized psychology trade journals in which they published. By 1972 they had spent the better part of three years uncovering the ways in which people judged and predicted—but the examples that they had used to illustrate their ideas were all drawn directly from psychology, or from the strange, artificial-seeming tests that they had given high-school and college students. Yet they were certain that their insights applied anywhere in the world that people were judging probabilities and making decisions. They sensed that they needed to find a broader audience.

The full Vanity Fair piece can be read here.

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NYT Review: ‘Labyrinths,’ Emma and Carl Jung’s Complex Marriage

The New York Times has reviewed a recent book exploring the marriage of Emma and Carl Jung: Labyrinths by Catrine Clay. In her review Jennifer Senior notes,

“Labyrinths” was well received when published in England this summer. Yet throughout the first half of the book, no matter how much I squinted, I could not discern why. The subject is rich, definitely, and Jungian analysis has a groovy, woo-woo sort of appeal. But Ms. Clay’s sourcing is thin. She devotes pages of filler to the glorious architecture of Middle Europe — sounding uncomfortably close to the sales pitch for a Viking River Cruise — and to the menu at the Jungs’ wedding, and to the wares of the Bahnhofstrasse, and to the costume of the day.

It all seems a clumsy attempt at trompe l’oeil, to give the illusion of depth. My l’oeil wasn’t tromped.
….
Perhaps most striking is how remarkably adaptable Emma was — and how familiar her predicament still feels. Any semi-sentient observer of American politics has a pretty good idea of what it’s like for a smart woman to bind her fortune to a charismatic man with a wandering eye, a fellow who creates a gravitational warp so pronounced that all objects go rolling in his direction.

And Emma, too, followed in her husband’s footsteps, which at the time made her a true pioneer. Eventually, at Carl’s urging, Emma underwent her own analysis. She became an analyst once their five children were grown. She lectured; she traveled with Carl to conferences; she wrote a book about the symbolism of the Holy Grail.

The full review can be read online here.

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Laura Stark’s Review of Patient H.M. in Science

As part of our continuing coverage of the controversy that has erupted over Luke Dittrich’s recently released Patient H.M., we bring to your attention a just released review of the book in Science. In her review, Laura Stark provides a welcome perspective on Dittrich’s work, especially in relation to his portrayal of Suzanne Corkin. As Stark writes,

It seems inevitable that the book will be compared to the patient biography The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But, while Dittrich is an exceptional writer, he focuses his talents in the last half of his book on a takedown of rival author Suzanne Corkin, missing opportunities to turn his own family story into one of more universal scope….

Dittrich only reveals at the end that Corkin was writing her own book on H.M., which recasts his story up to that point in a new light. It helps make sense of his eagerness to see her actions as personal slights, character flaws, and bad science rather than symptoms of broken systems. It is a pity, because his sense of personal grievance narrows him into a story about a uniquely menacing scientist rather than a universal story of the legal and institutional ties that bind even well-intentioned people.

The review is out from behind Science‘s paywall and can be read in full here.

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Psychobook is Perfect for Your Coffee Table

A soon to be published book from Princeton Architectural Press may be just what every psychologist and historian of psychology has been waiting for to  adorn their coffee table. Psychobook is a lavishly  illustrated volume documenting the history of psychological testing.

As a recent piece in The New Yorker puts it,

“Psychobook” comprises an eclectic assortment of tests from the early twentieth century to the present, along with new artworks and whimsical questionnaires inspired by the originals. These materials are interlaced with vintage and contemporary photographs, portraits, collages, and film stills of psychologists analyzing patients or staring incisively into space, sometimes in idiosyncratically decorated Manhattan offices. It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.

Put it on your wish list now.

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Neuroskeptic Review: Patient H.M.

Neuroskeptic, part of Discover Magazine’s series of blogs, recently posted a review of a new book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets. The book, written by Luke Dittrich who is himself the grandson of H.M.’s neurosurgeon, tells the story of the infamous case study of the patient now known to be Henry Molaison.

In the review Neuroskeptic focuses on three troubling aspects of H.M.’s story as discussed in the book. First, the psychosurgery performed on H.M. to address his epilepsy had no medical basis. Second, H.M.’s life was not nearly as sedate and content as it often portrayed and he threatened suicide at various points in time. Finally, the ethics of Suzanne Corkin’s longterm study of H.M. is thrown into doubt as, following the death of his parents, H.M. lacked a legal conservator to speak to his interests. This meant that H.M. himself provided consent for many of Corkin’s studies, though whether this can be understood as informed consent is doubtful. Moreover, the cousin eventually appointed conservator for H.M., it turns out, was not related to H.M. at all and simply provided blanket consent for Corkin’s tests of H.M.

Read Neuroskeptic’s full review online here.

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Social History of Medicine “Focus on Managing Mental Disorder”

The may 2016 issue of Social History of Medicine includes a section of book reviews focusing on the historiography of mental disorders. The books reviewed in this section are as follows:

  • Leonard Smith, Insanity, Race and Colonialism: Managing Mental Disorder in the Post-Emancipation British Caribbean 1838–1914  (Reviewer Pedro L. V. Welch)
  • Louise Hide, Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890–1914 (Reviewer Catharine Colborne)
  • Howard Chiang (ed.), Psychiatry and Chinese History (Studies for the Society for the Social History of Medicine) (Reviewer Lijing Jiang)
  •  Laure Murat, The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward a Political History of Madness (Reviewer Aude Fauvel)
  • Claudia Malacrida, A Special Hell: Institutional Life in Alberta’s Eugenic Years (Reviewer Katrina N. Jirik)

Find the full texts through the journal table of contents here.

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Steven Shapin on Autism: “Seeing the Spectrum” in The New Yorker

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker historian of science Steven Shapin explores the complicated history of autism in his review of John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. As Shapin writes,

The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.

The full review can be read online here.

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Recent Reviews of Clinical Psychology in Britain: Historical Perspectives

AHP is happy to reprint two recent reviews of the new book Clinical Psychology in Britain: Historical Perspectives (announced on AHP here). These reviews were first published in the December 2015 issue of Clinical Psychology Forum, the house publication of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology. The full reviews follow below.

Review by Tony Wainright

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905

This book marks an important milestone in the history of clinical psychology in the UK, with 2016 being the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Division of Clinical Psychology. People are still around (some of the authors) who remember the founding of the NHS, which also closely marked the beginning of the profession.

I found that the best way of getting the most out of the book was to start with the last chapter – the editors’ collective reflections on writing it – and then go to the introduction. This provides a very helpful frame in which the other chapters can be viewed. They have very different writing styles; as they point out, some are clinicians, some are academics, some are historians; some have relatively mainstream views, some have much more radical and critical approaches. The editors have done an excellent job of making this all seem part of the fabric of the profession – diversity and variety being positive and generating creative energy.

In a short review it is not possible to cover all the chapters and full details of the book chapters are available on the Society’s History of Psychology Centre website.

Understanding the profession today is immensely enhanced by this book. The chapter by Pilgrim and Patel is particularly powerful in locating the emergence of the profession following the enormous upheaval of post-war politics, and charting its course through the swinging sixties to the present day. Continue reading Recent Reviews of Clinical Psychology in Britain: Historical Perspectives

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