Best Mental Health Books: History
Best Mental Health Books as Curated by Former Columbia Psychiatry/ NYSPI Library Chief William Jiang, MLS
Best Mental Health Books: History as Curated by former Columbia Psychiatry Library Chief
Bienvenidos! My name is William Jiang, MLS and I was the Chief of the Patient Library at Columbia Psychiatry / New York State Psychiatric Institute for almost a decade from 2004-2011. The following are the “best” books about mental health and history at the Columbia Psychiatry Patient Library during my tenure and beyond.
Best Mental Health Books: History
- A Historical Reader: The New York Times and Madness, 1851-1922
by William Jiang, MLS “The entire raison d’être for this mental health historical reader of the “paper of record”, The New York Times, is to give the reader a window on the past and to include the reader on a journey of a time long ago. What people come away with when, they see the original articles written by and about Sigmund Freud or his famous “psychanalysis” as well as the many other issues we see in these pages, transports us to another time and place. This work of non-fiction contains lessons for our world of today.”
- Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry
by Jeffrey A. Lieberman and Ogi Ogas “Psychiatry has come a long way since the days of chaining “lunatics” in cold cells. But, as Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, reveals in his eye-opening book, the path to legitimacy for “the black sheep of medicine” has been anything but smooth. Dr. Lieberman traces the field from its birth as a mystic pseudo-science to its late blooming maturity–beginning after World War II–as a science-driven profession that saves lives. With fascinating case studies and portraits of the field’s luminaries–from Sigmund Freud to Eric Kandel–SHRINKS is a gripping read, and an urgent call-to-arms to dispel the stigma of mental illnesses by treating them as diseases rather than unfortunate states of mind.”
- Fountain House: Portraits of Lives Reclaimed from Mental Illness
by Mark Glickman and Mary Flannery “Severe mental illness affects 5.5 million people in the U.S. usually striking between the ages of 15 and 24. Family members are often overwhelmed as they try to cope with their love one’s illness and treatment. Fountain House has helped tens of thousands of people since its inception in 1948 in New York City. Their highly successful treatment program, which combines a psycho-social approach to rehabilitation, has generated a network of 250 other similar groups around the world. In Fountain House: Portraits of Lives Reclaimed, twelve Fountain House members and staffers share their personal stories of struggling with the pain and confusion of their illness. Each of these stories highlights the personal challenges faced by people with severe mental illness as well as the successful models they’ve discovered for living with their illness.”
- Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness
by Joshua Wolf Shenk “Drawing on seven years of his own research and the work of other esteemed Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth president harnessed his depression to fuel his astonishing success. Lincoln found the solace and tactics he needed to deal with the nation’s worst crisis in the “coping strategies” he had developed over a lifetime of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies. With empathy and authority gained from his own experience with depression, Shenk crafts a nuanced, revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy. Based on careful, intrepid research, Lincoln’s Melancholy unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president brought America through its greatest turmoil. Shenk relates Lincoln’s symptoms, including mood swings and at least two major breakdowns, and offers compelling evidence of the evolution of his disease, from “major depression” in his twenties and thirties to “chronic depression” later on. Shenk reveals the treatments Lincoln endured and his efforts to come to terms with his melancholy, including a poem he published on suicide and his unpublished writings on the value of personal—and national—suffering. By consciously shifting his goal away from personal contentment (which he realized he could not attain) and toward universal justice, Lincoln gained the strength and insight that he, and America, required to transcend profound darkness.”
I invite you to add your own favorite books about mental health history in the comments.
William Jiang, MLS