An inescapably relevant and resonant journey into the impacts of our limited understanding of the mind.



A personal and studied reckoning with “the cost of our belief in biological psychiatry.”

New York Times Magazine contributing writer Bergner credits his latest book to his younger brother, Bob, whose struggles with mental health led the author to this undertaking. Were it not for Bob, writes the author, “I would never have met the scientists who study our brains with the ultimate hope not only of treating our conditions but of understanding our minds, of crossing that chasm between…what we’re made of and who we are.” Bergner interweaves science—historical and current—with narratives focused on a handful of people, Bob included, all of whom were told they would need psychotropic medications for the rest of their lives; additionally, he adds his own insights and quotes a bevy of sources. Two of his subjects, Caroline and David, reveal their battles with psychosis, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal ideation as well as their experiences on and off medications, including the side effects and brutal withdrawal symptoms. The author unpacks the history of first- and second-generation psychiatric drugs and some of the financially motivated coverups of their manufacturers, and he reveals studies proving the stunning efficacy of placebos in treating depression. Bergner devotes many pages to conversations with and the work of neuroscientists Eric Nestler and Donald Goff, who are searching for new ways to treat depression and psychotic conditions. In a talk with Goff about Caroline, Bergner notes the doctor’s language: “has she been tried on was certainly a striking construction, distinguishable from has she tried. She was the object, not the subject, of the sentence, the recipient, not the one deciding.” Ultimately, Bergner concludes, “psychiatry cannot fully hear individuality so long as the profession clings to scientific authority. To listen, to truly listen, the profession would have to let go. It would have to embrace the idea of working with patients, of proceeding on footing that is more equal than not, even when with is elusive.”

An inescapably relevant and resonant journey into the impacts of our limited understanding of the mind.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-300489-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

Did you like this book?