BRETT KAHR’S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2019
The year 2019 has proved to be full of landmarks in the world of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytical publishing.
First and foremost, we must record, with sadness, the passing of Cesare Sacerdoti, who died on 3 March, 2019, at the age of eighty-one years. Sacerdoti served for many years as the owner and publisher of H. Karnac Books Limited, retiring from active service exactly twenty years ago, in 1999. During his tenure, Cesare expanded upon the foundational work of his predecessor, Harry Karnac, and developed Karnac Books from a small shop on London’s Gloucester Road, with a tiny division devoted to the reprinting of classic psychoanalytical titles, to a major force within psychological publishing. I owe Cesare Sacerdoti a particular debt of gratitude for having commissioned my very first books. All authors who had the privilege of having worked with Cesare will remember him fondly as a passionate scholar and as a true gentleman.
Also, throughout 2019, the world of psychoanalytical publishing has continued to flourish. Routledge / Taylor and Francis has produced over 200 psychotherapy-related titles during the past calendar year, and other stalwart publishers in the field, such as Jessica Kingsley Publishers and Sage Publications, have continued to make important contributions. Newer imprints such as the revived Free Association Books, as well as Phoenix Publishing House, and Trigger Press, have also contributed beautifully produced volumes to our field.
Most excitingly, Confer – the world’s leading continuing professional education service – has recently launched its own publishing division, Confer Books. The very first titles will appear in the springtime of 2020, written by some of the world’s leading mental health practitioners.
Thus, we have no shortage of great books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis – an indication of the growth in popularity of our field, now in its third century!
For those who, like me, suffer from advanced bibliophilia psychotherapeutica, it gives me pleasure to highlight ten of the books that have particularly captured my attention, among the many fine works which have graced our shelves during this calendar year.
BRETT’S TOP TEN
|1 ) Ferhat Atik, A Psychoanalyst on His Own Couch: A Biography of Vamik Volkan and His Psychoanalytic and Psychopolitical Concepts (Phoenix Publishing House, 2019).
Professor Vamik Volkan may well be the Leonardo da Vinci of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. A venerable clinician and an author of numerous impeccable textbooks, Volkan has also distinguished himself as a unique political consultant to many world leaders and has undertaken more work in this field than any other mental health practitioner in history. Indeed, Volkan has received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize on no fewer than five occasions. Ferhat Atik – a Turkish-Cypriot writer – has produced a concise and compelling biography of Professor Volkan, which outlines the contributions of this inspiring senior colleague who, inter alia, has held the post as Chair of the Committee on Psychiatry and Foreign Affairs of the American Psychiatric Association; has created the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction, as well as the International Dialogue Initiative; and has served as adviser to presidents and other heads of state. In addition to Atik’s finely written text, the black and white photographs reproduced herein leave one speechless: Volkan standing next to Yasser Arafat; Volkan smiling alongside Jimmy Carter; Volkan engaging with Mikhail Gorbachev; and Volkan actually embracing Desmond Tutu! One cannot help but admire the ability of this extraordinary man to tackle racism, warfare, terrorism, and large-group psychology in such a hopeful manner. Atik’s biography of Volkan reveals that psychotherapists have infinite potential not only to treat patients but, also, to engage with the rest of the world.
|2 ) Gabrielle Brown (Editor), Psychoanalytic Thinking on the Unhoused Mind (Routledge / Taylor and Francis Group, 2019).
Over the years, many sneering critics have dismissed psychoanalysis as little more than navel-gazing for the entitled and wealthy of Park Avenue or Hampstead. But anyone who takes the time to read Gabrielle Brown’s vitally important new, edited book about psychotherapeutic engagement with the homeless and destitute will be moved to tears and will admire the sturdy work undertaken with those men and women who simply have no access to our comfortable, carpet-covered or leather couches. An experienced psychotherapist, currently based at the Portman Clinic in London, having served previously as Senior Psychotherapist in the Lifeworks Psychotherapy Team at St. Mungo’s Homeless Charity, Brown has curated a collection of fine essays written by some very experienced colleagues, documenting their paradigm-shifting contributions to the field. A book of this nature gives us hope that, one day, compassionate psychological treatments will become available to every single human being, irrespective of social class and financial status.
|3 ) Armand D’Angour, Socrates: The Making of a Philosopher (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019).
As one scans the bibliographies in the British Journal of Psychotherapy and The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, one will find copious references to publications by Sigmund Freud, Donald Winnicott, John Bowlby, and other distinguished psychological authors. But rarely will a modern academic mental health periodical cite the works of Socrates. Although regarded by many as one of the bedrocks of Western civilisation, few people nowadays have the time or the inclination to immerse themselves in the study of the classics. Sigmund Freud, however, had a great deal of admiration for Socrates; indeed, some will argue that Socrates’s passionate emphasis on self-awareness might well lie at the very heart of psychotherapy itself. For those keen to fill the gaps in their education, one can do no better than read Professor Armand D’Angour’s erudite and engaging tome, Socrates in Love: The Making of a Philosopher. Launched at Daunt Books earlier this year, D’Angour – a noted academic at the University of Oxford – has provided us with a masterclass in ancient philosophy and psychology. Written with the skill of both a wise scholar and a captivating storyteller, this beautifully produced and affordable volume, warmly endorsed by such cultural icons as Tom Holland and Baroness Helena Kennedy, will certainly help us to catch up with the last 2500 years of world knowledge.
|4 ) Bryony Davies, Sigmund Freud’s Collection: Highlights from the Freud Museum London (Freud Museum London, 2019).
Thank goodness for the Freud Museum London! I cannot imagine what we would do without this magnificent institution – certainly one of the “go to” places for psychotherapeutic conferences and book launches and, of course, the only building where we, in the United Kingdom can truly commune with the spirit of the man whom one of my colleagues refers to, affectionately, as “Papa Freud”. Although the famous consulting room at Maresfield Gardens in London’s Swiss Cottage will be only too familiar to every practising mental health professional, very few visitors to this wonderful shrine will know much, if anything, about the precise history of the approximately 2000 items in Freud’s unique and valuable collection of antiquities. Happily, Bryony Davies, the Assistant Curator at the museum, in collaboration with her staff colleagues, has provided us with a wonderful archival account of many of Freud’s iconic items, offering readers a detailed narration of the dating and the significance of many of these centuries-old archaeological treasures, including the ancient Roman figure of Athena; the jade Chinese scholar screen from the Qing Dynasty; and the nineteenth-century Japanese amulet, made of ivory and shaped like a phallus. This book, magnificently illustrated with colour photographs taken by the gifted Karolina Urbaniak (who also designed the layout of the text), would make the ideal Christmas present, not only for psychological workers but, also, for anyone interested in ancient art or history.
|5 ) Robbie Duschinsky and Kate White, Trauma and Loss: Key Texts from the John Bowlby Archive (Routledge / Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).
|6 ) Moisés Lemlij, Face to Face: Leo Rangell. Arnold Richards. Estela Welldon (Sidea, 2019).
The Peruvian clinician, Professor Moisés Lemlij, one of the leading lights of psychoanalysis in South America, has produced a book of interviews with three of the superstars of our profession: the late Professor Leo Rangell – a former President of both the American Psychoanalytic Association and, also, of the International Psycho-Analytical Association – and the still vibrant icons, Professor Arnold Richards of New York City and Professor Estela Valentina Welldon of London. Lemlij – a skilled psychoanalyst of long standing – created an environment in which each of these clinical titans could speak to him in a frank and often unfettered style, revealing not only a great deal about the brilliance of our field but, also, about its shadow side. For those who might share my passion for the history of psychoanalysis, this book contains innumerable compelling anecdotes about our forefathers and foremothers which cannot be obtained elsewhere. The interviews also reveal much about the ways in which psychotherapists and psychoanalysts often treat one another with primitive cruelty and institutional backstabbing. Lemlij quizzed Rangell, Richards, and Welldon at length about their careers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each discussed his or her work with patients in a very straightforward manner, but, by contrast, these senior clinicians all complained about some of the uglier organisational dynamics which have, at times, come to characterise this field, not least, the regrettable splitting into sub-divisions, whether Freudian, Kleinian, Winnicottian, and so forth. During his interview with Richards, the editor and interviewer, Lemlij, shared a provocative riddle: “Do you know the story about the difference between the Kleinians and Freudians? In a Freudian analysis the analyst might die, and the patient will barely know and in a Kleinian analysis the patient might die, and the analyst won’t know.” This sort of “joke” certainly typifies some of the vitriolic in-fighting which still mars certain psychological institutions. Collegial gossip, however, represents only one part of this deeply absorbing book. We have much to learn from such “tribal elders”, each of whom has made tremendous contributions to our profession in numerous forms over decades and decades of sustained and inspiring labours.
|7 ) Maria Luca, Claire Marshall, and John Nuttall, Integrative Theory and Practice in Psychological Therapies: New Directions (McGraw Hill / Open University Press, 2019).
Those of us steeped in a psychoanalytical accent often forget that literally hundreds of thousands of psychotherapists all over the world conduct important, compassionate, ethical work with clients on an hourly basis, without having to make transference interpretations. In recent decades, humanistic-integrative psychotherapy has come to occupy an increasingly important position within the United Kingdom and beyond. The Regent’s School of Psychotherapy and Psychology at Regent’s University London has, over many decades, occupied an important place as a leader in the teaching of psychotherapy integration, providing its trainees with exposure to classical psychoanalysis, humanistic psychotherapy, existential analysis, and much more besides. Dr Maria Luca, Dr Claire Marshall, and Professor John Nuttall, three experienced educators, have joined forces to produce what may well be the best guidebook to the open-mindedness of integrative psychotherapy. In a series of singly-authored chapters, which draw extensively upon both clinical practice and empirical research, the authors have created what I suspect may well become the standard textbook. This tome will be indispensable reading for integrative mental health workers but, also, will help to bring some refreshment and modesty to those ensconced in much more monastic psychotherapeutic thinking.
|8 ) Barry Richards, The Psychology of Politics (Routledge / Taylor and Francis Group, 2019).
Trained initially as a clinical psychologist, Barry Richards became one of the pioneers of psychoanalytical studies in British universities, having taught for many years at the University of East London, prior to assuming his chair at Bournemouth University. A much respected and admired leader in the field of psychosocial studies, Professor Richards, who has written or edited many important texts on the application of psychodynamic thinking to the study of political behaviour, has now provided us with yet another treat. His latest work, The Psychology of Politics, part of the engaging book series on “The Psychology of Everything”, offers us a wonderful guide to the complicated landscape of mentally troubled and burdened world leaders and nations. As a Professor of Political Psychology – one of the few scholars to hold such a crucial post – Richards imparts his extensive knowledge and his deep thinking with readers in a most generous and insightful fashion. For anyone who craves a richer understanding of the primitivity of contemporary political calamities, Richards’s elegant and readable engagement with the best of psychoanalysis provides exactly the right key to the mysteries of global events. I only wish that we could provide copies of this guidebook to every practising politician and voter.
|9 ) William Rose, Camille and the Raising of Eros (Sphinx / Aeon Books, 2019).
Back in 2016, the accomplished storyteller William Rose published a gripping and moving book, The Strange Case of Madeleine Seguin: A Novel, which, in view of its engagement with the work of Jean-Martin Charcot and late-nineteenth-century French medicine – precursors to Freudian psychoanalysis – became of great interest to many practising mental health professionals. Several of my patients had, in fact, also found their way to this engaging tome through their own bibliophilic researches and all had spoken of it most highly. Three years later, the publisher Sphinx – an imprint of Aeon Books – has released another William Rose classic, Camille and the Raising of Eros, launched at Waterstones not long ago. For those who wish to take a break from reading heavy tomes about countertransference, the art of interpretation, and long-term, empirical follow-up studies of the efficacy of psychotherapy, this superbly crafted piece of historical fiction will provide great respite and pleasure.
|10 ) Steven J. Taylor and Alice Brumby (Editors), Healthy Minds in the Twentieth Century: In and Beyond the Asylum (Palgrave Macmillan / Springer Nature Switzerland, 2020).
For decades, I have urged my students to immerse themselves in the copious literature about the history of psychiatry. Many consider such a geekish, librarian-ish approach to learning rather irrelevant, but I always remind my trainees that if we had practised one hundred and fifty years previously, each of us would have subscribed to the “gold standard” methods of the time and would have chained our patients to the walls of lunatic asylums and might well have arranged for attendants to beat them mercilessly. In other words, unless we can begin to assess and reassess our work in an historical context, we run the risk of becoming too smug, assuming that we, today, know the best way to treat psychological distress. History provides us with some much-needed humility. Thankfully, Dr Steven Taylor, a medical historian whose previous book, Child Insanity in England, 1845-1907, impressed me hugely, and Dr Alice Brumby, a fellow historian specialising in the psychological impact of the Great War, have edited a wonderfully rich book of essays written by some truly accomplished psychiatric scholars. For those who wish to learn more about how our ancestors treated patients during the last century, this collection serves as a sobering reminder of our complicated past.
Dr Roger Amos, a retired haematologist (who happens to be married to a psychoanalyst), has written a lovely, short book, Portrait of a Life: Melanie Klein and the Artists, Phoenix Publishing House, which not only provides readers with a neat encapsulation of Klein’s life and work but, also, offers us an examination of why Klein hated, and subsequently destroyed, several visual representations of herself. This book can be enjoyed in one sitting. I also recommend Dr Judith Edwards’s lovely “intellectual party”, Psychoanalysis and Other Matters: Where Are We Now?, Routledge – a fine, edited selection of essays by both clinical and cultural practitioners, exploring the intersection between depth psychology and such diverse topics as literature, mathematics, and politics.
I also wish to encourage colleagues to purchase a very interesting book about sex! When, in 2007, I published my study of sexual fantasies – Sex and the Psyche – one of my psychoanalytical colleagues giggled, “Gosh, Brett, there is quite a lot about the sexual lives of couples in your book. I always forget to ask my couples about their sex life.” This comment from a senior mental health professional truly floored me until I remembered how Sigmund Freud’s frank engagement with the complexities of sexuality became increasingly “pre-oedipalised” over the decades, as psychoanalysts began to focus more and more on mothers and babies and on the presexual than on the more overtly libidinal stages which ensue across the life cycle. Thus, although everyone suspects that psychotherapists talk about nothing but sex, this may not always be the case; therefore, I warmly welcome all new serious books on sexuality which help us to navigate these complex conversations in the consulting room. Brighton-based psychotherapist Cherry Potter’s well-crafted study, How Psychotherapy Helps Us Understand Sexual Relationships: Insights from the Consulting Room, Routledge, provides us with clearly written and sage accounts about the childhood origins of sexual difficulties in adult life. For those who require assistance with the development of what I have come to refer to as the “sexual interviewing skin” – our capacity to become more comfortable in speaking to clients rather frankly and straightforwardly – this book will offer much useful case material and many theoretical insights.
In the interests of impartiality, I do not ordinarily include any of the works which appear in the various book series that I edit or co-edit, such as the “Forensic Psychotherapy Monograph Series” and the “History of Psychoanalysis Series”. But this year, we have published some particularly wonderful titles, not least Pamela Windham Stewart’s and Jessica Collier’s magnificent blue-sky edited book on practising psychotherapy in prisons, in the hope of providing compassionate treatment for violent women. This title, The End of the Sentence: Psychotherapy with Female Offenders (The Forensic Psychotherapy Monograph Series) Routledge, must be read by every forensic mental health worker and by every member of the judicial system. Likewise, the “Library of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis” produced several superstar titles in 2019. Above all, I recommend Engaging Couples: New Directions in Therapeutic Work with Families, Routledge, edited by Andrew Balfour, Christopher Clulow, and Kate Thompson – all leading couple mental health practitioners at Tavistock Relationships in London. This text truly underscores the ways in which a solid couple relationship will help prevent not only mental and physical illness but, also, crime. This book must be read in conjunction with colleague Mary Morgan’s thorough text, A Couple State of Mind: Psychoanalysis of Couples and the Tavistock Relationships Model, Routledge, based upon her many decades of work as a pioneer of couple psychotherapy.
In July 2020, Professor Salman Akhtar, one of the most respected (and, also most prolific) psychoanalysts in the world, will publish his one hundredth book, Tales of Transformation: A Life in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, containing 100 anecdotes about his rich lifetime of learning. Having deeply admired Professor Akhtar’s previous work, I know that this book will be well worth reading.
But in the meantime, please make a note in your diaries to queue up at bookshops on Friday 7 February 2020, and ensure that you purchase a copy of Juliet Rosenfeld’s forthcoming contribution, The State of Disbelief: A Story of Death, Love and Forgetting, Short Books Limited, which I have just had the privilege of reading in proof form. Rosenfeld, a London psychotherapist and a Trustee of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, has written a very personal memoir about the death of her fifty-two-year-old husband, describing in highly moving prose how she managed to navigate such a deeply unfair and unthinkable loss. Drawing upon the works of Sigmund Freud, upon her clinical training, and upon her own personal qualities and capabilities, Rosenfeld has crafted a book full of tenderness, reality-testing, and wisdom. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one … and anyone who will ever lose a loved one in future … must read this book.
Thank you, dear readers of the Confer website, for allowing me to share my bibliophilia psychotherapeutica with you. I hope and trust that some of these recommendations will provide not only intellectual enrichment, but, also, personal enjoyment, and will help us all to improve our clinical capacities as we devote ourselves to the painful, but potentially transformative, coalface of psychological work.
Happy seasonal greetings to all!
[Please note that all of the Top Ten books listed above have appeared in print in physical form during the 2019 calendar year. A small selection of these titles bears the date 2020 – a cunning publishing convention. Let us remember that Sigmund Freud’s masterpiece Die Traumdeutung – The Interpretation of Dreams – first graced the Viennese bookshops in November, 1899, but boasted the date 1900 on the title page.]
Professor Brett Kahr certainly knows something about the art of authoring books. Over the decades, he has written or edited fourteen volumes and has served as series editor for more than fifty-five further titles.
Earlier this year, he published three new books:
His next book, Dangerous Lunatics: Trauma, Criminality, and Forensic Psychotherapy, will appear in April 2020, as one of the first titles marking the launch of Confer Books, the new publishing arm of Confer Limited.
Confer takes great pleasure in having invited him to share with us, once again, his recommendations of the ten best books of the year.