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).

Ferhat Atik, A Psychoanalyst on His Own Couch: A Biography of Vamik Volkan and His Psychoanalytic and Psychopolitical ConceptsProfessor 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).

Psychoanalytic Thinking on the Unhoused MindOver 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).

Socrates in Love: The Making of a PhilosopherAs 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).