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Rendon, M. (1980). The Harvard Guide to Modern Psychiatry, edited by Armand M. Nicholi Jr., M.D. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1978.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 40(1):91-92.

(1980). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 40(1):91-92

Book Reviews

The Harvard Guide to Modern Psychiatry, edited by Armand M. Nicholi Jr., M.D. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1978.

Review by:
Mario Rendon, M.D.

This book of fewer than 700 pages, handsomely edited and relatively easy to read, is midway between the encyclopedia type of textbook and the single-author textbook. I say midway because although each chapter is written by a different author, there is a kind of a unified thread in the book, which reflects the fact that its contributors belong to the same school. As its title indicates, most of the chapters are written by Harvard Medical School Staff. This fact obviates the problems of the encyclopedia type of textbook, which is more of a collection of different ways of thinking in all areas of psychiatry, and which at times has been conflicting and perhaps even confusing for the beginner. On the other hand, the single-author textbook may often go the extreme of representing the author's point of view, but neglecting others. The Harvard Guide presents the reader with some continuity, despite the fact that the areas are varied. The question is: does that continuity reflect present day psychiatric trends, or is it artificial?

To answer this question, one must first ask what is the purpose of the book; this is clearly answered by Dr. Nicholi in his introduction, where he states that its main purpose is to prepare psychiatrists for the board examination. With this particular aim in mind, one can state that the book represents what the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology may officially want the psychiatrist to know about the field of psychiatry and therefore to answer at the board examination. However, although the authors are, for the most part, well-known psychiatrists in their respective fields, many of the chapters are clearly deficient in showing the true nature of psychiatric contradiction. Although the book is satisfactory for the purposes of a board examination, the field as a whole is not so uniform and homogeneous. Perhaps the best way to express my view is to say that the Harvard Guide reflects what is presently most acceptable to official psychiatry.

I am not talking about different schools in psychoanalysis, where the personalities of the theorists and their charisma may have created opposite or disparate theories, as has been stated by some. I am talking about what seems obvious when one reads Klein and Davis or when one reviews the even more recent studies of MHPG excretion or on “genetics.”

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