Psychiatry Books By Famous Psychiatrists

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Mental health is a subject that affects millions of people, whether directly or indirectly. Many people experience mental and emotional health concerns at some point in life, with 5% of the world experiencing depression, according to the World Health Organization. Learning about mental wellness can be beneficial for anyone at risk of mental illness, as well as their loved ones. Even if you never encounter these challenges yourself, being informed may help you understand how to support others who do.

One way you can learn about psychiatry and mental illness is by reading books by well-known psychiatrists. Below, we’ll discuss a few famous psychiatrists and their written contributions to the field of psychiatry and mental health care.

Want to learn more about your own mental health?

Notable books by psychiatrists and other professionals

Many professionals who provide mental health care, conduct research, or otherwise address psychiatric concerns have also imparted their advanced knowledge through the written word. Psychiatrists can help us better understand the symptoms and causes of different mental health, developmental, and neurocognitive disorders. They can also provide first-hand accounts of the use of treatment methods for these disorders. 

Books on a specific mental disorder

Psychiatrists who have experience working with a major psychiatric disorder (e.g., a schizophrenia spectrum disorder or depressive disorder) can provide valuable insights into its symptoms, effects, and most current treatment methods. The following books cover a specific psychiatric disorder. 

Surviving Schizophrenia: A family manual, by Dr. E Fuller Torrey

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a famous research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. His work in the field has revolutionized the treatment of these mental illnesses. His book Surviving Schizophrenia explains details about schizophrenia and how it is experienced by both patients and their families. It also discusses techniques and treatments that may help with symptom management. 

Another work by Dr. Torrey is Surviving Manic Depression: A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families, and Providers, which was co-authored by Dr. Michael B. Nable. This book focuses on bipolar disorder, including risk factors for the disorder, onset, symptoms, and treatments. 

Understanding Depression, by Dr. J Raymond DePaulo, Jr.

Understanding Depression provides patients and their families with a detailed and comprehensive overview of depression, an often-misunderstood mental illness. Dr. Kramer, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, is meant to serve as a guide for patients and families. This book helps people identify the signs of depression and provides hope by outlining various treatments for depression, including therapy and medication.

Against Depression, by Dr. Peter Kramer

From the author of Listening to Prozac, this book challenges our understanding of mood disorders and helps readers understand research on depression. Against Depression also offers hope to those experiencing this disease by providing research on depression and resilience.

Books on other psychiatric topics

Psychiatrists may be specialists in certain life challenges or the field of psychiatry more broadly. Through the below titles—most of which are available in print and digital formats—you can learn about newly developed psychotherapeutic techniques, challenges facing the field of mental health, and various other psychiatric topics. 

Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry, by Drs. Robert Boland and Marcia Verduin

Described by its publisher as the “leading clinical psychiatric resource for clinicians, residents, students, and other health care professionals”, Synopsis of Psychiatry is a broad examination of the symptoms and current treatment methods of mental health, developmental, and neurocognitive disorders, organized based on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5). This best-selling resource includes an updated and expanded section on child psychiatry and covers everything from depressive disorders to autism spectrum disorder. You can find this book in several formats, including a bundled interactive eBook edition.  

On Death and Dying, by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

A psychiatrist from Switzerland, Dr. Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) was most famous for her book On Death and Dying, which outlines the five stages that terminally ill patients may go through from diagnosis to death: 1) denial and isolation; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; 5) and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross defined these stages after interviewing many individuals experiencing a terminal illness. Her work in this field has transformed the way that many terminally ill patients are treated. 

Getty/Halfpoint Images

Quiet Your Mind and get to Sleep, by Drs. Colleen Carney and Rachel Manber

Quiet Your Mind And Get To Sleep may be helpful for people who experience insomnia due to depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. It outlines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques that may help you learn how to sleep, even when your body and mind seem to be fighting it.

Saving normal: An insider's Revolt against out-of-control psychiatric diagnosis, DSM-5, big pharma, and the medicalization of ordinary life, by Dr. Allen Frances

Allen Frances is a psychiatrist who served as the chairperson of the DSM-IV task force. The DSM-5 (Diagnostical and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) is the latest edition of this manual for psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness in patients. Saving Normal is about the role of psychiatry in modern times. It cautions readers about the use of the DSM-5 and the risk of labeling what may be everyday problems as a mental illness.

Mad in America/Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whitaker

In Mad in America, Robert Whitaker discusses the historic mistreatment of mental illness in the US and beyond, focusing specifically on the use of medications to address psychosis. According to the book’s publisher, Whitaker makes the case that “modern treatments for the severely mentally ill are just old medicine in new bottles” and helps explain why people with schizophrenia in the US “currently fare worse than patients in the world’s poorest countries”.

In a later book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Whitaker addresses a similar concern: The increase in diagnoses of mental health disorders. This upsurge, he argues, has led to the inflation of government disability rolls (according to him, the number of people with a disability due to mental illness in the United States tripled in a 20-year period). Seeking to explain these phenomena, Whitaker highlights potential problems with the use of psychotropic drugs and, more broadly, the field of mental health. 

The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson

In The Psychopath Test, a journalist looks at the qualities that contribute to psychopathy. After learning about how psychopaths behave, think, and feel, he spent time with many people who have been labeled psychopaths, including a “death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud”. Ronson’s exploration leads him to the conclusion that other books in this list have also made—that mental health disorders are potentially over-diagnosed. 

The Flashing Light, by Dr. Irving Fox

The full title of Dr. Fox’s book is The Flashing Light: A Medical Mystery Memoir. The book recounts the story of mysterious symptoms that arose when he was a resident at a hospital in Canada and his efforts to understand and address them. Because Fox is now a healthcare professional, his memoir provides a unique perspective on the often-complex process of diagnosing, living with, and understanding certain conditions. 

Learning more about psychiatry and mental illness

There are many books written by renowned psychiatrists that help you learn about mental health disorders and mental health in general. Some books may have been written for clinicians but can be helpful to patients and their families.

Before checking out any book that claims to be written by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional, it may be worth researching their credentials to make sure that they are a reliable resource of information on the topic. 

Want to learn more about your own mental health?

Connecting with mental health professionals online

If you’re interested in learning more about mental health conditions, whether because you are experiencing challenges or know someone who is, it may help to seek professional support in addition to reading about mental health. If you don’t have time to see a therapist in person, you might consider online therapy. 

With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can typically be matched with a therapist within 48-72 hours, so you can begin to get your mental health questions answered without being put on a long waiting list. You can connect with a licensed mental health professional via phone, live chat, or videoconferencing at a time that works for your schedule.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the effects of online therapy. One review of 17 studies found that online CBT was “more effective than face-to-face CBT at reducing depression symptom severity.” One of the random controlled trials in the study also found online CBT to be more cost-effective than in-person therapy. 


The above books by famous psychiatrists can be valuable resources for learning more about psychiatry and mental health. Educating yourself about mental health disorders may help you recognize symptoms in yourself or others and understand how to support those living with one. If you’d like to learn more or if you have concerns about mental health, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed online therapist. 

With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience in your specific areas of concern, and you can connect with them from the comfort of home via text, phone, or video chat. Take the first step toward becoming more informed about mental health and contact BetterHelp today.

Finding mental health support can be challenging
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started