Gary Greenberg
current book - reviews

"Gary Greenberg’s The Book of Woe is about the DSM in the way that Moby-Dick is about a whale—big time, but only in part.  An engaging history of a profession’s virtual bible, The Book of Woe is also a probing consideration of those psychic depths we cannot know and those social realities we pretend not to know, memorably rendered by a seasoned journalist who parses the complexities with a pickpocket’s eye and a mensch’s heart.  If I wanted a therapist, and especially if I wanted to clear my mind of cant, I’d make an appointment with Dr. Greenberg as soon as he could fit me in."
— Garret Keizer , author of Privacy
and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want

"The Book of Woe is a brilliant, ballsy excursion into the minefield of modern psychiatry. Greenberg has wit, energy, and a wonderfully skeptical mind. If you want to understand how we think of mental suffering today—and why, and to what effect—read this book."
— Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind (a New York Times bestseller 2012)

"Bringing the full force of his wit, warmth, and tenacity to this accessible, inside account of the latest revision of psychiatry's diagnostic bible, Gary Greenberg has written a book to rival the importance of its subject. Keenly researched and vividly reported, The Book of Woe is frank, impassioned, on fire for the truth—and best of all vigorously, beautifully alive to its story's human stakes."
— Michelle Orange, author of This Is Running for Your Life

"Gary Greenberg has become the Dante of our psychiatric age, and the DSM-5 is his Inferno. He guides us through the not-so-divine comedy that results when psychiatrists attempt to reduce our hopelessly complex inner worlds to an arbitrary taxonomy that provides a disorder for everybody. Greenberg leads us into depths that Dante never dreamed of. The Book of Woe is a mad chronicle of so-called madness."
— Errol Morris, Academy Award-winning director
and author of A Wilderness of Error

"In this gripping, devastating account of psychiatric hubris, Gary Greenberg shows that the process of revising the DSM remains as haphazard and chaotic as ever. His meticulous research into the many failures of DSM-5will spark concern, even alarm, but in doing so will rule out complacency. The Book of Woe deserves a very wide readership."
— Christopher Lane,
author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness

"This could be titled The Book of ... Whoa! An eye-popping look at the unnerving, often tawdry politics of psychiatry."
— Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
and author of The Fiddler in the Subway

"Gary Greenberg is a thoughtful comedian and a cranky philosopher and a humble pest of a reporter, equal parts Woody Allen, Kierkegaard, and Columbo. The Book of Woe is a profound, and profoundly entertaining, riff on malady, power, and truth. This book is for those of us (i.e. all of us) who've ever wondered what it means, and what's at stake, when we try to distinguish the suffering of the ill from the suffering of the human."
— Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

"The rewriting of the bible of psychiatry shakes the field to its foundations in this savvy, searching exposé. Greenberg (Manufacturing Depression), a journalist and practicing psychotherapist, follows the American Psychiatric Association's years-long revision of DSM-5, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which dictates to the industry everything from diagnoses and research programs to the all-important insurance billing codes. In his telling, it's a saga of fraught politics masquerading as disinterested medicine, as controversies explode around proposals to add grieving a family member's death to the roster of mental illnesses, delete Asperger's syndrome, and concoct vague new maladies—Attenuated Psychosis Symptom Disorder?—that could be used to rationalize treating millions of patients with ravaging drugs. The author digs deeper, questioning whether there is any organic reality underlying the DSM's confident taxonomy of disorders and suggesting that "psychiatric diagnosis is built on fiction and sold to the public as fact." Deploying wised-up, droll reportage from the trenches of psychiatric policy-making and caustic profiles of the discipline's luminaries, Greenberg subjects the practices of the mental health industry—his own included—to a withering critique. The result is a compelling insider’s challenge to psychiatry's scientific pretensions—and a plea to return it to its humanistic roots."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"A loose-limbed, skeptically informed critique of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, with particular interest in its forthcoming, fifth incarnation. Like it or not, the DSM is a controversial book from almost any approach, and Mother Jones contributor Greenberg (Manufacturing Depression, 2010, etc.) explores them all in this rangy commentary. The DSM has been accused of corruption, infected by Big Pharma looking for new targets and doctors looking for new patients, and its editors have been accused of deception, evasion and secrecy as they garner millions in profit for the American Psychiatric Association. But the authority it has gathered is perhaps most damning: descriptive agreement between practitioners masquerading as medical science, its diagnoses putting critical educational and insurance benefits on the block, a realized potential for overmedicating what may well be normal behavioral responses. A practicing psychotherapist, Greenberg is not about to throw the baby out with the bath water, to deride the urge to recognize and classify our psychological travails, but he does take exception when those categories claim more than they can deliver and our prejudices lead to wild surmises mostly out of touch with the landscape of suffering's natural boundaries. Greenberg is an entertaining guide through the treacheries and valuable instances of the DSM, interviewing members on both sides of the divide and keeping the proceedings conversational even when discussing the manual's pretensions toward epistemic iteration. He also brings his own practice into the picture, with examples of the DSM falling woefully short in capturing the complexity of personality. Bright, humorous and seriously thoroughgoing, Greenberg takes all the DSMs for a spin as revealing as the emperor's new clothes."
Kirkus Reviews


Book of Woe

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