Thursday, June 5, 2008

Random conversation leads me to accidental knowledge.

I spend enough time in my cubicle that it would be safe for me to have concerns about my sanity; so I struck up a conversation with my cube mate about the history of psychiatry in the United States. We both buzzed through a list of books on the subject, the biggies:

-The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
-One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
-Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

These titles got me thinking…I was in search of a book that was a bit more academic and still a good read. The actual hospital in Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interupted is McLean Hospital located in Belmont, Massachusetts. So I opened up a web browser and hit Amazon to see what popped up under a book search for McLean Hospital. The top title: Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam. Reading in many cases is a leap of faith and I took it. Gracefully Insane turned out to be a lovely read, well written and researched. It touches on the history of Boston, the development of mental health care in American, and interweaves the history of the hospital with that of its many unique occupants.

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