Below are my categorized and annotated book recommendations for psychiatry residents, including book recommendations for the psychiatry boards.
The DSM-V is a no-brainer, although if you’re choosing, the desk reference is easier to carry around. The big boy is definitive and long (991 pages). The “desk reference” is the pocket sized 444-pager that contains the clinical criteria and pares out some of the additional background, epidemiology, etc. Despite the fact that the move to DSM-V is incomplete for billing purposes, it seems short-sighted to buy the DSM-IV-TR. That said, if you have or pick up a cheap copy of the DSM-IV-TR, then this brief document covers the highlights of the changes made in the new edition. If you are looking for a more extensive update from the DSM-IV but written in a personable fashion, the DSM-V Essentials would get the job done.
The quintessential Kaplan & Saddock series comes in different flavors depending on your mood. Don’t let the title fool you, Kaplan & Saddock’s “Synopsis” of Psychiatry is gigantic. The newest edition is now updated for DSM5 and clocks in at health 1460 pages. This is the definitive, if somewhat obtuse, text in psychiatry. It makes for a nice reference, with a lot of historical information. Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry, the “smaller” book (still 750 pages!), is the textbook that you might actually read cover to cover (K&S use the term concise loosely). It hasn’t been updated for DSM5 yet. For board review and general reinforcement, you can complete your trifecta with Kaplan & Sadock’s Study Guide and Self-Examination Review in Psychiatry, probably the most comprehensive review book and question source for the PRITE and the boards. This book can be your USMLEWorld of psychiatry. In addition to 1600 questions with detailed explanations, the review text is essentially a readable version of the practical parts of the larger volumes.
The APA also puts out the large (1700 page) Textbook of Psychiatry, a worthy alternative to Kaplan & Saddock for those who don’t care for Kaplan and Saddock’s sometimes exhausting style but still want to pretend to read a book that weighs 5 pounds.
The favorite review/question books for ABPN Psychiatry Certification Examination seem to be:
- Psychiatry Test Preparation and Review Manual
- Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Update & Board Preparation
- Kaplan & Sadock’s Study Guide and Self-Examination Review in Psychiatry
The most popular/best online question bank for the ABPN is Board Vitals (which also has question banks for other specialities as well). From user comments online, this resource is definitely not error free yet.1 The above books are actually still more popular at this point.
Psychiatry Board Review: Pearls of Wisdom is a change of pace and is written in a concise Q&A format. It is neither as consistent nor as thorough as the other review books, but it does contain a lot of high yield facts organized in a quick-read manner.2
Unlike for Step 1, First Aid for the Psychiatry Boards isn’t the strongest source for psychiatry review, but it does a passable job for neurology.
On the Wards
For those dreaded medicine months, UpToDate is still probably the very best resource. But if you prefer a pocket guide for the not-so-white coat, MGH’s Pocket Medicine is still the best. For when you’re on the psych wards, MGH also makes the Residency Handbook of Psychiatry.
Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology is the best resource for learning psychopharm as a first year residents. Start with Stahl and you’ll have a good foundation. Well organized, well written, excellent diagrams.
Essentials of Clinical Psychopharmacology goes into serious detail where Stahl does not. So much detail that many individual drugs have entire chapters (12 pages on buspirone anyone?). The downside is that each chapter has its own authors and the editing is not tight—there’s a fair amount of repetition.
Handbook of Psychiatric Drug Therapy is an extremely practical and well organized pocket size book. Small font, but very clinically oriented.
Kaufman’s Clinical Neurology for Psychiatrists is the universally utilized source for a psychiatry-relevant and reasonable treatment of neurology for the boards and beyond. This is sufficient.
If you want a broader and less Psychiatry-oriented volume, Neurology for the Non-Neurologist does the job. It’s readable and not very deep.
For those interested in a basic science level approach to neurobiology and mental health, try Neuroscience for the Mental Health Clinician. Definitely not required reading.
You may not want or need a book about how to conduct a psychiatric interview. For some, this is intuitive on the job learning with takings bits and pieces from the other people you work with. But if you do want a book about the psychiatric interview, then Psychiatric Interviewing: The Art of Understanding is it.
A Clinicians Guide to Statistics and Epidemiology in Mental Health is a great introduction or refresher to clinically relevant biostatistics, research methods, etc. Clearly written, and all of the examples used in the book are landmark papers you should know anyway.
Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond is a classic CBT textbook. So classic, in fact, that the author, Judith Beck, is the daughter of Aaron Beck (founder of CBT). The sample interviews are extremely hokey however. You’ve been warned.
Mind Over Mood is CBT geared for patients. It includes short chapters and lots of worksheet, which you can copy for CBT patients during therapy.
Becoming a Therapist is classic psychotherapy text. It’s written in a personal style from the beginning therapist’s perspective and includes lots of…dialogue. You may find this a somewhat strange read, particularly if you have good real life examples to model after.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Clinical Manual is a more structured approach to psychodynamic psychotherapy, with reasonable and readable short chapters.
Dinner conversation fodder (well-rounded mental health-ish reading)
- The Center Cannot Hold by Ellyn Saks
- An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- Anything/everything by Oliver Sacks
- House of God (and its lesser known sequel, Mount Misery, where our hero becomes a psychiatrist) by Samuel Shem
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
- My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
I’ve actually written questions in the past for the Board Vitals psychiatry question bank. Given how little they paid me, I imagine their business is quite profitable. ↩
I was lent this book by an attending on my third year psychiatry clerkship; it’s a nice easy read and would make for a good transition into board review mode. ↩