Manic-Depressive Illness. Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression. 2nd Edition. Goodwin FK & Jamison KR. Oxford University Press, 2007.

The long awaited follow-up to the 1990 definitive and comprehensive text has finally been updated.  The second edition not only maintains the overall quality of authorship of the original, it surpasses its forerunner in presenting its data in more succinct and readable form.  The result is the highest level of scholarship wherein dense levels of information are made palatable by simple but elegant synthesis and writing.  As with the first edition, this book is mainly intended for a professional audience. Starting from the beginning, the 2nd edition adds the subtitle “Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression.”  A subtle but hardly insignificant change.  This shift emphasizes the author’s belief that recurrent affective disorders, regardless of the presence of mania/hypomania, share fundamental diagnostic, etiological and pathophysiologic attributes and that they should rightfully be classified together.  This contrasts with the prevailing American model of diagnostically prying apart mood disorders on the basis of episode polarity.  With this change, Goodwin and Jamison place themselves squarely in the spectrum’ camp of those that see recurrence as the defining essence of bipolarity.

The organization of this text adheres to the same basic layout as the original version.  Chapters are organized sensibly with clinical description and clinical studies preceding and setting the stage for subsequent sections on pathophysiology and treatment. A tribute to its editors, this work does not suffer from the redundancy that is typical of other comprehensive texts.  Summaries of each chapter distill the major points into bite-sized manageable conclusions.  The references are exhaustive and thoroughly up-to-date.

There are, I think, two potential uses for this book.  The easier of the two is as an authoritative reference work.  Used in this fashion, the text provides an accessible place to gain an initial foothold, quickly review a body of literature, or mount a more thorough exploration of virtually any topic in this arena.  When serving this function, the book is a delight:  the right place to go, the best place to start, equally good for both a glancing refresher as an in-depth review.

The second, more challenging role for this work is as an advanced textbook for psychiatrists and psychologists seeking to gain an extensive grounding in the field of recurrent affective disorders.  In this role, both graduate and post-graduate classes could be designed around a complete reading of this book.

The editors strive for an impartial tone in the presentation and summarization of the research findings.  I did not get the sense that they are ideologues nor that they champion certain positions on various controversies in the field.  Their allegiance to disease-specific empiricism (ie, data derived from randomized, controlled trials) is, however, obvious.  This allegiance contributes to an unfortunate constriction in the scope of this work resulting in a failure to include some very relevant psychoanalytic literature on affect and affect regulation, attachment theory and development research on affect.  But perhaps this is too much to expect from any single work.

Concluding summary:  it doesn’t get any better than this.  In terms of modern psychiatric textbooks, this writing sets a new standard for our field.  It will be the new definitive work in this area for years to come.