From one of America’s most celebrated psychiatrists, the book that has taught generations of healers why healing the sick is about more than just diagnosing their illness.

Modern medicine treats sick patients like broken machines — figure out what is physically wrong, fix it, and send the patient on their way. But humans are not machines. When we are ill, we experience our illness: we become scared, distressed, tired, weary. Our illnesses are not just biological conditions, but human ones.

It was Arthur Kleinman, a Harvard psychiatrist and anthropologist, who saw this truth when most of his fellow doctors did not. Based on decades of clinical experience studying and treating chronic illness, The Illness Narratives makes a case for interpreting the illness experience of patients as a core feature of doctoring.

Before Being Mortal, there was The Illness Narratives. It remains today a prescient and passionate case for bridging the gap between patient and practitioner.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


"Kleinman infuses the theme with fresh insights and 'empathic witnessing,' through the use of narrative, the stories of pain and suffering that give form and meaning to the experience of illness."—Elinor Lenz, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A major contribution to the care techniques for the chronically ill."—JAMA
"Thought-provoking...touching...much needed by practicing physicians. It is a must for residents and worthwhile reading for all medical students."—New England Journal of Medicine
"If more physicians had Dr. Kleinman's ability to see and respond to all of the patient's needs, we would not have the mistrust of doctors that now pervades our society."
Melvin Konner, M.D., PH.D., author of Becoming a Doctor
"There is no one who knows more or writes more interestingly than Arthur Kleinman about the fundamental place of the meaning of illness in the lives of sick persons."
Eric J. Cassell, M.D., Cornell University Medical College
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