Brett Kahr

Professor Brett Kahr certainly knows something about the art of authoring books.  Over the decades, he has written or edited sixteen volumes and has served as series editor for more than seventy-five further titles.

Most recently, Karnac Books has published his latest volume, Freud’s Pandemics:  Surviving Global War, Spanish Flu, and the Nazis, the inaugural title in the new “Freud Museum London Series”, undertaken in collaboration with the Freud Museum.  This highly pertinent book describes how the great Sigmund Freud survived not one but, rather, six separate pandemics during his own lifetime and yet still managed to thrive.  Kahr examines what lessons each of us can learn from Freud about the art of resiliency and the efficacy of what he has come to refer to as “psychological vaccination”.

As Advisory Editor-in-Chief to both Confer Books and Karnac Books, he continues to help colleagues develop their book projects.  And, once again, Confer takes great pleasure in having invited Brett to share with us his recommendations of the ten best books of the year.

Brett writes:

My love affair with Karnac Books began when, in 1982, I first set foot in the old shop on Gloucester Road in Southwest Central London and had the privilege to meet the great Harry Karnac himself, who founded the business back in 1950.  Although Harry inaugurated his career as a generalist bookseller, he eventually discovered the work of Dr. Donald Winnicott and began to sell various pamphlets and books on infancy and parenthood, which generated much interest in depth psychology.  And, in due course, Harry became the world’s leading seller of overtly psychoanalytical publications.

Over the decades, Karnac Books flourished under the leadership of Harry Karnac’s various successors, most recently, Oliver Rathbone, who retired in 2017 to set up his own special press, Aeon Books, devoted to herbal medicine and related topics.

Thankfully, in 2020, Dr. Stephen Setterberg reinaugurated Karnac Books as both a publishing imprint and as a new bookshop, created in collaboration with Confer Limited and Confer Books, and, over the last few years, I have enjoyed the pleasure of contributing to this organisation by introducing many very talented prospective authors to our Publishing Team.

Confer Books and the newly-relaunched Karnac Books – our much-cherished “Publishers of the Mind” – have, over the last three years, produced a marvellous array of titles on a wide range of psychological themes.  These beautifully curated volumes will, I know, come to enjoy a very important role in the dissemination of psychotherapeutic thought for years to come.

As readers of this annual column on the Confer website will appreciate, I shall not review titles by Confer Books or Karnac Books – tempting though that may be – even though we have released some terrific books this year, which cover a broad spectrum of vital topics which include:  primitive bodily communications; intergenerational racial trauma; queer psychotherapy; couple work; media psychoanalysis; energy psychotherapy; on-line psychotherapy; children in the pandemic; a memoir of Vienna during the 1920s and 1930s; as well as both an excellent biography about the controversial psychoanalyst Masud Khan and, also, the publication of his private Work Books.  Please do investigate the Confer Books and Karnac Books website for more information about these recently-released titles as well as the rather impressive backlist and, moreover, the impending publications of 2023 (

In the sections of this blog which follow, we have chosen to review titles by other publishers, in the spirit of gratitude towards the wider mental health publishing community.  Jane Ryan, the founder of Confer Limited, has always championed what she has described as the need to overcome the “nonsensical antagonism” in the psychotherapeutic field – a discipline beset by too many tribal splits.  Hence, in an effort to pay tribute to colleagues and publishers from every arena, I will offer brief celebrations of impressive titles from other houses which, I hope, will offer no shortage of great holiday pleasure.

In addition to my brief encapsulations of the “Top Ten”, I have also chosen to foreground some other great books which have appeared in print during this past year, including two beautiful psychological novels written by colleagues as well as a discussion of three neglected classics, which must not be forgotten.

On 3rd June, 2022, Professor Sophie Freud – one of the many grandchildren of Sigmund Freud – passed away at the age of ninety-seven years.  I had the great honour of having met Professor Freud and I found her utterly delightful and warm-hearted.  In the wake of her death, I re-read her marvellous 1988 autobiography, My Three Mothers and Other Passions, and I found myself very struck by her comment:  “I don’t just read my books, I devour them.”  I hope that each of us might benefit from the wisdom of Freud’s brilliant granddaughter – a highly accomplished social worker and psychotherapist in her own right – and that we might all do a bit more devouring of books, thus “upping our game” as mental health practitioners.

Although we have absolutely no shortage of tomes about the great Herr Professor Sigmund Freud, not every biographer or historian will have written in a literarily engaging and compelling style. Thankfully, Andrew Nagorski, a long-standing professional journalist who has held many important posts as a foreign correspondent and, also, as a bureau chief for the internationally-respected magazine Newsweek in such varied locations as Berlin, Bonn, Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, and Warsaw, just published a wonderful text about how Freud escaped from Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938 and settled in London for the last year of his life. Although most of the data contained herein had already appeared in many well-known sources, Nagorski has distinguished himself as a wonderful storyteller, explaining how such key disciples as Dr. Ernest Jones, Ambassador William Bullitt, and Princesse Marie Bonaparte facilitated Freud’s departure, aided by none other than Anton Sauerwald – a Nazi official who secretly supported the family behind the scenes and even helped to preserve some of the books produced by Freud’s publishing house, the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. Those of us who delve into this text will immediately appreciate Nagorski’s fantastic literary capacities and will, I know, rush to read many of his other excellent books, including such important works of non-fiction as Hitlerland and The Nazi Hunters, as well as a highly compelling and relevant novel entitled Last Stop Vienna. I recommend the entire oeuvre of Mr. Nagorski with much admiration and enthusiasm.