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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ronald Laing: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Revolutionary Psychiatrist by David Boyle - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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 Review by Suze
Ronald Laing was a psychiatrist who started his career in the army and became famous in the second half of the twentieth century. His ideas were ground-breaking, his research methods innovative and his treatment plans progressive. He became famous and then infamous. However, his ideas are still out there and his influence has never completely vanished. Ronald Laing had a turbulent career and even though he fell from grace eventually, there's a lot we can still learn from him today.
David Boyle describes Ronald Laing's career in a fascinating way. He explains his decisions, gives a bit of background information and combines praise and criticism to paint a complete picture. His explanations are vivid and easily understandable. I loved that his book can be read by anyone, no matter if there's any previous knowledge of the subject or not. His writing is accessible and I was immediately intrigued by the achievements of Ronald Laing. I especially enjoyed reading about his approach of diagnostics, which was both brave and advanced. His life was tumultuous, both on a personal as a professional level, which is something David Boyle's detailed and engaging writing made me feel from beginning to end.

Ronald Laing: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Revolutionary Psychiatrist is a quick read. It's short enough to read in one sitting and it brings clear and useful information about an icon in the psychiatric world. It's a great introduction into the ideas and work of an interesting man. It's also an ideal way to refresh one's knowledge in a short period of time. David Boyle combines captivating writing with plenty of useful information, which works very well. I like his writing style and would definitely read more of his work.
If you're looking for a quick and interesting read filled with useful and fascinating information Ronald Laing: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Revolutionary Psychiatrist would be a great choice.
About David Boyle

David Boyle is the author of Blondel’s Song: The capture, imprisonment and ransom of Richard the Lionheart, and a series of books about history, social change and the future. His book Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life helped put the search for authenticity on the agenda as a social phenomenon. The Tyranny of Numbers and The Sum of Our Discontent predicted the backlash against the government’s target culture. Funny Money launched the time banks movement in the UK.

David is an associate of the new economics foundation, the pioneering think-tank in London, and has been at the heart of the effort to introduce time banks to Britain as a critical element of public service reform - since when the movement has grown to more than 100 projects in the UK.

He is also the founder of the London Time Bank network and co-founder of Time Banks UK. He writes about the future of volunteering, cities and business.

His work on the future of money has also been covered in books and pamphlets like Why London Needs its own Currency (nef, 2000), Virtual Currencies (Financial Times, 2000), The Money Changers: Currency reform from Aristotle to e-cash (Earthscan, 2002) and The Little Money Book (Alastair Sawday, 2003).

He has written for many national newspapers and magazines, and edited a range of magazines including Town & Country Planning and Liberal Democrat News. He is the editor of Radical Economics.

He lives in Crystal Palace, in south London, with Sarah and Robin (two years old). He is a member of the Federal Policy Committee of the Liberal Democrats and he stood for Parliament in Regents Park and Kensington North in 2001.

1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I live in the South Downs with my family and write from a small hut at the bottom of the garden, now filled with rather too many books and papers.​ I've always wanted to live in Sussex, and now that I do I seem to spend far too much of my time on the school run or rushing elsewhere, but that may be my age. I also live with a lurcher puppy called Gwen.​

2) You've written a lot of informative books about all kinds of topics, how do you choose the subjects you're going to write about?

I tend to go for what really fascinates me the most next, and of course it often means I have to persuade somebody else to commission me, which isn't at all straightforward. the problem is that commissioning editors don't see the connections between the subjects I write about - but as far as I'm concerned, it is one story. I'm just hard pressed to communicate it sometimes.
​ I have always been fascinated by RD Laing and, when I heard about the film, I wanted to write a short introduction, explaining why he shaped the world we live in. I like to set subjects in a broader context if I can.​

3) Your stories are interesting and readable for everyone, how do you manage to write about difficult matters in an understanding way?

I've been a self-employed writer now since 1992 and often the only way anyone commissioned me was to communicate new ideas in ways that made them easy to read, and maybe told a story. I kind of think that's the way the English do it - they start with the story. My feeling is that, if you can tell the story of an idea, you can usually get it across to everyone, and Laing did have an extraordinary story.​ I was glad that's what I did when Mad to be Normal came out and it focused just on a narrow corner of his life.

4) Could you describe your writing process?

I tend to research each chapter at a time and then to write a rather impressionistic draft, and then go back through it again,

5) What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Good question. Best advice for being a self-employed writer: just because the client isn't clear about what they want, it doesn't mean they don't know. Best advice for writing: plug into your sub-conscious as far as possible. It is why I write the first draft as fast as possible. The best writers seem to me to be able to listen to their innermost feelings as they right, and it brings their writing alive.​

6) Where does your interest in politics come from?

I've always believed we were on the verge of a better and different world: we are due for a major shift around 2020 (they happen pretty regularly every 40 years or so). I may be wrong, but I've wanted to track the changes as I saw them. I try and stay positive, despite what's happening these days. I have been a member of the same political party now since I was a student in 1979 (you will have to guess which!)​

7) Is there a topic you dream to write about, but haven't had the chance yet and if so what is it?

So many, but time in particular and what it means.​ I've always wanted to write about time.​

8) Did you always want to be a writer and where does your passion for writing come from?

I never realised I could in my youth - often I think people suppress their dreams because they don't believe they will ever get there. That was certainly true of me. But I've always been much too didactic for my own good​, and I think that has always made me want to communicate​.

9) You've done a lot of research in your career, do you have any advice for a beginning writer/journalist on how to handle this task the best way?

Be as clear as possible about what you need to find out.

10) What are your plans for the future?

I'd like to write about time, as I say, but I have half a novel about Enigma to write and some other novels too. I find I have a parallel career writing about economics in the thinktank world, and would like somehow to fuse that writing together. I'm not sure how yet...​


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive hardcopies of Ronald Laing: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Revolutionary Psychiatrist, Scandal: How Homosexuality Became a Crime by David Boyle and The Secret History of the Jungle Book by Swati Singh.

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. Hi David, thank you for bringing us this insight into RD Laing. He was such a huge influence when I was studying and I've now passed his works onto my niece who's just started in Uni (except for 'Knots', I could never give that away!).

  2. The book review sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing. Love the cover and interview too.

  3. They all sound like great reads. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. This looks like a wonderfully amazing read, thanks for the interview xx

  5. interesting interview

  6. I would be interested to read Ronald Laing: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Revolutionary Psychiatrist

  7. Thank you for the interview and the giveaway!

  8. Thanks for the giveaway.


  9. Sounds like such an interesting read. Thank you for posting.

  10. A book about time would be fascinating.

  11. Sounds very intriguing! Can't wait to read!