The Six-Point Inspection

Insanity, Images, and the Internet

In The Six-Point Inspection, Zócalo takes a quick look at new books that are changing the way we see our world.

American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox by Richard Noll

The nutshell: For the first three decades of the 20th century, dementia praecox was a common diagnosis for patients in mental asylums. Then it disappeared, replaced mainly by schizophrenia. Using this key sliver in the history of psychiatry, DeSales University psychologist Noll explores how mental illnesses are constructed, diagnosed, and treated.

Literary lovechild of: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies and John Kerr’s A Dangerous Method.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: Someone you love has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Cocktail party fodder: Psychiatrist Adolf Meyer, who personally trained almost every psychiatrist who rose to power in American institutions in the first half of the 20th century, had never treated a living patient before getting his first asylum job.

For optimal benefit: Discuss with your shrink. Or your friend who goes most regularly to therapy.

Snap judgment:
From a deceptively specific and academic jumping-off point, Noll offers a capacious and colorful story of the origins of modern psychiatry.


Blue Notes in Black and White: Photography and Jazz by Benjamin Cawthra

The nutshell: Cal State-Fullerton historian Cawthra traces the history of jazz photography from the 1930s to the 1960s through the stories of prominent, mainly African-American musicians (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) and the white men who photographed them for magazines and album covers.

Literary lovechild of: Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Ken Burns’ Jazz.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re firmly analog and anachronistic. Or you’re trying to hook up with someone who’s firmly analog and anachronistic.

Cocktail party fodder: Beginning with 1962’s My Prince Will Come, Miles Davis dictated the designs for his album covers.

For optimal benefit: Visit a great record store and peruse life-size album covers and concert posters before reading.

Snap judgment: Analyzing photographs can get tedious quickly, but Cawthra wisely contextualizes them with anecdotes and stories that place the reader in the moment.


DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You by Misha Glenny

The nutshell: Investigative journalist Glenny depicts true crime mysteries that take you around the world instantly-from India to England to Africa-in order to reveal the full story of the online thefts that threaten much more than our bank accounts.

Literary lovechild of: Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires and Frank Abagnale’s Catch Me If You Can.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You remain suspicious about online shopping. Now you have vindication!

Cocktail party fodder: Despite what Lisbeth Salander would have you think, almost all hackers are men.

For optimal benefit: Read close by your computer so you can check your bank account in a panic every five minutes.

Snap judgment: These swiftly written stories keep you on the edge of your seat and may terrify you, too.