A Book Recommendation from Karen Lankford: Transcendent Kingdom

I highly recommend the novel Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, both as a reader and as a
neuroscientist. The novel tells the story of an immigrant family from Ghana. I will not give away the
plot, but it touches on issues of clinical depression and drug addiction.

The main character ultimately pursues a career doing cutting-edge research on the reward circuits involved in addiction and extinction of addictive behaviors. It is one of very few novels I have read that gets both the science and the experience of depression and addiction right.

The author accurately describes the kind of research being done and portrays the observed behaviors of individuals suffering from depression and addiction correctly.

Frankly, most authors are very sloppy in their portrayal of these problems. Most of the time writers depict depression more like an experience of great sadness or grief than the absence of positive emotions which people with clinical depression actually experience.

If you want to understand what someone dealing with a family member suffering from depression and/or addiction is experiencing, this is a good place to start. If you want to understand what kinds of research the National Institute of Health (NIH) is funding to advance our understanding of addiction, and how to break it, this is also a good place to start.