Head First

Publication Date:

July 2021



Original language and publisher

English | Atlantic Books

Territories Handled

Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia

Territories Sold

English (USA) (Avery, Penguin Random House)
Chinese simplified (Guomai)
Chinese complex (Lumiere)
South Korea (Pronsoop)



Foreign Covers

Avery, PRH

Head First


Head First is a wise, timely and eloquent book. Santhouse’s writing is persuasive, but at the same time a joy to read, and it offers a valuable insight for everyone, because even though we might believe we walk with eyes wide open, we can all stumble from time to time on our own misconceptions. — Joanna Cannon, ‘Book of the Day’ review, The Guardian

Santhouse brilliantly illuminates the extraordinary and mysterious ways that our personal stories affect both our mental and our physical health. Compassionate, insightful, and riveting. — Lori Gottlieb, Author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Head First is a provocative and incisive look at an issue that affects us all: the difference between how disease is treated and how we experience wellness. Traditional doctors consistently fail to look at the whole person – not just all the body parts, but the critical role of the mind. Alastair is in a privileged position that allows him to see how this dynamic works, and will start a conversation we have been wilfully ignoring. — Caroline Sutton, Avery, PRH US

It’s clear from Head First that Alastair is not only a first-class clinician but a truly gifted and empathetic writer. Through his clinical case studies, he makes a convincing case that it’s impossible to separate physical and mental health. After you’ve read it, you won’t view your ordinary visit to the GP in the same light again. — Mike Harpley, Atlantic Books UK

“A wonderful and humane look inside and outside the head of an experienced psychiatrist. Santhouse’s deep dive into how the mind shapes an individual’s perception of their body and illness is a welcome retreat, particularly in the age of “self.” The chapter titles themselves express an original perspective on how people suffer: for example, Altruism, Exhaustion, Weight, Culture, and Belief. Well worth reading by anyone interested in a medical perspective on the modern mind.”— Allan H. Ropper, M.D., Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and author of How the Brain Lost its Mind

“Beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable. This is a moving rallying call against the division of physical and psychological causes of disease, the stigma of ill health, and the medicalization of the normal. An important read for anyone with symptoms, anyone treating symptoms, and indeed anyone at all.” — Guy Leschziner, Professor of Neurology, King’s College, London

“Dr. Santhouse takes us on his deeply personal journey of understanding the mind through the experience of his patients to ‘ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person the disease has.’ Powerful, poignant, and insightful.”— James R. Doty, MD, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University

“A fascinating deep dive into the mind of a seasoned psychiatrist and his remarkable patients. Head First examines why modern medicine so often fails us and reveals how it will ultimately succeed.” —Matt McCarthy, MD, author of Superbugs

In the tradition of Lori Gottlieb and Henry Marsh, a distinguished psychiatrist examines his own practice. 

An exquisitely written exploration of the connections between physical and mental health.

Alastair Santhouse knew something was wrong the night he was on call during his medical training and got the news that a woman on the way to the ER had died in the ambulance. That meant he could go back to sleep! But he couldn’t. He was overtaken with the sense that his joyful reaction was terrible failure. That night began his long journey away from the ER and into psychiatry.

Head First chronicles Santhouse’s many years treating patients and his exploration of the ways in which our minds exert a huge and underappreciated influence over our health. They shape our responses to symptoms that we develop, dictate the treatments we receive, and influence whether they work. They even influence whether we develop symptoms at all.

Written with brutal honesty, deep compassion, and a wry sense of humor, Head First examines difficult cases that illuminate some of our most puzzling and controversial medical issues–from the tragedy of suicide, to the stigma surrounding obesity, to the mysteries of self-induced illness. Ultimately he finds that our medical model has failed us by promoting specialization and overlooking perhaps the single most important component of our health: our state of mind.

Foreign Covers

Avery, PRH