Indirectly, the "Practicing" column also led to the publication of Kramer's bestseller Listening to Prozac (New York: Viking, 1993; second edition, Penguin, 1997). In the active private practice he maintained through the years, Kramer observed "changes in my patients that looked to me like changes in personality." What's more, many of those patients attributed particular powers to fluoxetine(Drug information on fluoxetine) (Prozac). "I wrote a couple of columns about those issues for PT, and I think in [one of] those columns coined the phrase ‘cosmetic psychopharmacology,'" he said. Those columns led to his being interviewed about Prozac in Newsweek and other publications.
Kramer then developed a book proposal and got an agent for what became Listening to Prozac, a book about the "biology of personality" that also explored the ethical questions surrounding a drug that many of Kramer's patients said made them feel "better than well," like different people.
When the book came out, it evoked high praise and strident criticism. Some mental health professionals claimed it dismissed psychotherapy. In statements in Psychology Today, Kramer warned that many have misinterpreted his book, that it is "really more a philosophical book about how the self is redefined in a culture that has biological instruments for changing things that previously were changed through religion or talk therapy" and that psychotherapy remains an important treatment for anxiety disorders and helping patients live with depression (Epstein, 2001). In fact, Kramer has been a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Psychotherapy for many years.
Because of the book, Kramer was interviewed nearly every day for a year and became, according to The New York Times, possibly the best-known psychiatrist in America. Despite his celebrity status, Kramer sees psychiatry and writing as "humbling professions."
"The fact that you are well known doesn't make your patients get better faster and doesn't make the sentences more felicitous. I think you just have to work at these things every day," he said.
He admits to having "mostly the same life for 20-plus years," which involves writing in the morning and seeing patients in the afternoon. "I did it when it was hard to make a living doing that, and I do it now when it is a little easier to make a living at it," he said. "I do speak more around the country than I would have."
Fame's primary benefit for Kramer is that it has enabled him to write several books. His third published book, Should You Leave? (New York: Scribner, 1997; Penguin paperback, 1999), introduces readers to modern theories about relationships. It features relationship dilemmas of fictional patients, using them as openings to discuss various views of giving advice. The views range from Harry Stack Sullivan and Sigmund Freud to columnist Ann Landers.
Kramer's next book, Spectacular Happiness (New York: Scribner, 2001; paperback, 2002), is a novel about a thoughtful, passionate community college teacher who becomes increasingly disgruntled as he underachieves in midlife, his marriage disintegrates, his beloved son leaves and he sees society becoming increasingly driven by meaningless consumption. He expresses his dissatisfaction by deciding to blow up beachfront homes on Cape Cod.