A New York Times Bestseller

In The Pain Chronicles, Melanie Thernstrom traces conceptions of pain throughout the ages—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging—to reveal the elusive, mysterious nature of pain itself. Interweaving first-person reflections on her own battle with chronic pain, incisive reportage and medical research, and insights from a wide range of disciplines, Thernstrom shows that when dealing with pain we are neither as advanced as we imagine nor as helpless as we may fear.

“A stellar example of literary nonfiction”

The New York Times

“When Thernstrom first accepted the fact that her longtime neck and shoulder pain wouldn’t be going away, what troubled her as much as anything was the sheer meaninglessness and inexpressibility of her suffering. ‘I had never had a problem so utterly consuming and so intellectually empty,’ she writes. Fortunately, her book, dense with insight and elegant in style and structure, represents a victory over that void, if not over pain itself.

The New Yorker

Profound and engrossing, this exploration of pain is a pleasure.

—Caroline Leavitt in People

An ingenious mix of science, history, investigative journalism, and memoir . . . More than the fascinating and lucidly written science, the astonishing, gruesome history, the finely rendered tales of sufferers and researchers, it is Thernstrom’s personal narrative that keeps the reader turning pages into the night . . . the energy and empathy generated by her ordeal and the book that resulted will bring comfort and real relief to thousands of fellow sufferers.”

—Alec Solomita in The Boston Globe

The Pain Chronicles is an expansive, invigorating mix of medical reportage, history, memoir and cultural criticism. Thernstrom’s passion and intellectual curiosity are infectious. . . At times, she is the literary critic, contextualizing our relationship to pain. . . At other times, she is a fiercely knowledgeable science writer, delivering case studies and research findings with a story teller’s verve. . . The Pain Chronicles is no mere self-help manual. It’s a sophisticated, elegantly compiled treatise—as wide-ranging, complex and defiant as pain itself.”

—Robin Romm in The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“A book about pain has no right to be so pleasurable to read, but such is the depth of Melanie Thernstrom’s intellect, curiosity, and compassion that The Pain Chronicles is indeed a joy. It’s also a revelation, a fascinating guide through a subject we all know so well but, until now, didn’t know quite how to think about.”

—Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

Best Non-Fiction Book of 2010

—David Vann, author of Caribou Island, in The Observer (London)

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Interviews, Radio Shows and Talks

Salon.com interviewed Melanie about the book. read interview >

O, The Oprah Magazine published an interview with Melanie in its September 2010 issue. read intervew online >

NPR's Talk of the Nation featured Melanie discussing chronic pain and her book on Thursday, August 19. audio recording and transcript >

Melanie discussed pain on Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live call-in program on Friday, August 27. audio recording >

Southern California Public Radio's Airtalk with Larry Mantle aired a segment with Melanie on Wednesday, September 1. audio recording >

Melanie was the Keynote Speaker at PAINweek in Las Vegas, NV, on Wednesday, September 8. Her talk is available for streaming. (The keynote starts roughly 20 minutes in; you can fast-forward by clicking at the bottom of the video window, though only as far as the blue download indicator has progressed.) streaming video >