Norah Vincent can see opportunity in the unlikeliest situations, said Deborah Kotz in The former newspaper columnist scored a best-seller with 2006’s Self-Made Man, a first-person account of what she learned about men by disguising herself for 18 months as one of them. But when the stress of acting like a guy triggered a bout with depression, Vincent committed herself to a mental institution—and walked out with her next book concept. The experience actually had made her feel worse, she says now, but the doctors and her fellow patients seemed “like a group of ready-made characters perfect for a good story.” Vincent’s new memoir, Voluntary Madness, chronicles what she saw inside three different psychiatric facilities that she checked herself into.

It was a risky thing to do, said Jessica Harrison in the Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News. In the large public hospital in which she stayed, Vincent had to fight to keep the staff from putting her on powerful meds. Before entering a smaller private hospital, she decided to go cold turkey on her normal antidepressants. “I really wanted to capture what depression feels like in real time,” she says. Surprisingly, it was the spa-like third facility that charged the least, billing less than half as much as the warehouse-style alternatives. Something’s wrong with public health-care services, says Vincent, when “you can get a room at the Ritz Carlton, room service, and a private nurse for the same cost.”