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Download A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness Audiobook

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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (878 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nassir Ghaemi Narrator: Sean Runnette Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2011 ISBN: 9781470804756
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In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, who runs the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, draws from the careers and personal plights of such notable leaders as Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, and others from the past two centuries to build an argument at once controversial and compelling: the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders—realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity—also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. By combining astute analysis of the historical evidence with the latest psychiatric research, Ghaemi demonstrates how these qualities have produced brilliant leadership under the toughest circumstances.

Take realism, for instance: study after study has shown that those suffering depression are better than “normal” people at assessing current threats and predicting future outcomes. Looking at Lincoln and Churchill, among others, Ghaemi shows how depressive realism helped these men tackle challenges both personal and national. Or consider creativity, a quality psychiatrists have studied extensively in relation to bipolar disorder. A First-Rate Madness shows how mania inspired General Sherman and Ted Turner to design and execute their most creative—and successful—strategies.

Ghaemi’s thesis is both robust and expansive; he even explains why eminently sane men like Neville Chamberlain and George W. Bush made such poor leaders. Though sane people are better shepherds in good times, sanity can be a severe liability in moments of crisis. A lifetime without the cyclical torment of mood disorders, Ghaemi explains, can leave one ill equipped to endure dire straits. He also clarifies which kinds of insanity, like psychosis, make for despotism and ineptitude, sometimes on a grand scale.

Ghaemi’s bold, authoritative analysis offers powerful new tools for determining who should lead us. But perhaps most profoundly, he encourages us to rethink our view of mental illness as a purely negative phenomenon. As A First-Rate Madness makes clear, the most common types of insanity can confer vital benefits on individuals and society at large—however high the price for those who endure these illnesses.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Nassir Ghamei’s book is a provocative examination of the link between leadership, depression, and mania. It will arouse enormous interest, together with anger and disagreement, and many people will want to read it.”

    Paul Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of A History of the American People

  • “Narrator Sean Runnette presents Ghaemi’s fascinating hypothesis with steadfastness and conviction…Runnette’s delivery will go a long way toward convincing listeners of the validity of Ghaemi’s well-researched and well-laid-out theory. A First-Rate Madness will have listeners reconsidering their views of mental illness and what makes a capable leader.”

    AudioFile

  • “Nassir Ghaemi reinvents psychohistory as a serious form of scientific inquiry. Along the way, he presents a bounty of startling facts about some of history’s great heroes and villains. Under his highly informed and skeptical gaze, our burnished icons—Lincoln and Sherman, Churchill and Hitler, Kennedy and Nixon, and others—are in for some serious resculpting.”

    Daniel Dennett, professor of philosophy at Tufts University and author of Breaking the Spell

  • “With brilliance and courage, Ghaemi explores the relationship of mental illness to creative leadership in times of crisis. He explains with great clarity the myriad meanings of mood disorder and other illnesses and ties this analysis to compassionate historical discussions of many of the most—and least—successful major leaders of the past two hundred years. This is a first-rate book.”

    Michael Fellman, professor emeritus of history at Simon Fraser University and author of Citizen Sherman

  • “No one who reads this brilliantly insightful book will ever look at history or politics the same way. Ghaemi uses his deep knowledge of medicine and psychiatry to take readers on a fascinating voyage into the minds of great leaders. His conclusions are startling, provocative, disturbing and deeply persuasive.”

    Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men

  • “Flouting conventional wisdom that sanity is a sine qua non for leadership, Ghaemi’s provocative thesis…should attract popular biography and history fans.”

    Booklist

  • “A diverting, exceedingly provocative argument—sure to attract both skeptical and convinced attention.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 H Wesselius | 2/8/2014

    " Although Ghaemi scores easy marketing points by looking at Kennedy and Hitler, there's some good analysis and thought provoking ideas. Ghaemi distances himself from psycho-history and instead focus on the actual psychology conditions of the historical persons. As someone who lives with constant depression, I found his analysis of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. interesting. In many respects, my admiration for these persons can be seen as recognizing kindred spirits. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Betsy Wiens | 1/28/2014

    " Very interesting..but I skipped around and just read what interested me. Learning many hidden facts about these leaders was very interesting but when the author spent time validating his theory (psycho-babble...I skipped! But I do believe he has a good point. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 1/25/2014

    " You're not okay, and that's ok. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gina | 1/25/2014

    " I like the subject matter and material the author writes about in this book. But the book seemed poorly organized. He would talk about one person's story and then all of a sudden refer back to another person's story. It was kind of confusing, and I didn't always know who the person was, or I'd confuse one person with another. If it was organized better, I would have liked it even more. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Austin | 1/19/2014

    " I enjoyed the authors objective views, and thought he made solid arguments. I enjoyed the additional insights on Kennedy as well. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kristel | 1/19/2014

    " I wanted to like this book. The premise was really interesting. However the mix of writing style and little to no actual facts made it almost unreadable. For the handful of interesting tibbits this book was not worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jesselyn | 1/7/2014

    " A very interesting look at why sometimes mentally 'unhealthy' leaders can actually do a better job in times of crisis. This juxtaposition was interesting, but I also found the general insights about depression and mental illness to be fascinating and informative as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Josiah | 1/2/2014

    " Interesting premise and engagingly written...it took me many pages to realize I didn't really care "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 10/19/2013

    " Book itself isn't edited all that well but the message is worth 5 stars. It's a worthwhile book if you are leading any group. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paula Matuskey | 9/29/2013

    " Although this book includes some already known anecdotes, it presents a compelling and new (to me)argument that our most mentally balanced leaders may not really be called to lead in times of crisis. great case studies. Builds on writing of J. Shenk in his book, Lincoln's Melancholy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chai | 3/21/2013

    " This is an important book about how mental illness can be a positive factor in leadership qualities. Totally fascinating. And yes, I also liked it because I have a hyperthymic personality -- and now I understand better some of about my leadership qualities, good & bad! :) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cynthia | 10/2/2012

    " For some reason I just couldn't get into this book. I read about 100 pages but I didn't think that the author's arguments really supported his thesis, and I wasn't motivated to go on. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Antoinette | 6/7/2012

    " Just as I thought! You have to be a fanatic to be a great leader - good or bad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Arloa Sutter | 12/10/2011

    " I'm not sure if I agree with the author's thesis that mental illness can be an asset to leadership, but this book presents interesting information about the personal struggles of leaders like Gandhi, JFK, MLK, Hitler and George Bush. It's worth a read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Glenn Williams | 12/8/2011

    " Ghaemi takes a psychiatrist's look at a series of great politicians from Churchill to Lincoln to Kennedy...and concludes they were all a bit whacked. Which, as it turns out, is why they were great leaders. Compelling bit of history for a different POV. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Valeri29 McConnell | 11/19/2011

    " A compelling a thought-provoking approach to history and our historical leaders. But including Ted Turner in with Lincoln, Churchill, MLK and Ghandi? Really? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Betsy | 10/13/2011

    " Very interesting..but I skipped around and just read what interested me. Learning many hidden facts about these leaders was very interesting but when the author spent time validating his theory (psycho-babble...I skipped! But I do believe he has a good point. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 10/12/2011

    " Interesting. With a history background I find the lack of footnotes distructing. However, the raw words just facinated me on linking the conclusions to support the topic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pamela | 9/24/2011

    " Interesting study of several leaders (Lincoln, Kennedy, Churchill, Hitler, Gandhi, and other) who had indications of depression or other mood disorders. Very interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz | 9/17/2011

    " A very interesting premise-- that some of the most famous and successful leaders in history suffered from mental illness-- but not all of the cases were convincing, and some seemed to be a pretty big stretch. I thought the author gave only a cursory look at a very complex subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 JoAnn | 9/10/2011

    " Very well written book that is more clinical in its approach to this topic! However, it is very readable. This are interesting perspectives. Provides a very different view of leadership to the reader.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stargrave | 9/2/2011

    " Interesting premise and engagingly written...it took me many pages to realize I didn't really care "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Valeri29 | 8/31/2011

    " A compelling a thought-provoking approach to history and our historical leaders. But including Ted Turner in with Lincoln, Churchill, MLK and Ghandi? Really? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stacy | 8/8/2011

    " So far, this is a very intriguing book. "

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About the Author
Author Nassir Ghaemi

Nassir Ghaemi is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, where he directs the Mood Disorders Program. He has degrees in history, philosophy, and public health and has published over one hundred scientific articles and several books on psychiatry.

About the Narrator

Sean Runnette, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, has also directed and produced more than two hundred audiobooks, including several Audie Award winners. He is a member of the American Repertory Theater company and has toured the United States and internationally with ART and Mabou Mines. His television and film appearances include Two If by Sea, Cop Land, Sex and the City, Law & Order, the award-winning film Easter, and numerous commercials.