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

Extended Audio Sample A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness, by Nassir Ghaemi Click for printable size audiobook cover
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:
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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.”


  • “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.”


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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