Book Review: A First-Rate Madness

Last Updated: 29 Aug 2019
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Uncovering the links between leadership and mental illness


In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, explores the powerful connections between depression, bipolar disorder and leadership. He argues that the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders—creativity, resilience, empathy, and “depressive realism”—also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. He contrasts the accomplishments of figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr., to the lackluster leadership of “mentally normal” men such as Neville Chamberlain, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair. A First-Rate Madness overturns perceptions about greatness and the mind and provides a unique insight for understanding our current political leaders and weighing candidates.


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  1. Read this novel with a new way of looking at history. What a wonderful journey it was. A must read to those that do not look at their mental illness as a possible good thing in some ways. Could not put down and read long into the night, even though it messed up my sleep routine. It was well worth it.

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