Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TLC Book Tour Stop: A First Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi

Title: A First Rate Madness
Author: Nassir Ghaemi
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publish Date: August 4th, 2011
Source: Received a copy from TLC Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a history buff.
  • You like reading about what makes your heroes tick.
  • You have an interest in psychology.
What's The Story?:

From "An investigation into the surprisingly deep correlation between mental illness and successful leadership, as seen through some of history's greatest politicians, generals, and businesspeople.

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"

My Two Cents:

Studying what makes leaders great and what qualities leaders have in common is nothing new but the way that Ghaemi looks at people like Ted Turner, JFK, and Gandhi is off the beaten path. We want to know what made these people great. Why did they rise to the top? How did they become such great leaders? Can we learn from them? Can we emulate their characteristics? This book covers some of the most well known men from the world's recent history. All of the men that Ghaemi covers have one thing in common, they have some sort of mood disorder.

I really liked the way that this book was laid out. Ghaemi devotes a chapter to each of the characteristics that he claims are both present in great leaders and those that have mood disorders including realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity. Each chapter begins with a description of the characteristic and then profiles of leaders who exemplified those characteristics. It was really interesting to see how that connection between a mood disorder, something that is often seen as debilitating in some way or limiting, and great leadership in tough times. 

The book was fascinating. Ghaemi looks at personal letters and history to show how these leaders were affected by their mood disorders. Ghaemi tests his hypothesis even further by looking at how leaders without mood disorders sometimes don't handle tough times as well as they could. He looks specifically at Tony Blair and George W. Bush. One thing I did wonder is whether or not Ghaemi believes that you must have some sort of mood disorder in order to be a good leader. That point is never really made clear in the book.

You don't have to be a psychology major to get anything out of this book. Ghaemi does a really good job of both drawing the reader in and giving a thorough picture of where he is coming from. One of my favorite things about books is when I'm left with new questions to explore after I'm finished reading and A First Rate Madness definitely did that for me!

Bottom line: This is a very interesting study in leadership and gave me a lot of things to think about. This book was definitely enjoyable.

Looking for more information?:

Visit Dr. Ghaemi's website, his blog Mood Swings and his other blog Free Associations.

Don't Forget To Follow The Rest of The Tour:

Tuesday, August 23rd: Justice Jennifer
Wednesday, August 24th: Amusing Reviews
Thursday, August 25th: A Library of My Own
Friday, August 26th: Chunky Monkey
Monday, August 29th: What Would the Founders Think?
Tuesday, August 30th: Lit Endeavors
Wednesday, September 7th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, September 8th: The Left Coaster
Tuesday, September 13th: Deep Muck Big Rake
Thursday, September 15th: Everyone Needs Therapy
Tuesday, September 20th: Cogitamus and LitBrit
Friday, September 23rd: Whiskey Fire
Wednesday, September 28th: The Abraham Lincoln Blog
Date TBD: They Gave Us a Republic


  1. Definitely a fascinating premise for a book! I'm a big history buff and love reading about psychology, too. Sounds like one I would enjoy.

  2. I'm glad I don't need a pysch degree to understand this one because it sounds fascinating to me. Thanks for the great review for the tour!

  3. I love history books--I will have to look for this one!


  4. @Meg I knew that a lot of these people suffered from mood disorders but I had never made the connection between the disorders and how they led.


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