A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness (Paperback)

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The New York Times bestseller

“A glistening psychological history, faceted largely by the biographies of eight famous leaders . . .” —The Boston Globe

“A provocative thesis . . . Ghaemi’s book deserves high marks for original thinking.” —The Washington Post

“Provocative, fascinating.” —Salon.com

Historians have long puzzled over the apparent mental instability of great and terrible leaders alike: Napoleon, Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, and others. In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, offers a myth-shattering exploration of the powerful connections between mental illness and leadership and sets forth a controversial, compelling thesis: The very qualities that mark those with mood disorders also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. From the importance of Lincoln's "depressive realism" to the lackluster leadership of exceedingly sane men as Neville Chamberlain, A First-Rate Madness overturns many of our most cherished perceptions about greatness and the mind.

About the Author


Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. He has published more than a hundred scientific articles and several books on psychiatry.

Praise For…


“A glistening psychological history, faceted largely by the biographies of eight famous leaders . . . A First-Rate Madness is carefully plotted and sensibly argued.” —The Boston Globe

“Ghaemi isn’t the first to claim that madness is a close relative of genius, or even the first to extend the idea into politics.  But he does go further than others . . . His explanations are elegant, too—intuitively accurate and banked off the latest psychiatric research.” —Newsweek

“A provocative thesis . . . Ghaemi’s book deserves high marks for original thinking.” —The Washington Post 

“Ghaemi is a remarkably disciplined writer, and he examines both psychiatry and history with impressive clarity and sensitivity. A First-Rate Madness will almost certainly be one of the most fascinating books of the year, not just because of the author's lucid prose and undeniable intelligence, but because of his provocative thesis: 'For abnormal challenges, abnormal leaders are needed.'” —NPR.org

“Provocative, fascinating.” —Salon.com
Product Details
ISBN: 9780143121336
ISBN-10: 0143121332
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Pages: 352
Language: English