Monday, May 6, 2013

A First-Rate Madness

A First-Rate Madness
Nassir Ghaemi

It’s so tempting to label A First-Rate Madness a first-rate book. But it is. It’s one of those wonderful pieces that hits the nexus of science, emotion, and human interest.

Nassir Ghaemi’s thesis, drawn from an extensive historical study of leaders, is if your country is doing OK, you just need a ruler who’s a normal guy (yes, historically, most of them have been guys). But if you’re in financial jeopardy or, worse, a full-on war, you’re going to need someone depressed who can see things and people as they really are, or someone who’s totally manic, able to work ‘round the clock and make the troops take care of business.

Sherman, Turner, Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi, King, FDR, Kennedy, Hitler, Bush, Blair, Nixon: the crazies are not the ones you might expect, and the bonus of examining each is the wonderful potted histories and diverting anecdotes. And the gentleness with which the stigma of madness is dampened.

- Peter Ferguson

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