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

“Was Hitler mad?”
“Corollary questions are: Were Nazi leaders mentally ill? Was the German nation, as a whole, deranged?” ― S. Nassir Ghaemi, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

At  First- Rate Madness is a book by  Dr. Nassir Ghaemi. It was first published in 2011 and as the title suggests, the book deals with mental illness and its connection to the leadership. It might not be the first thing you think of, but notable leaders such as Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, Hitler all suffered from some sort of a mental illness. Or if not of mental illness then they were the ones to face big difficulties in their lives as was the case with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s who spent last years of his life in a wheelchair.

The author doesn’t want to point out any upsides of mental illnesses, however, the book seems to do just that, when it argues how some mental illnesses such as mania and depression appear to promote a kind of crisis leadership. And characteristics that are associated with leadership: realism, resilience, empathy, and creativity.

“The depressed person is mired in the past; the manic person is obsessed with the future. Both destroy the present in the process.”  ― S. Nassir Ghaemi, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

For me, this was a very fascinating and refreshing read. And no German nation is not deranged as a whole. Regarding madness or mental illnesses…I don’t think it’s the first thing we think about the leaders that they are half mad or burdened by a mental illness. Often, instead, we see them as icons and worship them. Ghaemi has some interesting facts in his book, however, I would have enjoyed it much more if it would have been longer. I think that would have enabled the author to cover more theory and present more facts as to why he chose those particular leaders. Moreover, the book lacked the presence of the female leaders and current day leaders. I think that would have made this a much better read. All in all, I learned many new things so 3/5

How-To Read A First-Rate Madness
1. Very refreshing read especially if you have read a lot of political biographies and need a break from them. However,  I wouldn’t take it too seriously or after reading this. You shouldn’t automatically assume that all leaders must have some kind of a mental illness.
2. I warmly recommend this book if you like historical or psychological nonfiction or biographies.
3. Just 340 pages make it quite a light book when you consider how heavy the topic is.
4. There is some lack of neutrality in describing some leaders like George W. Bush and then because it’s a man’s world, there are no female leaders mentioned.

Thoughts? Are they all mad?

Picture of the book &cover image: Suspicion, rage, remorse Rare Books Keywords: Physiognomy; Bell, Charles

Top Ten Scifi Books On My Winter TBR

As always, Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and the BookishThis week’s topic is: Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR and as we are still in SciFi month so I made this post a part it. Check it out.

1.The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff








Goodreads blurb: The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

2. Artemis by Andy Weir

Goodreads blurb: Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

3. Saga #8 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Goodreads blurb: After the traumatic events of the War for Phang, Hazel, her parents, and their surviving companions embark on a life-changing adventure at the westernmost edge of the universe.

4. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown (Red Rising Saga #4)

Goodreads blurb: They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life. 

5. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Goodreads blurb: Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rule their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons, Lord of Light.

6. WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Goodreads blurb: WE tells the story of the minutely organized United State, where all citizens are not individuals but only he-Numbers and she-Numbers existing in identical glass apartments with every action regulated by the “Table of Hours.” It is a community dedicated to the proposition that freedom and happiness are incompatible; that most men believe their freedom to be more than a fair exchange for a high level of materialistic happiness.

7. All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Goodreads blurb: On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

8. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Goodreads blurb: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

9. Larklight Series by Philip Reeve

Goodreads blurb: Arthur (Art) Mumsby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in a huge and rambling house called Larklight…that just happens to be traveling through outer space. When a visitor called Mr. Webster arrives for a visit, it is far from an innocent social call. Before long Art and Myrtle are off on an adventure to the furthest reaches of space, where they will do battle with evil forces in order to save each other―and the universe.

10.  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Goodreads blurb: Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”. Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

What books are on your winter TBR? What books are you looking forward to being published? Have you read any of these? Tell me where I should start.

Picture by: https://pixabay.com/fi/users/tombud-1908037/ and Goodreads cover images.

My Love-Hate Relationship with War and Peace

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace is a great Russian masterpiece by Leo Tolstoi. I disliked it before it even began. In the edition I read, there were some forewords from Leo Tolstoy himself. In foreword, he tells how War & Peace concentrates on the life of aristocrats. He says that he knows that merchants, peasants and musicians exist but that he thinks that their lives are too monotonous to describe. All what these people can think of is how upper classes are better and be envious and greedy about it. Their lives are not beautiful nor does telling their story represent the era. Moreover, he says how he could never understand what baker thinks of when he sells the bread neither he wants to understand what cow thinks of when it’s milked.

“Everything depends on upbringing. ”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace


Of course, he says biggest reason to think like this is because he is aristocrat himself. He loves beautiful art and beautiful clothes. He concludes that he doesn’t believe that anyone but aristocrats would have higher intellect, acquired taste in art and even a bit of honesty in them. After saying all this, Tolstoy apologizes, he says that now you know and you might see him as reactionary idiot before you even read the book.

Of course when you get to the novel itself, it’s stunning. Tolstoy has appealing views on humanity. For example Nikolai Rostov realizes in the battle how his enemy is another human being, just like him. The author said himself that War and Peace is “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”. War and Peace is everything. It is very (,very, very) long (which makes it hard to read sometimes) and at times it is difficult to grasp, yet it’s really beautifully written book and it has beautiful and deep set of answers to life’s every situation. I love how the author writes the history of  the Russian nobility dvoryane, the historical details and simply how he writes about war. If you’re unfamiliar with Russian history, reading this book is a great way to start.

“Man cannot possess anything as long as he fears death. But to him who does not fear it, everything belongs. If there was no suffering, man would not know his limits, would not know himself. ”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace circles the life of five aristocratic families but there are hundreds of characters in this book. From all walks of life. What makes it so difficult to review this book is that it can’t be put to any genre or even be compared with any other novel.

Finally, (after years of reflecting on this great classic) when I think back to forewords of the book, I think Tolstoy knew exactly what he was doing to me. I am pretty sure he wanted me to be a bit frustrated about his views.  After all, Tolstoy had read Les Misérables and he praised Victor Hugo after reading it. These two novels are written for different point of views, however in many ways they are highly similar. Do I even hate War and Peace…No,

I’d give War & Peace 4/5 stars.

How-To Read War and Peace
1. You can find it for free in eform, for example on Project Gutenberg. It’s really a massive book with nearly 1500 pages so take your time with it. It might seem dragged at some points but Tolstoy explains the characters, surroundings and events in depth.
2. Prepare to encounter great amount of different characters and in case you like deep characters and characters who constantly develop during the book, this book is for you.
3. If your edition has forewords from the author, don’t read them before you have read the whole book and reflected on it.
4. If you did not enjoy reading War & Peace, do read Anna Karenina if you haven’t. Anna Karenina is amazing and my favorite book of Leo Tolstoy.
5. Read it because you’ll be so happy to have finished it whether you liked i t or not, now you always have something to talk about in all the book clubs.
6. If you love this book, do read Les Misérables as well. You will love it!

“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Have you read War and Peace? What did yout think of it?