Archive for February, 2012

February 23rd, 2012

A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi

by Gwen


Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

Ghaemi has a very controversial idea/premise here….

“This book argues that in at least one vitally important circumstance insanity produces good results and sanity is a problem. In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.”

Now, I am sure that many people would read that or the blub on the book and think that Ghaemi is mad himself. I have chronic depression (often called dysthymic disorder) and I read this and thought, “Wait, there are people that can do great things while suffering from this? And sometimes, might even be better equipped than people without it?”

Note: I am not at this time announcing my candidacy for President and don’t pretend to think that I am going to change the world because of my condition. The idea that it can be overcome to the point of being a leader is inspiring though.

Ghaemi mentions four elements or characteristics of mania and depression that come in handy in a crisis; Empathy, Realism, Creativity, and Resilience. Then, he breaks down the book, by highlighting leaders that most likely had a mental illness and used one of those elements to their advantage.

For instance, he looks at General Sherman when talking about Creativity. While I am that they are some that would argue about whether or not Sherman actually was bipolar, there is no doubt that he had major mood swings throughout his life. What no one will quibble about is that Sherman created an entire new form of warfare with his march to the sea. He could see that the war was getting nowhere fast and that there had to be a way to end the bloodshed. His solution was to take the war to the people in order to break down the morale of the entire South.

“Creativity may have to do less with solving problems than with finding the right problems to solve.”

Getting back to the book as a whole. There are a few stumbles……

  • Ghaemi tends to overuse phrases, like “We shall soon see…” and while constantly redefining terms so that you don’t have to flip back to remind yourself of what he meant is nice, he does it ad nauseam.
  • Also, I am still completely flummoxed as to why Ted Turner is in the book at all. While he does probably suffer from a mental illness, I don’t think he belongs on a list of leaders that include, Sherman, Lincoln, Churchill, Ghandi, MLK, or even Hitler.
  • The last problem I had was with his bias coming out during the sections on George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Call me crazy, but if you want the idea of writing a psychological history to take off, you shouldn’t be letting your political bias ooze out quite so much.

I found the book absolutely freaking compelling. So much so that while I borrowed the ebook from the library, I just ordered the hardcover so that I would have an easy copy to refer to in the future. I couldn’t stop reading passages to my family members as I was reading it.

Are there going to be leaps that Ghaemi asks you to take that you don’t want to or don’t agree with?  Yes, even I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid for everything and you shouldn’t either. Walking away though, you might find yourself with a deeper understanding of what it means to be mentally ill and that the stigma that society places on us are just that, a stigma, not based in any actually fact. There are plenty more eye-openers to take-away as well.

February 21st, 2012

Ten Tea Parties by Joseph Cummins

by Gwen


Quick phrase association game-

When I say Tea Party, what do you think of?
Let me guess, you thought Boston and the beginning of the American Revolution. Right?
You may have also thought of the current political craze/party as well, but forget that for this exercise.

The Tea Party that rocked the world didn’t happen in a vacuum, it was actually a catalyst for many other tea parties all over the colonies. Towns up and down the Atlantic reacted to the passage of the Tea Act in 1773, sometimes with simple angry editorials or boycotts and other times by going so far as destroying tea and the ships that carried it.

We learned about the kerfuffle in Boston when we were in school, but most K-12 history books fail to mention that there were protests in many other places as well. For example, did you know that women for the first time, protested for rights in America?

The women of Edenton, North Carolina sent a letter to be published in the Morning Chronicle and the London Advertiser.

“We the ladies of Edenton do hereby solemnly engage not to conform to ye pernicious Custom of Drinking Tea or that we, the aforesaid Ladies, will not promote ye wear of any manufacture from England, until such time that all Acts which tend to enslave this our Native Country shall be repealed.”

The Colonists as a whole, male and female, Bostonian or Philadelphian, were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. They reacted, in a multitude of ways.

By choosing to highlight just ten cities, Joseph Cummins makes it clear that no longer were the colonies just scattered, selfish, and independent of each other. They were ready to band together and fight the oppression in a way that the English never saw coming. The book itself is easy to chew and digest for just about any reader because he gives enough detail to paint the differences of each city, but doesn’t go on and on like a more scholarly book might. That makes it a quick and enjoyable read. It is also great to learn that women took a more prominent role than what we have been led to believe from those musty old American history textbooks.


 Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot by Joseph Cummins

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; 1 edition (January 17, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1594745609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745607

February 6th, 2012

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

by Gwen


I once read a book that was over 17 feet long and yet, it only had 82 average size pages.

The concept and packaging is what makes this one stand out. You always hear that there are two stories to every relationship, his and hers in this case. What you never come across is a book that you read both sides of the story like The Thorn and the Blossom.


The pages are connected like a fan or an accordion, there are two covers and no spine, allowing you to just flip it over and read the other viewpoint. The experience was a bit freaky at first, didn’t know where to put my hands without the strong guidance of a spine provides. Once I got over that and got into the story, I couldn’t put it down because…I knew that if I kept reading, I was going to be able to fill in the bigger picture of the story.

The story itself was, somewhat forgettable. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the world’s best love story. The magic of the book is the format; the utter uniqueness of the connected pages and novel (pun intended) concept of reading in two directions.


The Thorn and the Blossom


Of course, the novelty of it also makes it challenging to review. Introverted Jen did it much better than I did.

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

  • Hardcover: 82 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (January 17, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 159474551X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745515