Although this book may initially provide some interesting reading, I find it leads to, at least in one instance, some premature conclusions without complete and accurate information. As another reviewer in the United States once wrote, the author: "contrives the data to fit his thesis". I think at least on one of the personalities he wrote about I could honestly say his thinking was seriously flawed.
In Chapter Ten "A First Rate Temperament: Roosevelt" the author describes former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as someone whose hyperthymic personality "made him open to new ideas, and charismatic, but also, in the face of polio, hyperthymia helped him to be resilient, to rise above and better understand human suffering....His mind was agile and he did not recoil from the most terrible of decisions...He knew only people were hurting; he knew what it was like to hurt; and his personality would not allow him to sit still. He tried whatever worked and with that method achieved astounding success." The author writes that Roosevelt's polio "seems to have given him a degree of empathy that we've seen in other leaders who endured depression."
An agile mind? Not recoiling from terrible decisions? Increased empathy? I hardly think so and would STRONGLY disagree with that conclusion knowing what I know about the "rest of the story" as a Lithuanian-American whose parents fled their native country to escape certain death, imprisonment or forced deportation by Soviet occupation armies in 1944. Take Roosevelt's behavior at the Yalta conference in February 1945 as detailed in retired Lt Colonel Nargele's book Terror Survivors and Freedom Fightersand in Lithuanian partisan resistance fighter Juozas Luksa's book Forest Brothers: The Account of an Anti-Soviet Lthuanian Freedom Fighter, 1944-1948 Roosevelt turned his back on scores of innocent people forcibly occupied by the Soviets at the end of the war. His were NOT the actions of a man whose intellect was "hardly inferior", one to whom "Innovations never frightened" and who "knew a little about almost anything". Roosevelt was in fact foolish when he was quoted as stating "let it slip that the United States would not protest if the Soviet Union attempted to annex the three Baltic States." His ignorance and lack of concern costs thousands of Baltic people their lives. While Roosevelt chummied up to "Uncle Joe" (Stalin) the Soviets carried out a program of genocide from 1941 throughout the 1950's in the Baltics with, as Laime Vince states, in the introduction to Forest Brothers: The Account of an Anti-Soviet Lthuanian Freedom Fighter, 1944-1948 "the goal of subduing the local population and integrating it into the Soviet Union. Those who resisted...were disposed of by being transported via cattle car to hard labor camps in Siberia ....During these years the Soviets deported about 130,000 people from Lithuania ....In total about 118,599 Lithuanias died in Siberia." At Yalta this supposedly "empathic" President who "knew only that people were hurting" agreed not only to give Stalin everything he wanted at Yalta but MUCH MORE "to include the destruction of Dresden ahd Hamburg, the enslavement of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and all of Eastern Europe". This from the type of man the author depicted him of being? Hardly.
I am not as much aware of other discrepancies in this book but having read some of the other American reviewers comments ,it causes one to pause as to the validity of other conclusions made in the book. It is, of course, fascinating reading in some areas but the book's inaccuracies can be disturbing. I, therefore, can only really give the book an average rating.
This is a fantastic book. I read it in almost one day (could not though). Author brilliantly examines, identifies and explains psychiatric conditions in some of USA's most beloved leaders. Helped me to understand behaviours that hitherto were somewhat opaque. Author is also using primary sources hitherto unutilized by other forensic historians. Top rating,
Ghaemi might be a first rate psychiatrist and teacher, but he ought to know that he cannot make a diagnosis of psychiatric conditions on any person unless he is the attending psychiatrist. None of the famous men he diagnosed were his patients. Consequently, he draws on facts from books and other records. In the case of Mahatma Gandhi's case, the author drew his facts mainly from Gandhi's autobiography, which the author (Ghaemi) suspected to have concealed facts. He then mad his diagnosis of Gandhi on the basis that the stories were true. Ghaemi also stated that a leader who is mani-depressive is not manic or depressed all the time, indeed, he is often "sane". If that were the case, how would Ghaemi know if the episodes or conduct of the personalities he discussed were performed during a lucid interval or in a moment of "madness"? In the end, some of his diagnoses may be correct, but without a proper medical and psychiatric examination, his diagnoses may also likely be flawed. The book's entire foundation was based on facts and history, which (as other reviewers have pointed out) have not been scrupulously checked, and is therefore suspect. The book was well written, but must be read with a dose of scepticism.