odetosquirrel, November 10, 2006 (view all comments by odetosquirrel)
I finished Joshua Shenk's excellent book, Lincoln's Melancholy, a month ago. And to this day, I frequently think about the book. It was a wonderful read. It was very hard not to keep reading into the wee-hours of the night.
I felt like I was right there with Lincoln during his difficult times of melancholia (depression in todays terms). It was as if I was helping him while he was helping me. I'd catch myself just stopping at times to wrap my mind around how openly Lincoln talked about his melancholia. At times, he was even suicidal which he acknowledged he should not so much as carry a pocket knife. According to his friends, he often cried in public and acted out of his mind wandering the woods.
Yet, somehow, LIncoln managed to turn his melancholia into greatness. He was, no doubt, one of our greatest presidents. He did lead the Union army during the Civil War and become "the Great Emancipator." Absolutely...he was Great!
Even if your not interested in history, mental health, psychology or Lincoln, this book is worth reading. It's reassuring to think that as Lincoln was a very exceptional person, he was somewhat or at least a little like the rest of us.
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buckygirl, October 21, 2006 (view all comments by buckygirl)
I could not put this book down! Shenk has managed to write an inspiring account of an important persons affliction, one whic is shared by millions of Americans right now. The work is insightful, engaging, and uplifting. It has helped me to reframe my own struggle with depressive illness, and I take great inspiration from President Lincoln's honesty, tenacity, eloquence, and in his understanding that he just had to keep carrying on despite his melancholy to reach goals he set for himself, goals that we now know remain so noble.
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"A profoundly human and psychologically important examination of the melancholy that so pervaded Lincoln's life. His suffering, and transformation of that suffering into an astonishing grace and strength, are persuasively and beautifully described in this remarkable book." Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of An Unquiet Mind
by Newsweek Magazine,
"This book is full of lessons not just on Lincoln and mental health but on the strange alchemy of great leadership."
by Mike Wallace, cohost of CBS's 60 Minutes,
"Lincoln's Melancholy is an extraordinary story, for the depth of its scholarship and the lure of its style."
"Compelling...An estimable contribution to the Lincoln literature."
"Lincoln not only coped with his depression, he harnessed it. Joshua Wolf Shenk [explains how] masterfully and memorably." Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
by Library Journal (Starred Review),
"[Shenk argues] with uncommon common sense, a rare understanding of historical context, and a close reading of the primary sources."
by Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review),
"A significant contribution to the study of Lincoln and his battle with depression that will resonate with contemporary Americans...inspirational."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Thanks to Shenk's own Lincoln-like sensitivity and sagacious commentary, we have a new perspective for understanding not only one of our most important political figures, but also for re-thinking our assumptions about mental health and the full range of appropriate therapies in modern American life."
In this astonishing and illuminating book, Joshua Wolf Shenk reveals the deep melancholy that pervaded Abraham Lincoln's life and its influence on his mature character. Mired in personal suffering as a young man, Lincoln forged a hard path toward mental health. His coping strategies and depressive insight ultimately helped the sixteenth president find the strength that he, and America, needed to overcome the nations greatest turmoil. Drawing on seven years of research, Shenk offers a nuanced, revelatory perspective on Lincoln and his legacy.
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