Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

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Drawing on seven years of his own research and the work of other esteemed Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth president harnessed his depression to fuel his astonishing success.
Lincoln found the solace and tactics he needed to deal with the nation’s worst crisis in the “coping strategies” he had developed over a lifetime of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies.

With empathy and authority gained from his own experience with depression, Shenk crafts a nuanced, revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy. Based on careful, intrepid research, Lincoln’s Melancholy unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president brought America through its greatest turmoil.

Shenk relates Lincoln’s symptoms, including mood swings and at least two major breakdowns, and offers compelling evidence of the evolution of his disease, from “major depression” in his twenties and thirties to “chronic depression” later on. Shenk reveals the treatments Lincoln endured and his efforts to come to terms with his melancholy, including a poem he published on suicide and his unpublished writings on the value of personal—and national—suffering. By consciously shifting his goal away from personal contentment (which he realized he could not attain) and toward universal justice, Lincoln gained the strength and insight that he, and America, required to transcend profound darkness.
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About the author

JOSHUA WOLF SHENK is a curator, essayist, and the author of Lincoln's Melancholy, a New York Times Notable Book. A contributor to The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, and other publications, he directs the Arts in Mind series on creativity and serves on the general council of The Moth. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Published on
Oct 2, 2006
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780547526898
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Revolutionary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Praise for the original edition “Theodore Roosevelt in all his infinite variety—the vitality of him, the charm, the humor, the intellectual avidity, the love of people, the flattering devotion to his country. To a surprising degree the personality flashes before the reader as it flashed in life before his contemporaries.”
—Hermann Hagedorn, friend and biographer of Theodore Roosevelt; Secretary and Director, Theodore Roosevelt Association, 1919–1957 A Classic Biography of Theodore Roosevelt—Reissued on the Sesquicentennial of His Birth This classic biography—copublished by the Theodore Roosevelt Association and The Lyons Press—includes an introduction by distinguished Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris, and historical photographs from the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard University. The seven Rooseveltian worlds Wagenknecht explores are those of Action, Human Relations, Thought, Family, Spiritual Values, Public Affairs, and War and Peace. As Morris observes in his introduction, Wagenknecht conveys every “interesting, spectacular, poignant, admirable, and . . . distressing or even pathological” aspect of Theodore Roosevelt without ever sentimentalizing him. As he also notes, “Wagenknecht came to grips with the centripetal personality coalescing from all this material by viewing it as a sort of biographical solar system—seven contrasting, yet gravitationally linked, ‘worlds'”—worlds that come together with compelling force in this remarkable volume
The power of collaboration, from Lennon and McCartney to Wozniak and Jobs: “An inspiring book that also happens to be a great read” (Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive).
 
Throughout history, partners have buoyed each other to better work—though often one member is little known to the general public. (See Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, or Vincent and Theo van Gogh.) Powers of Two draws on neuroscience, social psychology, and cultural history to present the social foundations of creativity, with the pair as its primary embodiment.
 
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“A rare glimpse into the private realms of duos . . . A natural storyteller.” —The New York Times
 
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“We sometimes think of creativity as coming from brilliant loners. In fact, it more often happens when bright people pair up and complement each other. Shenk’s fascinating book shows how to spark the power of this phenomenon.” —Walter Isaacson
 
“Surprising, compelling . . . Shenk banishes the idea of solitary genius by demonstrating that our richest art and science come from collaboration: we need one another not only for love, but also for thinking and imagining and growing and being.” —Andrew Solomon
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Turn: Washington’s Spies, now an original series on AMC

Based on remarkable new research, acclaimed historian Alexander Rose brings to life the true story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and deep into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the courageous, flawed men who inhabited this wilderness of mirrors—including the spymaster at the heart of it all.

In the summer of 1778, with the war poised to turn in his favor, General George Washington desperately needed to know where the British would strike next. To that end, he unleashed his secret weapon: an unlikely ring of spies in New York charged with discovering the enemy’s battle plans and military strategy.

Washington’s small band included a young Quaker torn between political principle and family loyalty, a swashbuckling sailor addicted to the perils of espionage, a hard-drinking barkeep, a Yale-educated cavalryman and friend of the doomed Nathan Hale, and a peaceful, sickly farmer who begged Washington to let him retire but who always came through in the end. Personally guiding these imperfect everyday heroes was Washington himself. In an era when officers were gentlemen, and gentlemen didn’ t spy, he possessed an extraordinary talent for deception—and proved an adept spymaster.

The men he mentored were dubbed the Culper Ring. The British secret service tried to hunt them down, but they escaped by the closest of shaves thanks to their ciphers, dead drops, and invisible ink. Rose’s thrilling narrative tells the unknown story of the Revolution–the murderous intelligence war, gunrunning and kidnapping, defectors and executioners—that has never appeared in the history books. But Washington’s Spies is also a spirited, touching account of friendship and trust, fear and betrayal, amid the dark and silent world of the spy.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“An elegant synthesis done by the leading scholar in the field, which nicely integrates the work on the American Revolution over the last three decades but never loses contact with the older, classic questions that we have been arguing about for over two hundred years.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers

A magnificent account of the revolution in arms and consciousness that gave birth to the American republic.

When Abraham Lincoln sought to define the significance of the United States, he naturally looked back to the American Revolution. He knew that the Revolution not only had legally created the United States, but also had produced all of the great hopes and values of the American people. Our noblest ideals and aspirations-our commitments to freedom, constitutionalism, the well-being of ordinary people, and equality-came out of the Revolutionary era. Lincoln saw as well that the Revolution had convinced Americans that they were a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty. The Revolution, in short, gave birth to whatever sense of nationhood and national purpose Americans have had.

No doubt the story is a dramatic one: Thirteen insignificant colonies three thousand miles from the centers of Western civilization fought off British rule to become, in fewer than three decades, a huge, sprawling, rambunctious republic of nearly four million citizens. But the history of the American Revolution, like the history of the nation as a whole, ought not to be viewed simply as a story of right and wrong from which moral lessons are to be drawn. It is a complicated and at times ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not blindly celebrated or condemned. How did this great revolution come about? What was its character? What were its consequences? These are the questions this short history seeks to answer. That it succeeds in such a profound and enthralling way is a tribute to Gordon Wood’s mastery of his subject, and of the historian’s craft.
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and in conjunction with the Library of Congress 2009 Bicentennial Exhibition, In Lincoln’s Hand offers an unprecedented look at perhaps our greatest president through vivid images of his handwritten letters, speeches, and even childhood notebooks—many never before made available to the public.

Edited by leading Lincoln scholars Joshua Wolf Shenk and Harold Holzer, this companion volume to the Library of Congress exhibition offers a fresh and intimate perspective on a man whose thoughts and words continue to affect history. To underscore the resonance of Lincoln’s writings on contemporary culture, each manuscript is accompanied by a reflection on Lincoln by a prominent American from the arts, politics, literature, or entertainment, including Toni Morrison, Sam Waterston, Robert Pinsky, Gore Vidal, and presidents Carter, George H.W., and George W. Bush.

While Lincoln’s words are quite well known, the original manuscripts boast a unique power and beauty and provide rare insight into the creative process. In this collection we can see the ebb and flow of Lincoln’s thoughts, emotions, hopes, and doubts. We can see where he paused to dip his pen in the ink or to capture an idea. We can see where he added a word or phrase, and where he crossed out others, searching for the most precise, and concise, expression. In these marks on the page, Lincoln’s character is available to us with a profound immediacy. From such icons as the Gettysburg Address and the inaugural speeches to seldom-seen but superb rarities, here is the world as Lincoln saw and shaped it in words and images that resound to this very day.
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