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Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness | [Joshua Wolf Shenk]

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

Drawing on a wealth of his own research and the work of other 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 developed over a lifetime of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies.
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Publisher's Summary

Drawing on a wealth of his own research and the work of other 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 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, and in the process unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president guided America through its greatest turmoil.

Listen to Joshua Wolf Shenk talk about Lincoln's Melancholy on The Bob Edwards Show.

©2005 Joshua Wolf Shenk; (P)2005 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"This is sensitive history, with important implications for the present." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    chris las vegas, NV, United States 09-09-10
    chris las vegas, NV, United States 09-09-10
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    "Hands down awesome"

    I almost didn't buy this because the sample on here sounded a little shoddy. However, I am glad I bought it and would say the actual audio is superb. I enjoyed the narrator and the content of this book stunned me at every turn. It is a great book for anyone who has struggled through depression and asked themselves, 'is the answer to my problems in a pill, or in channeling my pain into something more powerful and meaningful'? It is for anyone who likes Lincoln and to learn about History. One of the best audio's I've ever listened to. I'm buying 5 in print editions for friends this Christmas.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim 04-25-10
    Jim 04-25-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Well handled subject"

    The author has handled this subject well. Overall however the book could stand some editing. The topic is covered too well and often redundantly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline 06-14-09
    Caroline 06-14-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "fascinating"

    I found this book to be very informative--things I never knew about Lincoln and the demons he dealt with all of his life. The author implements current medical knowledge to explain the torture Lincoln's mind endured during a time when not much was known about depression. Well worth the listen!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. 04-23-15
    Dr. 04-23-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Lincoln's Melancholy"

    I really enjoyed this book!! Even GREAT men can have shortfalls & STILL be great!!! They can become icons in our culture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail Centennial, CO, United States 03-13-15
    Gail Centennial, CO, United States 03-13-15 Member Since 2011

    Book Woman

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    "New information on Lincoln the man."

    I learned a lot about Lincoln's personal life and trials. His depression and possible bipolar problems make his achievements even that more remarkable. His use of humor to make himself feel better reminded me of Robin Williams and helped me understand Robin's suicide a little better. Not anything I ever would have thought of. This is a very insightful book and I think would be appreciated by anyone interested in Lincoln.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maryann Madsen 07-27-14 Listener Since 2003

    I read, I write, I paint and enjoy photography. Is there supposed to be more?

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    "A Different Perspective On A Great Man"

    This book made me re-think everything I know about Lincoln and melancholy. Perhaps the great become great because of their melancholy, rather than in spite of it. There's a depth of perception that can't help but bring about a dampening of spirits, but that doesn't mean one gives up or lose their determination to make the world a better place. I enjoyed every part of this book--the story, the uncovering of new information, the narration--and wouldn't mind listening to it again. The subject of this biography is one that is loved the more times one reads about his life and experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 02-03-13
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 02-03-13 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lincoln wouldn't have been elected in our time"

    This book asks a question which isn't answered: was Lincoln depressed because he was astoundingly empathetic, or was he empathetic because he was depressed? It's a question that can't be answered, at least at this point in time, but it's certainly worth the discussion.

    I think that this book is worthy of the read, even without knowing much of Lincoln's background, although I can't vouch for that - I spent part of my childhood in Illinois, and I didn't even have to imagine Lincoln's Springfiled home. I just had to think back on a fourth grade field trip.

    I was surprised to realize that severe depression - "melancholy" - was not hidden in Lincoln's time. His friends knew when he went into melancholy, and organized watches and care. It would be called "intervention" now, or maybe he'd be on a 5150 hold in California. It's interesting to think that one of the foundations of his personality was accepted in the 19th century, but so hidden and shameful now that he would never have become President. The stigma of severe depression is lifting somewhat now - for example Jesse Jackson Jr. was re-elected, even with the illness - but it hasn't happened yet.

    I finished this book several months ago, and from time to time, I think over the unanswered question. That is the mark of a great book - one that stays in your mind long after it is done.

    I do have a criticism of the author's style - sometimes Joshua Wolf Shrenk goes down a tangled, winding path in discussing the psychology, and it's easy to forget the point he is trying to make. I had to rewind several times to figure that out.

    [If you found this review "helpful", please let me know by clicking the "helpful" button.]

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 10-24-12
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 10-24-12

    Karim Marquette

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    "A Must For Anyone Who Has Suffered from Depression"
    What did you love best about Lincoln's Melancholy?

    It truly amazed me to learn that Lincoln suffered from acute depression. I could identify with many experiences he had related to depression. It was also beneficial to learn that to be melancholic in Lincoln's day could be perceived as a virtue. It certainly doesn't have the stigma it has today.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I learned that even great men such as Lincoln have suffered from depression. That depression can actually enhance one's life experience.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    WILLIAM 10-24-12
    WILLIAM 10-24-12 Member Since 2010
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    "You learn something new everyday!"

    Absolutely great! Very important read for anybody who thinks they know everything
    about our greatest President and anybody who wishes to learn about mental illness.
    The book is told in sort of a lecture like presentation but then after a few minutes, you feel as if the writer( Mr. Shenk ) and the narrator (Mr. Davidson) are talking to YOU personally.
    I listened to this every day on my way to work and hated when I arrived there. Couldn't wait to head home, to get back into this wonderful book.
    Enjoy-
    Well recommended!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elicka 12-23-11
    Elicka 12-23-11 Member Since 2010

    Non-fiction, fiction--I read widely. Except bodice rippers. I'd rather pull my own eyelashes out than read romance. Avid, happy reader.

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    "Fascinating listen"

    Wow--what an interesting book! This is the first book I've read about Lincoln, and it made me want to read more. If you suffer from depression, or know someone who does, there's something pretty inspiring about this book, as it really shows some of the positive traits associated with depression along with the difficulties. It doesn't seem to overstep what is known about Lincoln, and doesn't come off like psycho-babble at any point.

    I love an engaging, nonfiction story that leaves me learning something new, and this definitely fits the bill. Highly recommend!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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