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Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (2005)

af Joshua Wolf Shenk

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9762721,591 (4.09)48
Drawing on seven years of his own research and the work of other esteemed Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth president harnessed 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 revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy. Based on careful research, this book unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president brought America through its greatest turmoil. 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.--From publisher description.… (mere)
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58__ Lincoln's Melancholy How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. by Joshua Wolf Shenk (read 4 Mar 2023) This book, published in 2005, is a study of Lincoln's mental life and has some amazing information--and throws into question some biographer's statements as to Lincoln's mental behavior. ( )
  Schmerguls | Mar 4, 2023 |
Having just read "Lincoln: Biography of a Writer" by Fred Kaplan, I found that a lot of the information contained in this book was also contained in Kaplan's book. In fact they even used most of the same historical quotes throughout the books. And I sense I felt like I was reading the same book just with a different directive approach, this one being focused on Lincoln's depression instead of his reading and writing.
It's not a bad but by any means in fact it's very good book. I just kind of wish that I would have read them separately instead of back to back.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with interest in the subjects of Abraham Lincoln, mental illness, an American history. ( )
  SumisBooks | Apr 25, 2020 |
A fascinating book about Lincoln and about depression as well. The research and scholarship is excellent. He included many references from many disciplines and that added great value to the author's credibility and thoughtfulness of the topic. He was very realistic about how history can be so tainted by the teller and that was refreshing and enlightening. Mr. Lincoln was a complex human and this refreshing analysis of him added a great deal to Lincolnography, while still admitting some things cannot truly be "known". This book was a true page turner for me. I have read a bit about Lincoln and this added nicely to it. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
This is a solid read. The book's premise is that Mr. Lincoln suffered from melancholy. Today, many would consider his suffering as clinical chronic depression. I think the book does speculate a lot, as it is impossible to really know how severe it was. However, based on writings of Lincoln himself and his contemporaries, it is highly likely he did suffer from depression at times. At one point early in his career, Lincoln does contemplate suicide, and he may have published a poem anonymously about suicide. Moreover, it's undeniable that Lincoln had a natural gloomy, contemplative countenance and aura about him. Evidence for that is all over the place from numerous published accounts of his peers to portraits of the man.

The author attempts to weave the analysis of Lincoln's mental health with his life story. He uses this linear progression of Mr. Lincoln's life to show how Lincoln learned how to adapt to his illness, and he shows the ways Lincoln used his suffering to see the world in a different way, and strategies he used to deal with depression, like humor. There is a lot to like about this book, and it contains many little stories about Lincoln that I haven't heard elsewhere.

So, I would recommend this one with the understanding that there is a bit of speculation here, and we may never know the whole picture of Lincoln's mental health. Perhaps, that is best. Lincoln is a mysterious man in many ways and I kind of like it that way. ( )
  Mitchell_Bergeson_Jr | Aug 6, 2017 |
This was a truly fabulous book. Well researched and it gave deep insight into how we, as a nation, view mental illness and how it has changed over the course of time. It also gave insight into a man I've long admired and felt a pull toward. This was excellent fuel for my moderate Lincoln obsession. ( )
  Melynn1104 | Jun 28, 2017 |
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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 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 revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy. Based on careful research, this book unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president brought America through its greatest turmoil. 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.--From publisher description.

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