A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi – Audiobook Review

A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi, narrated by Sean Runnette
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by The Penguin Press Hardcover

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Nassir Ghaemi draws on the careers and personal plights of such notable leaders as Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, JFK, and others from the past two centuries to build a compelling argument: the qualities that mark those with mood disorders also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. By combining analysis of historical evidence with psychiatric research, Ghaemi demonstrates how these qualities have produced brilliant leadership under the toughest circumstances. Ghaemi’s analysis offers powerful tools for determining who should lead us and encourages us to rethink our view of mental illness.

Thoughts on the story:

Okay, so, fascinating! Ghaemi presents a very convincing argument to theory that leaders with mood disorders excel in a crisis. In addition to his examples of Sherman, Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, and JFK, he also offers counterexamples, such as Bush, Blair, and Nixon, which only helped to support his theory.

One thing that stood out to me, somewhat unrelated to what Ghaemi had to say, came as a result of having listened to The Psycopath Test by Jon Ronson not long beforehand. Both psychopathy and mood disorders, based on the the reportings of these two authors, seem to be noteworthy largely for the amounts of empathy persons with the disorder have. For psychopaths, of course, the the problem is a lack of empathy, but I was surprised to learn from Ghaemi that a noteworthy trait of depressive and bipolar mood disorders is actually an over-abundance of empathy, which is part of what makes persons with mood disorders such effective leaders, in Ghaemi’s point of view. For me, though, it was just fascinating to think about the variety of of disorders that could be caused by (or at least related to) either too much or too little empathy. Truly, the human brain is a complex thing.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Sean Runnette has recently become one of my favorite narrators of nonfiction. He delivers material in a straightforward manner, with an appropriate amount of interest and emotion. Thanks to Runnette’s strong performance, Ghaemi’s thesis is easy to follow.

Overall:

Fascinating and well-narrated. Dive in with either print or audio.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger – Audiobook Review

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio; published in print by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

After losing her parents in a train crash, Sally was sent rather young into service, where she began as a scullery maid. Eventually she found herself as the lady’s maid to Lady Duff Gordon, and travels with her lady to Egypt. Lady Duff Gordon has tuberculosis and decides that she cannot stay alive in the cold English climate, and heads to Luxor, Egypt for her health. While there, Sally falls in love with Omar, Lady Duff Gordon’s dragoman. As much as Lady Duff Gordon gives in to the Egyptian way of life, Sally does even more so, entering into a romantic relationship with an Egyptian man – a relationship which her lady does not approve of at all.

Thoughts on the story:

Although fascinating to experience late 19th century Egypt, and to see the late 19th century interactions between Egyptians and Europeans, the first person narrative really slowed down the first section of the book. Everything was simply Sally observing what was happening around her without much action. Eventually the pace picked up, but I spent a good amount of time at the beginning of “The Mistress of Nothing” wondering when something would happen.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Rosalyn Landor is a talented narrator who infuses her words with emotion, but even she could not keep me interested during the slow points of the narrative. For my complete thoughts, please see my review at Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

I recommend this in print or audio for the historical fiction fan who is interested in getting a feel for the interactions between Europe and Egypt in the late 19th century, but be warned that the beginning starts slowly.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*

Source: Audiofile Magazine, publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – Audiobook Review

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio; Published in print by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

After both of her parents die on their crossing from Ireland to America, seven-year old Lavinia is taken on as an indentured servant by the captain of the ship on which she sailed, in order to pay for her fare. As the only white indentured servant on the plantation, Lavinia’s place is somewhat uncertain. She lives with the plantation slaves, but is educated by her master’s family and treated completely differently than is the rest of their help. Inevitably, as Lavinia grows up, her dual identity as a white and eventually free person and someone who considers herself part of a family whose other members are enslaved causes problems that may put her and those she loves in danger.

Thoughts on the story:

I don’t know if it has to do with the books I happen to pick up or what is being published at any point in time in general, but I oftentimes find myself in a morass of historical fiction, drowning in books which are all on the same topic. As such, “The Kitchen House” was very refreshing indeed. I have only read one other book with a character who is an indentured servant, and the quality of the writing and storytelling was definitely better in “The Kitchen House.” Lavinia was not the only narrator, the enslaved woman with whom she lived, Belle, also narrated some chapters, although she had a small percentage of the book as compared with Lavinia. Grissom handled the dual narrators well, however. Belle was able to show the reader things that Lavinia could not know, but was given enough depth and emotion that her narration did not seem just a cheap plot device, but actually enhanced the story being told.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I thought the narration was terrific. For more specifics, please see the review I wrote for AudioFile Magazine.

Overall:

I think this would be enjoyable either in print or in audio. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Audible
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Audio/Print*
Amazon: Audio/Print*

Source: Audiofile Magazine, print copy from publisher
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton – Audiobook Review

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton, narrated by Simon Vance
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, Published in print by Other Press

Synopsis:

When Laurie Clow travels to London, distracted as she is by her mother’s dementia and an odd incident with a friend, she finds herself witnessing a horrible traffic accident and spending with Arthur Hayman’s last few moments with him. After his death, she meets his family, including his son, Luke, who is the title character in Arthur’s series, “The Hayseed Chronicles.” Staying with the family through the funeral, Laurie has the opportunity to read all the books and is immediately charmed. When she returns to California, her trumpeting of the books begins to elevate media awareness of both the books and Laurie herself, changing irrevocably the lives of all involved.

Thoughts on the story:

I really enjoyed this book for what it had to say about fame, and the culture of fame: the difficulties, the way people think they own the things they love, how easy it is to suddenly find yourself going off the tracks. Luke narrated the majority of the book, and was a very insightful narrator. My biggest issue with him is that he often felt more like the narrator than like the main character. Part of this is because he was telling this story from his vantage point at the end of the novel, but it still didn’t quite work for me as well as it could have. One reason for this may be that none of the characters were easy to empathize with. Laurie was a great character at the outset, but she was much changed by fame, and that change seemed so sudden, from Luke’s point of view in not having seen her for some time, that it was hard to understand where she was coming from at that point.

My other minor qualm with “Mr. Toppit” was that there seemed to be an awful lot of setup to get to the point where Elton could offer the reader a view of how fame changes people and their lives. That really is the main thrust of the book, but the “Hayseed Chronicles” did not take off until approximately the midpoint of “Mr. Toppit,” and I found that first part somewhat hard to get into, although ultimately worth the wait.

I do want to mention, Arthur died at a point when his series was ultimately unfinished, and I got the cold sweats ‘what if’ing J.K. Rowling dying somewhere in the middle of Harry Potter. Imagine what would have happened! Of course, in “Mr. Toppit” Arthur does not find fame until after his death, but the comparison still nearly gave me nightmares.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Simon Vance was narrating, what else really needs to be said? It was Vance’s usual fabulous narration. Really the audio production was strong overall, there was a complete absence of any noticeable variations in sound quality or problematic moments of narration.

Overall:

A good book, one I can recommend for those interested in a commentary on fame, but not one that will intrigue all readers. I can definitely recommend the audiobook, because Simon Vance helps greatly at moving the reader through the slower portions of the book at the beginning.

Need another opinion? Jennifer from Literate Housewife and I read it together, and her review is up too!

Buy this book from:
Audible
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Audio/Print*

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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