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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Peter B. Zeldow, PhD (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine)
Description: This book presents a detailed summary of the psychiatrist-author's 10-year investigation of the relationship between mental illness and exceptional creative achievement.
Purpose: The purpose is to bring empirical evidence to bear on a variety of questions related to this issue. What, for example, is the prevalence of various mental disorders among the eminent? What are the effects of birth order, early parental loss, social status, education, and sexual preference (to cite but a few variables) on creativity?
Audience: The book is written for an intelligent lay audience as well as for the author's peers in the scientific and mental health communities. Technical and scholarly details and much of the statistical information is relegated to extensive chapter notes and appendixes at the end of the book for ease of reading.
Features: The book has its fair share of figures and tables to illustrate, to take two examples, the suicide rate and the lifetime prevalence rate of mental illness among eminent artists, entertainers, scientists, and business and public figures. Such material has been judiciously divided between the text and the appendixes.
Assessment: This is a useful and enjoyable book that will take its place on the required reading list for people with an interest in its subject matter. Researchers may not always agree with Ludwig's methods or conclusions, but they will have to contend with him.