America’s Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy that Built a Nation

Joshua Kendall. Grand Central, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4555-0238-7
In this quirky history, journo Kendall (The Forgotten Founding Father) profiles a “ticker-tape parade of American icons” in an effort to understand how their “obsessions and compulsions... fueled their stratospheric success.” Across a range of disciplines, from sexuality to sports, these seven legendary figures revolutionized their fields, and they all likely had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Kendall draws upon the good and bad in each of his subjects to paint vivid portraits of “patron saint of polymaths” Thomas Jefferson, marketing genius Henry Heinz, legendary librarian Melvil Dewey, sex scholar Alfred Kinsey, aviator Charles Lindbergh, cosmetics tycoon Estée Lauder, and baseball star Ted Williams. Kendall explores how each of these “obsessive innovators” changed the world through sheer force of will by harnessing their personal eccentricities and foibles. From Heinz’s need to measure things, to Kinsey’s broad sexual desires and Lauder’s addiction to touching faces, Kendall delves into flaws that crystalize as strengths, showing en route what made these individuals tick. It’s a compelling look at how personality disorders can rule and ruin a life, and how those who come to terms with their constraints can achieve great things. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (June 25)
Reviewed on: 04/29/2013
Release date: 06/25/2013
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