June 25, 2013 Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior's Influence on Success Is Subject of Book Discussion

Many of America’s Greatest Achievements Resulted from Disorder, Says Author

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

While Charles Lindbergh may have been a dashing aviator, he was also an awkward high school student, who preferred playing with gadgets over watching girls. Lindbergh’s obsessive mindset may have invented the preflight checklist but obsession also led him to demand that his wife and three German mistresses account for all their household expenditures in detailed ledgers.

Lucky Lindy is just one of several American icons whom Joshua Kendall puts on the psychiatrist’s couch in “America’s Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation” (Grand Central, 2013). Kendall will discuss and sign his book on Thursday, July 11, at noon in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. This Books & Beyond event is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

In this examination of the arc of American history through the lens of compulsive behavior, Kendall shows how some of the nation’s greatest achievements – from the Declaration of Independence to the invention of the iPhone – have roots in the disappointments and frustrations of early childhood.

Starting with the obsessive natures of some of the Silicon Valley’s titans, including Steve Jobs, Kendall moves on to profile seven iconic figures, such as founding father Thomas Jefferson, licentious librarian Melvil Dewey, condiment kingpin H.J. Heinz, slugger Ted Williams and cosmetics queen Estee Lauder, who was so obsessed with touching other women’s faces that she transformed her compulsion into a multibillion-dollar corporation.

Joshua Kendall did much of the research for his new book at the Library of Congress. He is the author of “The Man Who Made Lists,” about the creation of Roget’s Thesaurus, and “The Forgotten Founding Father,” a biography of Noah Webster, the lexicographer responsible for Webster's Dictionary. He is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, Psychology Today and BusinessWeek, among others publications. He is an associate fellow of Yale’s Trumbull College.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading- promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library of Congress annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center and Poetry and Literature Center.


PR 13-124
ISSN 0731-3527