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Exuberance: The Passion for Life Paperback – September 13, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

*Starred Review.* If exuberance is "the passion for life," then Jamison's enthusiasm and sense of wonder about the subject proves as fine an example as any examined in her newest work. Expert in the arena of mood and temperament, Jamison (An Unquiet Mind; Night Falls Fast; Touched with Fire) detours from her usual analysis of mood disorders in favor of the livelier side of personality. She examines the contagious nature of exuberance, which she defines as "a psychological state characterized by high mood and high energy," offering diverse examples that range from John Muir and FDR to Mary Poppins and Peter Pan. Having in mind the simply put idea that "those who are exuberant act," the author details the energetic efforts of scientists, naturalists, politicians and even her meteorologist father. The dual nature of humanity is a common theme, as Jamison distinguishes between introversion and extroversion, nature and nurture, and healthy emotion and pathology. Such analysis is at times thorough to the point of redundancy, and even the most interested reader may find parts of the book exhausting to navigate. But Jamison makes up for it with her contagious enthusiasm for the subject—a mood that will make readers feel, well, exuberant. Perhaps Snoopy explains it best when, as exemplified in a comic strip here, he leaps for joy, waxing philosophically: "To those of us with real understanding, dancing is the only pure art form.... To live is to dance, to dance is to live."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Scientific American

"Exuberance," Jamison says, "is an abounding, ebullient, effervescent emotion." She celebrates a galaxy of exuberant figures. Theodore Roosevelt was "incapable of being indifferent." Wilson Bentley, a New England farmer who made himself a respected expert on the crystal structure of snowflakes, "was as exuberant in pursuit of them as they were in their numbers." The eminent physicist Richard Feynman "was an exuberant teacher in every way." Jamison also celebrates exuberant characters in literature, including Tigger, Toad and Snoopy. Professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she is concerned that exuberance "has not been a mainstay of psychological research" but sees signs that it is receiving more scholarly attention. She has produced an exuberant book.

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375701486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701481
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

233 of 248 people found the following review helpful By John Harrison on September 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant woman who has written another brilliant book. If you have come to the conclusion that I like this book you are right.

First, even the idea to study exuberance took courage. The author has previously written about her own fierce battles with manic depression. She is a serious scientist that risked her reputation to expose that side of herself before and now she has written a book that explores emotions perilously close to the up side of her illness. Admitting that she admires the emotion, given her prior disclosure of manic depression, is fraught with special risk for Dr. Jamison. While the positive emotions are understudied, this provides an admitted manic depressive with little cover. Many a depressive has gone off of their medication because of the claimed attractiveness of the manic state.

Dr, Jamison neatly traverses this difficult terrain by keeping her attention focused on others. Early in the book she concentrates her energy on President Theodore Roosevelt. Exuberance is probably the word most used to describe his personality, but still she probes deeper and uncovers insights that have eluded even gifted biographers of this fascinating man. If you are interested in what made TR tick you should read this book.

If you have read Dr. Jamison before you expect such penetrating insights, but even though I have read all of her general works I was unprepared for the beauty of expression, both hers and of many quotations both shrewd and charming that adorn the text and advance her thought.

One of each: "Joy lacks the gravitas that suffering so effortlessly commands." Jamison at 5; "The Greeks understood the mysterious power of the hidden side of things.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jamie on November 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was surprised to see this book doesn't have 5 stars. I have read most of Kay Jamison's books (I still have _Touched with Fire_ and her textbook on the illness to go) and have found her to be eloquent and sensitive in describing a ravaging illness, and the tragedies that accompany it.

As a sufferer of Bipolar II rapid cycling, I've found myself holding on to one emotion or the other--fostering a depression to avoid going into an exhausting mania, fostering manic excitement to avoid despair and flatness.

Kay Jamison neatly avoids either pitfall, and describes positive psychology in a way that has never been done before, certainly never so beautifully. Her quotes are illuminating and have lead me to many authors and poets I would never otherwise have discovered.

In a time when many blame criminal acts on their bipolar disorder, it is refreshing and, also, strangely sad, to find this creation I do not believe could have been written without having spiraled into those addictive, destructive highs where the world is perilously beautiful.

Most of the books available relating to the illness that are not textbooks are "survival guides," cookie cutter books with the same information you can find anywhere on the Internet.

_Exuberance: The Passion for Life_ is an experience you will not find anywhere else; I hope it for you, as it was for me, an experience that will deepen your appreciation for life and human achievement.
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125 of 143 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on September 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
_Exuberance: The Passion for Life_ by psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison is a fairly interesting account of individuals who have exhibited a distinctive zest for living as revealed in their activities and work. Those who are prone to excessive enthusiasm, gregariousness, and creative insight are discussed by the author, who attempts to show what it is that uniquely determines this trait. While much of the writing in this book is beautiful, it must be pointed out that exuberance is not without its pitfalls. At times enthusiasm may overcome reason leading to unusual, eccentric, or even dangerous behavior, perhaps best illustrated in literature by the case of Toad from the book _The Wind in the Willows_ by Kenneth Grahame. And, often behind the personalities of exuberant individuals there lurks a darker side of irritability, depression, and despondency. Cases of collective exuberance include stock market booms and the battle lust exhibited by some soldiers during combat. However, as anyone quickly realizes both of these have their downside and can be highly destructive. In addition, exuberance often makes it difficult to interact with others. As the author explains, exuberance tends to be a trait that an individual either has or they don't. Those who lack this trait may become jealous of or annoyed with those who possess it in abundance. In the life of great scientists, the case of the physicist Richard Feynman provides an illustration of this. While he exhibited great exuberance in his teaching style, he often left students who could not keep up or who possessed a more placid personality completely alienated. Feynman himself seems to have understood this at times, and the author quotes one of his remarks to the effect that perhaps his style served only the purpose of amusing himself.Read more ›
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Albert Einstein had it. Teddy Roosevelt had it. Even Mary Poppins and Snoopy had it.

Have you ever wondered what exuberance is, and why so many gifted or highly successful people have it? Is exuberance only seen in humans, or also in animals? Can it be measured? If exuberance is a "passion for life," why is it linked to depression and suicide? Is exuberance an inheritable trait, or a contagious mood?

Author Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine, answers these questions and more in this brilliant work which explores the essence of exuberance at its core.

"Exuberance is a psychological state characterized by high mood and high energy," writes Jamison, "its origins come from the natural world, where its meaning centers on abundance, liveliness, and fertility. It is a more physically alert and active state than joy and of longer duration than ecstasy."

According to the author, exuberant people are often ridiculed for their buoyancy and exhilaration, yet exuberance plays an essential role in creativity and leadership.

What's more, exuberance may very well play a part in the survival of the species itself because exuberant people are usually energetic, enthusiastic, optimistic and socially outgoing, traits which increase their attractiveness to the opposite sex. Yet, exuberance has a dark, dangerous side. In fact, too much of it can lead to madness.

Jamison investigates exuberance as seen throughout the ages and within
different contexts like the animal world, literature, music, art, science, politics and religion. She takes famous people and characters and uses them as examples, using many quotes and references from famous sources.
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