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Imagine: How Creativity Works [Hardcover]

Jonah Lehrer
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 April 2012
The profound mysteries of creative thought have long intimidated the world's finest brains. How do you measure the imagination? How do you quantify an epiphany? These daunting questions led researchers to neglect the subject for hundreds of years. In Jonah Lehrer's ambitious and enthralling new book, we go in search of the epiphany. Shattering the myth of creative 'types', Lehrer shows how new research is deepening our understanding of the human imagination. Creativity is not a 'gift' that only some possess. It's a term for a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Some acts of imagination are best done sipping espresso in a crowded cafe, while others require long walks in a quiet park. Lehrer helps us fit our creative strategies to the task at hand. The journey begins with the fluttering of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, before moving out to consider how this new science can also make neighbourhoods more vibrant, companies more productive and schools more effective. We'll learn about Bob Dylan's writing habits and the drug addiction of poets. We'll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar designed its office space to get the most out of its talent. Collapsing the layers separating the neuron from the finished symphony, Imagine reveals the deep inventiveness of the human mind and its essential role in our increasingly complex world.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (16 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781847677860
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847677860
  • ASIN: 184767786X
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonah Lehrer is a Contributing Editor at Wired and the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He's written for The New Yorker, Nature, Seed, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. He's also a Contributing Editor at Scientific American Mind and National Public Radio's Radio Lab.

Product Description


'Imagine should appeal to everyone, not just because of Lehrer's compelling writing style but also because it puts paid to the idea that creativity is a gift enjoyed only by the lucky few. We can all be more creative, we just need to know how. This book will show you' --New Scientist

'This is an inspiring and engaging book that reveals creativity as less a sign of rare genius than a natural human potential' -- The Economist

'Jonah Lehrer's new book confirms what his fans have known all along - that he knows more about science than a lot of scientists and more about writing than a lot of writers' -- Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point

'Jonah Lehrer may be the most talented explainer of science that we've got. His engrossing investigation of creativity and its source makes Imagine his best book yet' -- Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein

'Not many writers can make plausible links among musicians Bob Dylan, Yo-Yo Ma and David Byrne, animators at Pixar, neuroscientists at MIT, an amateur bartender in New York, entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Israeli army reservists . . . But Jonah Lehrer is such a writer-reporter, who weaves compelling and surprising connections based on detailed investigation and deep understanding . . . Reading his book exercises the imagination; the rest is up to us' -- Washington Post

'Lehrer is a thrilling multifaceted narrator...what Lehrer achieves in this book is a roaming yet cohesive description of the creative process, applied across disciplines' -- Observer

'An ecumenical hodgepodge of sociology, neuroscience and motivational examples that should be read by anyone with an interest in how human creativity works' -- Kevin Power, Sunday Business Post

'Lehrer unpicks the triggers that bring about bouts of creativity, be it Bob Dylan's writing or an engineer inventing the Post-it note. It could improve your chances of coming up with an idea of your own' -- Esquire Magazine

'The must-read book of the year for chief executives and wannabe entrepreneurs everywhere, a modern business bible for the enlightened boss' --Murad Ahmed, The Times

'This compelling discussion of the creative process speaks to our scientific age' --Stephen Cave, Financial Times

'Imagine moves engagingly between cutting-edge neuroscience and cultural sociology. It offers a double-sided portrait of invention and discovery' -- Boyd Tonkin, Independent

'If all science books were as successful in bridging the divide between art and science as this one is, there would no longer be a divide to bridge' -- Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

'[A] fascinating study of the mind' -- Word Magazine

'A snappy, sassy tour d'horizon of the state of the science of creativity' --New Statesman

About the Author

Jonah Lehrer is editor at large for Seed magazine and the author of The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind. A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. He has written for the New Yorker, Boston Globe, Washington Post, NPR and New Scientist, and writes a highly regarded blog, The Frontal Cortex.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not very inspiring... 23 April 2013
By Richard Madgin VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It was well publicised news that the author of this book was accused of faking quotes for inclusion in this book. Whilst this might show his "creative" side I don't think it is a very good example to set. Therefore I can't in any real way recommend this book.

There may still be lessons on creativity for you to learn included in this book but nothing is groundbreaking, so I would recommend that you seek inspiration elsewhere. Many lessons on creativity a generic ideas with only slight twists.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reads better than its worth 3 April 2012
By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The writing style is fast paced; it's an easy read. Unfortunately, it's also not a challenging read. And worse, it becomes annoying. I got annoyed at the sweeping general statements like the number of patents awarded in New York City being higher than elsewhere, showing the creativity level of cities to be so much higher than towns or countryside. The simple (unstated) fact is IBM gets almost as many patents as pretty much everyone else combined every year. And IBM is everywhere. However, its patent attorneys are in New York, so guess where the patents get filed? It's not that New Yorkers are madly patenting everything in sight; it's that the corporate lawyers take over from the scientists in California and Texas and upstate New York. Furthermore, the business of the density of cities being such a boost to creativity is totally bogus. If it were true, then Mexico City would be a hotbed. Djakarta would be a positive blur, and Gaza would be paradise. But the simple fact is, it's New York. New York is the most livable, most highly functioning, productive - and yes creative - city in the world. And you cannot generalize from New York. It's unique.
The whole business of improv being a groupthink creativity machine is also way too general. Had Lehrer spent any time with the real masters of the art - Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams - his chapter would have looked a lot different. Individuals can be at least as creative as groups. There is no silver bullet, no yellow brick road. Lehrer has not discovered anything here.
The farther I read, the faster I read, because the content got to be repetitive and predictable - and less, shall we say - creative.
So it's not the best thing since sliced bread, but it is entertaining. There are lots of stories of artists and scientists. And it is fast paced.
A mixed bag is the best I can say.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst crime a writer can commit. 20 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is it, my first ever one star review, I did enjoy this book and read it to see if I could be creative, something I have never been. What makes Sir Jonathan Ive so great at Apple that I couldn't do the same.

I am saddened and hence the one star, appalled to hear that the writer has admitted to falsifying some of the quotes in the book, using the premise that a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, I cannot recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Stuart Moses VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fascinating study into the world of creativity. It is split into two sections, Alone and Together. Subjects covered in the first section include Bob Dylan, 3M, Auden and Yo-Yo Ma. In the second section we learn about Broadway, Pixar, urban living and the circumstances necessary for the creation of many genii. Lehrer explains the brain processes surrounding creativity, but in a way that is accessible to readers who aren't experts.

This scientific approach is complemented by practical advice. You can draw strategies in this book into your life. I was particularly intrigued by the lessons on Broadway, where it is optimal to have a mix of old friends and fresh blood. You get the dual benefits of a shared understanding from the former and innovation from the latter. There is also a lesson to be learned by adopting the position of 'the outsider' which suggests that we are more likely to excel in the arts and science if we are prepared to challenge accepted thinking (whether through courage or ignorance).

Sadly, my enjoyment of this book was tempered when I read about the allegations of fabricated quotes in the chapters dealing with Penn and Teller and Dylan. That these quotes were incorrect does not necessarily negate all the findings of the book, but it does sow a seed of doubt. This is a shame because I found much to enjoy here.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but flawed 4 May 2012
By M. Harrison VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
An interesting look at the mysterious process of creativity, supported by lots of case studies from both the arts and industry, this is a useful addition to the growing library of books about the creative process. It's let down slightly by its inelegant, simplistic American writing style, and by its reliance on brain scans to support some of its findings; scans which seem to be everywhere right now, but which, even neuroscientists admit, are extremely crude, and which one suspects may be looked back on by future generations rather as phrenology is regarded now.

Its basic findings - things like the fact that daydreaming is important, that moments of insight often follow long periods of feeling 'stuck' and that mixing with others can stimulate new ideas - are hardly groundbreaking; nor are they as conclusive, or as supported by science, as Lehrer suggests. As with most popular science books, the case is simplified and overstated. However, 'Imagine' is still an accessible read, and those engaged in the production of new ideas, whether artistically or commercially, may well find parts of it insightful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars False facts
I was looking forward to finishing this book, when I found out that the author had plagiarised his own past work and made false statements from the likes of Bob Dylan and others... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keira
3.0 out of 5 stars Can you really produce creativity and innovation on demand?
This is a book that tries to do more than describe how creativity works. It also tries to provide a blueprint for how we can foster creativity, and this is where I think the author... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andrew Dalby
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing really new
I just didn't find much here that was original or new. It all seemed a little old hat, and I could sustain much interest in the book, so didn't finish it. Sorry!
Published 4 months ago by d hackett
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed the insights of the author
As a person interested in learning more about the creative process without an overly highbrow approach I find books in this area can sound interesting but can end up being too... Read more
Published 5 months ago by B. Bello
3.0 out of 5 stars How to be creative with your quotes. Or, the ethics of recycling.
I began this book, as I do most non-fiction works, in good faith. I enjoyed the breezy style. I enjoyed Lehrer's way with anecdotes. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Chintan Nanavati
4.0 out of 5 stars different!
I love the way this book was written, the attempt to quantify how creative processes actually work, and the attention to detail of the examples given. Read more
Published 7 months ago by J. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars An Uncomplicated Book for a Fascinating Subject
This book looks at the mechanics of creativity, how it happens and how we imagine. The first half of the book focuses on individual creativity, the second half of the book... Read more
Published 8 months ago by G. Bright
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting
this is one of those books which is really very interesting. If youre at all interested in the human mind/behaviour or psychee, then this is one that you'll find plenty in to cater... Read more
Published 9 months ago by S. Hammond
2.0 out of 5 stars Author's journalistic misdemeanors discredit this, but was palatable...
Take aside the furore of the author's professional misdemeanors and it comes across as fairly written but drawing conclusions rather hastily. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jack Chakotay
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful reminder of how creativity works
I was keen to read Imagine: How Creativity Works to see if I could gain any new insight into not only how creativity works but also how to maximise it. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Kathryn Eastman
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