Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2012
: Combining cutting-edge neurological research with the age-old mystery of how and when inspiration strikes, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works
is a fun, engaging study of creativity. Lehrer uses case studies like 3M’s and Pixar’s innovative corporate cultures and Bob Dylan’s songwriting habits to frame scientific findings about the brain and where creativity comes from. You won’t find exercises to help you think more creatively or ways to avoid creative blocks in this book. Instead, you’ll learn how and why creativity is stimulated by certain activities—like looking at the color blue, traveling, or daydreaming productively—and how these activities stimulate creativity in everyone, not just in ‘creative’ people. Lehrer’s focus is as wide and fascinating as his topic itself and there’s something to engage every reader, no matter where you rate yourself on the creativity spectrum. --Malissa Kent
Amazon Exclusive: Jad Abumrad Reviews Imagine
Jad Abumrad is host and creator of the public radio hit Radiolab, now in its seventh season and reaching over a million people monthly. Abumrad has won numerous awards, including a National Headliner Award in Radio and an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Journalism Award. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Imagine:
As a storyteller, I'm in awe of Jonah Lehrer.
It's rare that you read a book where every page has at least one "Aha!" moment, one moment per page that grabs your perspective and gives it a good shake. In other words, while reading this book, I kept experiencing the very phenomenon Jonah is investigating--the sensation of insight. That pleasant brain fever that overtakes you when you suddenly, in a flash, see the world in a new way.
This book is the single best attempt I've ever read (and I've read many) to demystify human creativity. To puncture the age-old mysteries: how do insights happen? How can I make them happen more?
The beauty here is in what Jonah chooses to notice. Bob Dylan, W.H. Auden, the inventor of the Post-It Note, an autistic surf champion . . . they all become gorgeously rendered wormholes into the inner wonders of the human mind. And because of his background in neuroscience, when Jonah does the brain, he delivers the goods.
And finally: though this isn't a self-help book (thank God for that), at the end of it, you're left with a set of ideas and practices that you can actually use.
I do believe this book will set a new standard for science journalism. I for one will be handing it out as a Christmas presents for years to come.
"Lehrer smoothly and engagingly blends scientific findings with stories about creative breakthroughs. IMAGINE is just plain fun to read, and the author’s neat prose dishes out valuable information."
— Science Magazine
"In IMAGINE, author Jonah Lehrer weaves all of these people, places, and things into a brilliant narrative about — well, simply put — brilliance.... IMAGINE, although intricate and detailed, is a comfortable read, a trip down the rabbit hole of the human mind's most enthralling success, the tiny spark of electricity demonstrated on a medical diagnostic machine that can change the world or just the way you read a book, enjoy a cocktail, or mop your floor."
"Fascinating...clear and engaging"
"Illuminating. . . . An engaging guide to the mysteries of the imagination and the science of innovation. With these suggestions, his book implies, you too might be able to maximize your creative output."
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Bob Dylan. W.H. Auden. The man who invented Post-it Notes. The people who work at Pixar. If only we all were as creative as those writers and innovators. As it turns out, we are.That’s just one of many messages in IMAGINE: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer’s terrific study of humans’ 'ability to imagine what never existed.'"
"Jonah Lehrer—who, in my opinion, has done more for the popular understanding of psychology and neuroscience than any other writer working today. . . what makes IMAGINE outstanding is that the book itself is an epitome of an increasingly important form of creativity—the ability to pull together perspectives, insights, and bits of information into a mashup narrative framework that illuminates a subject in an entirely new way."
"In IMAGINE, journalist Jonah Lehrer lays bare the magic trick. With the help of elegant experiments, mind-aching riddles and unlikely characters, he lets us peer inside our heads and see for ourselves what's going on when our best ideas come to us....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."
"Drawing from a wide array of scientific and sociological research—and everything from the poetry of W.H. Auden to the films of Pixar—he makes a convincing case that innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged. . . . This is an inspiring and engaging book that reveals creativity as less a sign of rare genius than a natural human potential."
"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. Not many reporters do research about an expert surfer who has Asperger’s, information theorists, industrial psychologists and artists. But Jonah Lehrer is such a writer-reporter, who weaves compelling and surprising connections based on detailed investigation and deep understanding. He says that working memory is an essential tool of the imagination, and his book is an excellent example of how a dynamic storehouse of captivating information feeds creative thinking and writing....IMAGINE doesn’t offer a prescription for how we are to become more imaginative, but it does emphasize some key ingredients of a creative culture: taking education seriously, increasing possibilities for human mixing and cultivating a willingness to take risks. Lehrer practices what he preaches, showing an appetite for learning, a determined effort to cross fields and disciplines, and a delight in exploring new possibilities. Reading his book exercises the imagination; the rest is up to us."
"The author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist argues his case using examples ranging from the songs of Bob Dylan to the invention of the Swiffer, adding practical tips (the color blue stimulates imagination; brainstorming meetings don’t work) for better right-brain thinking."
"IMAGINE argues that modern science allows us to identify and harness the many different thought processes from which creativity emerges. The book’s strength lies in specific examples – detailed stories about 3M, Pixar, Bob Dylan and Don Lee, the computer programmer who became a master mixer of quirky cocktails. These insightful tales make IMAGINE well worth the read."
"Who wouldn't love a book that validates what cubicle workers already know: Brainstorming meetings are a waste of time."
"Lehrer has initiated an intriguing and important dialogue on the science of creativity that isn't going to be finished anytime soon, and he gives his readers a solid foothold on the connection between neuroscience and creative expression."
"With humor and energy, Lehrer draws unexpected lessons from organizations that are machines for creativity: 3M, Second City and Pixar. Telling good stories, moving gracefully from neurophysiology to sports, from the humanities to science, from business to poetry, he lets us eavesdrop on the creative processes of the obscure and the famous. He lets us look over the shoulders of Yo Yo Ma, Bob Dylan and Ruth Handler (who came up with Barbie) to see how others transform practice, frustration, insight and persistence into artistry and industry. IMAGINE is a wonderfully entertaining and useful book, exhilarating and instructive in equal parts."
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[an] upbeat, far-ranging study of how ideas emerge from brain impulses to become a work of art or a marketable new mop. Creativity begets creativity."
"Flummoxed by an intractable problem? You probably just need to work harder, right? Actually, try taking a walk instead. Thanks to how we’re hardwired, insight tends to strike suddenly—after we’ve stopped looking. In this entertaining Gladwell-esque plunge into the science of creativity, Jonah Lehrer mingles with a wide cast of characters—inventors, educators, scientists, a Pixar cofounder, an autistic surfing savant—to deconstruct how we accomplish our great feats of imagination. Notable themes emerge: Failure is necessary. The more people you casually rub shoulders with—on and off the job—the more good ideas you’ll have. And societies that unduly restrict citizens’ ability to borrow from the ideas of others—see our broken patent system—do so at their peril."
"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 and Outliers
"Jonah Lehrer may be the most talented explainer of science that we've got. His engrossing investigation of creativity and its sources makes IMAGINE his best book yet."
—Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein
"Lehrer writes with verve, creating an informative, readable book that sparkles with ideas."
"IMAGINE is a great introduction for anyone curious about the nature and dynamics of creativity."