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Imagine: How Creativity Works Paperback – International Edition, April 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Export & Airside ed edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847677878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847677877
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.


Review

"* '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 * 'In this amazing first book [Lehrer] bridges "the two cultures" with ease and grace. His clear and vivid writing - incisive and thoughtful, yet sensitive and modest - is a special pleasure.' - Oliver Sacks on Proust Was A Neuroscientist * 'Fascinating...compelling...a great read. It might even improve your life. Not many books offer both.' - New Scientist on The Decisive Moment"

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.

Customer Reviews

This book is very well researched and is an interesting read.
Shyam Sundar
What separates this book from other books on creativity is the carefully examined science behind the creative magic.
Bradley Bevers
Somehow I just don't think much thought went into making that statement.
Lemas Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

719 of 767 people found the following review helpful By Tintin on April 8, 2012
I'm intrigued by the subject matter, so having read several positive reviews and finding myself stuck in an airport, I paid list price for Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works. I'd read Lehrer's How We Decide a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it. My anticipation, boosted by a recent NPR interview and one in The Economist, steadily disassembled as I read the book itself.

Lehrer does not cite the scientific literature well - there is no list of sources in the back and many claims have no clear references at all. He seems a little gullible (or sensational) in regard to some other studies. One showed that red backgrounds increase test-takers' accuracy and attention to detail, while blue backgrounds double their creativity. Were it so easy. And a neurologist can anticipate a puzzle solver's breakthrough 8 seconds in advance. And, he tells us that all the easy problems of the world have been solved, and that cultivation of athletes in the Unites States should be used as a model for cultivating creativity. Here's my favorite, from a footnote: "Urban areas and the human cortex rely on extremely similar structural patterns to maximize the flow of information and traffic through the system." (p183) There was no reference.

But my main criticism is that the book relies almost exclusively on anecdote. He trots out case after case of well-known successes (masking tape, Bob Dylan, 3M, Pixar, etc.), and some unknown ones (a surfer, a bartender) --always in retrospect -- and draws out what he presents as yet another insight into creativity. But many of these are contradictory. For example, does creativity come out of isolation (p 19) or from teamwork (p120); from breaking convention (p 20) or submitting to its constraints (p 23)?
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305 of 339 people found the following review helpful By Eric Robert Juggernaut VINE VOICE on January 31, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`Imagine' is a light treatment on the creative process. Anyone familiar with Lehrer's previous work or that of other pop science writers will feel right at home with this book. Lehrer's writing is clear and his use of New Journalism to convey complex scientific ideas through stories makes what could be daunting material very accessible. As a result, the book spurs ideas on a number of levels--cognitive, artistic, and social. Of course, the style also means that the text is rather superficial and leaves the reader begging for a more penetrating study.

This is not due to the book's scope. It is aimed at explaining `how creativity works'--an awesome concept to be sure--but Lehrer does not provide a central thesis to this end. He surveys a number of fascinating aspects of the creative process--insight, novelty, hard work, team work, environment, and others--but seems to shuffle through them without truly grasping their essence. As a result, the various themes feel disparate and disconnected.

One example stands out: In the first chapter, Lehrer talks about the necessary condition one must be in for insight to arise and innovation to occur--a stress-free, relaxing environment. Then, in the third chapter, he talks about how this isn't necessary and how stimulants and other drugs help to narrow focus and thus lend to productivity. Some people are creative because they treat themselves to relaxation; some are creative because they plunge themselves into a stressful, energetic environment. As such, the reader has nothing to hold onto and so does not feel any closer to understanding.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Laura Rodriguez on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's very rare that a publisher removes a book from the shelves. And this what happened with Imagine, after the author was unmasked as a fabricator (i.e. liar) and was fired from his two jobs at Wired and the New Yorker. As it turns out, the author created his own reality by inventing quotes, pretending he had met people in person, and plagiarizing other people works. Ouch.

If you want to know the details, simply google "Jonah Lehrer scandal."

So this book is interesting because it's a reflection of our society as a whole. Our desire for fast solutions, our thirst for scientific breakthroughs, our need to follow a know-it-all guru.

And Imagine delivers perfectly on this--it's all there: the science, the sound bites, the eye opening realizations. But there a catch: some of it is fake.

The other major problem is to look at creativity from the "science" angle. It can't be done (duh!)--imagine scientist explaining "love" by analyzing chemical responses . . . sounds silly, right? Same thing with creativity.

I think there are way better book on the subject: Dan PInk, Tyla Tharp, and my new favorite: You Are a Circle: A Visual Meditation for the Creative Mind

I still will keep my copy of Imagine as a reminder of what not to do.
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120 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Bradley Bevers TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is an excellent treatise on creativity and the brain. It is filled with fascinating anecdotes, just enough neuroscience to keep it interesting for the layperson, and enough everyday application to make it worth your time. I am the first to admit that I have a weakness for applied psychology books that are heavy on stories, but this is one of the best.

What separates this book from other books on creativity is the carefully examined science behind the creative magic. There are other books that focus on creativity and you can learn more techniques from them, but if you want to learn why they really work then this book is a great place to start. The author is a great writer (he could put most modern fiction writers to shame), but the real value is the story and the science behind the imagination.

Some of my favorites parts of the book include:

* Chapter 1, "Bob Dylan's Brain" has the story of how Dylan wrote his most celebrated song. Favorite quote from Chapter 1: "It's often only at this point, after we've stopped searching for the answer, that the answer often arrives. (The imagination has a wicked sense of irony." And when a solution does appear, it doesn't come in dribs and crabs; the puzzle isn't solved one piece at a time. Rather, the solution is shocking in its completeness." (7)

* Chapter 2, "Alpha Waves (Condition Blue)" gives 3M's creative rules. First, the Flexible Attention Policy. Second, Horizontal Sharing. Great chapter, worth the price of the book if you manage a company of ten or more. Also: find out whether or not its best to edit your work in a blue or red room.

* Chapter 3, "The Unconcealing" explains why you should write when you are sad.
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