I recently had to spend all day at an airport coming home from the Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Consciousness in Boston (which was a great success and a lot of fun, btw). Looking for something to read, I picked up Jonah Lehrer’s new book Imagine: How Creativity Works. I finished the book on the airplane, which clearly speaks to its readability. If Lehrer is anything, he is a compelling storyteller, and the stories he told in Imagine had that nice page-turning quality that makes for a bestseller. But behind the catchy prose and narrative was a lot of good science writing. Although Lehrer rarely dwells on any philosophical point, he definitely has a comprehensive knowledge of contemporary mind sciences, including both psychology and neuroscience. So Imagine is chock full of all the latest research on creativity, and if you are interested in getting a quick introduction to that literature, Imagine is well worth reading.
To anyone somewhat familiar with the field, there won’t be any groundbreaking research discussed that hasn’t already been widely talked about. For example, one of the chapters was about the physicist Geoffrey West’s work on cities, and if you have heard the Radiolab episode on this, there will be nothing that new in the book. But I must say that even if some of the research Lehrer talked about was already familiar, I’d still say the book is well worth reading for the way in which Lehrer is able to weave a theoretical connection between all these strands of research that is both plausible and very intuitive. You come away from the book with a better understanding of both what creativity is and how best to structure your mind and your environment in order to make creative insights more likely to happen. And for that reason alone, I highly recommend the book.
Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars