Good Minds Suggest—Jonah Lehrer's Favorite Books to Unleash Creativity

March, 2012

Jonah Lehrer How masking tape was invented, how Bob Dylan escaped a songwriting slump, how Pixar employees collaborate on their way to the bathroom—science writer Jonah Lehrer covers these topics and many more in Imagine: How Creativity Works. He argues that everyone is capable of creative thinking and encourages accessing your inner child to get the juices flowing, whether you're working on something artistic or trying to innovate your latest business model. The author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist also frequently covers psychology and neuroscience as a contributing editor at Wired and columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Lehrer recommends five books that will help harness your creative powers.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
"Not only is this novel a masterful example of creativity—Woolf wrote it after recovering from a severe bout of mental illness—but it eloquently describes the difficulty of creating something new, as the painter Lily struggles throughout the novel to finish her painting."


The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
"This book never ceases to inspire me to look for fresh insights in old places. Levi explores each element in the Periodic Table, looking at the atoms not from the perspective of chemistry but from the angle of everyday life, discussing the carbon cycle in a glass of milk or using silicon as a metaphor for an enduring friendship."


Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison
"There are no easy answers concerning the link between mental illness and creative output. But in this sensitive and exhaustively researched text, the psychologist Jamison explores how and why the burden of manic depression might also be a creative blessing."


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
"I've always been a huge fan of Sacks's work. In this recent volume he captures the peculiar ways in which creativity can result from changes within the brain. There is, for instance, the strange case of Tony Cicoria, a doctor utterly uninterested in music who became obsessed with playing and composing for the piano after being struck by lightning."


How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand
"In this book Brand takes us on a tour of some of the most creative spaces in the world. One of my favorite sections details the creative power of so-called Low Road Buildings, such as the garages of Silicon Valley or Building 20 at MIT, which have become wellsprings of innovation despite their humble architecture."



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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Janice (new)

Janice Wow this looks like a GREAT list...thank you, I've put most of them on my to-read list.


message 2: by Iryna (new)

Iryna Sarachman I must read Touched with Fire. I have read her previous book on Bi-Polar disorder when my late husband was diagnosed with the illness. It shed light on the situation that was to come to pass. Perhaps this will make me understand his creativity during his illness.


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael Hardesty This is a terrible list. Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are much better as is Arthur Koestler's The Act Of Creation.


message 4: by Noah (new)

Noah Count At this stage of the game, anything is good. This list is, of course, better than good.


message 5: by Noah (new)

Noah Count I agree w/Michael that Ayn Rand, patricularly the two he mentioned must be read. Koestler's, Darkness at Noon is one of those, "you've wasted a life by not reading this book" books.


message 6: by EvelynMulwray (new)

EvelynMulwray What a bunch of dopey empty comments from a bunch of literate readers. Such a surprise to find folks like you cowering here.

Message 2: Is it a violation of one's privacy to have one's diagnosis posted publicly on the web? Answer: Yes.

Has no one nothing to say about this author or these books, or how their other suggestions relate to creativity, and why others may benefit from reading them?

Or, is this Twitter?

I do not, unfortunately, have anything to add, since I have not read them, except for the Ayn Rand ruling class flag-bearing melodramas. Those books are about as vital as "Gone With the Wind".

Best wishes,
Evelyn Mulwray


message 7: by Monzir (new)

Monzir Alhag graeat minds dont think a like


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