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Quirky: The Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  415 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The science behind the traits and quirks that drive creative geniuses to make spectacular breakthroughs

What really distinguishes the people who literally change the world -- those creative geniuses who give us one breakthrough after another? What differentiates Marie Curie or Elon Musk from the merely creative, the many one-hit wonders among us?

Melissa Schilling, one of
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by PublicAffairs
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Charlie Miksicek
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heard about this book on CSPAN's Book TV and immediately wanted to read it. Illustrates the fascinating parallels among serial innovators like Ben Franklin, Einstein, Nikolai Tesla, Edison, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. Very well written although parts seem a bit redundant leaving you with the thought, "Didn't I just read this chapter." The author also has the habit, which becomes a bit annoying, of using only female personal pronouns throughout (she, her) even though only one of the innov ...more
This book is very well-researched and well-strutured. But the parts of every beginning of a chapter where it talks about a specific innovator life and work was unengaging and dragged.

I loved the parts where she discussed the traits by giving examples from all innovators. The parts where she said what she observed were well-done and highly engaging.

I had a small issue with writing she would use she or her instead of they or them, that irritated me for some stupid reason.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it

If you've read biographies of the individuals she profiles, you won't learn much new about them here. However, the framework of the discussion--examining the sense of separateness, self-efficacy, creativity, high idealism, drive, opportunities, and resources--is useful and and thought-provoking for those who possess one or more of these characteristics. I appreciated her acknowledgement of the differing roles of nature, nurture, and luck. Many works tend to over-emphasize one of the fir
Lecy Beth
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Chock full of research about some of the world's greatest creative geniuses like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Marie Curie, this book is like a mini-biography of the idiosyncrasies of these brilliant people, and what made them different from any other person. Although I found the stories shared to be quite interesting, it was quite redundant in places. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then I come across a book that seems to be written just for me. Mellissa Schilling’s book Quirky was one of those books. I first came across her when listening to Book TV. As she described her interest in what she calls quirky people it became clear that she has opened up a new and very productive vein of riches in studying these people down through recent history. I especially valued her insights about the common traits that identify such ‘quirky’ persons.
They challenge norms and
Sofia The Great
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked it and it gave a lot of information that I didn't know. ...more
Anoop Dixith
Mar 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up this book hoping it would offer insights about the quirks and oddities of people who are on the front line of inventing, exploring, building a business etc, essentially any form of innovation. Although the book was indeed about that, it was limited to THE USUAL suspects of genius and innovation - Einstein, Edison, Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, Musk, Marie Curie, and of course the unmissable Jobs. Not saying that was disappointing, but it sure was less any more informative than what I alr ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the publisher ---
From historical figures such as Marie Curie to contemporaries such as Steve Jobs, a handful of innovators have changed the world. What made them so spectacularly inventive? Melissa A. Schilling, one of the world's leading experts on innovation, looks at the lives of seven creative geniuses--Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Dean Kamen, Nicola Tesla, Curie, an
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book, exploring common traits of serial breakthrough innovators such as Curie, Einstein, Tesla and Musk. The book explores the convergence of personal and external factors that lead to their great discoveries and achievements and the effort it took to persist in the face of adversity. It also gives us hints on how to foster weird or unconventional thinking and personalities in order to unlock an individual's full capacities. The well summarized mini biographies of all the innovators me ...more
Meg Berg
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This book turned out to be quite different than the one I thought I would be reading. I was expecting an exploration of neurodiversity, but this turned out to be an exploration of traits shared by 5 famous innovators. There were some interesting bits. I realized that there were quite a number of biological details about each of the subjects that I'd never learned, or had forgotten. It was enlightening to see the ways in which some personality traits that others might see as "less desirable" play ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I found this book to have an interesting concept. On the surface, placing each of these innovators into the same strata would be a bit of a stretch, but the author does this grouping masterfully. There is enough information on each individual to gain a true sense of who they are without becoming a full-length biography on each. The reader easily flows from Musk to Jobs to Curie without being lost or bogged down with s
Jen Juenke
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A great and fascinating read on what sets serial innovators apart. The book looks at Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Edison, Curie, and Tesla about what set them apart to create great and wonderful things. The book was wonderfully laid out and was an easy read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot of useful information!
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Melissa Schilling has written a collective biography (multiple case study?) of a group of serial “breakthrough” innovators who have changed the world. The subjects include: Thomas Edison, Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Dean Kamen, Steve Jobs, and Nikola Tesla. The intent is to focus on innovators with large numbers of successes, not just on innovators with only a few successes. The life details of these people are examined in detail, so that similarities and differen ...more
Vasudev Gowda
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
causations and correlations of personality traits that make them what they are about few amazing people. Good book
Daiya Hashimoto
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Melissa Schilling, Professor of NYU Stern School of Business, thoroughly review the five key factors below which were shared by the eight serial breakthrough innovators who changed the world, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Dean Kamen, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs.

These are the five factors, five quirks of the geniuses.
1 A Sense of Separateness
2 Extreme Confidence
3 The Creative Mind
4 A Higher Purpose
5 Driven to Work

The author wrote that the serial innov
David Gaddis Ross
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring and Thought Provoking

This book is a comparative case study of several of the most famous and impactful innovators in recent human history (e.g., Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs). Synthesizing original source material, academic research on creativity and innovation, and the many in-depth biographies that exist of these famous innovators in science and commerce, Schilling isolates the commonalities in personality and circumstance that lead someone to become a breakthrough innovator. The re
Bulent Atalay
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Melissa Schilling’s new book, Quirky, examines the lives of a finite number of individuals whose legacies have dramatically shaped the way we live and the way we see the world. Her subjects are eight innovators whose lifetimes span two-and-a-half centuries, from Benjamin Franklin the earliest to Elon Musk the latest. We have come to regard their inventions as necessities we could not possibly live without. As a physicist, I have long known the works of Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. I realized ...more
Insightful!! I admit that I picked it up mostly due to Nikola Tesla (whom I will always have a soft spot for), but I think I got more than what I wanted. I learnt so much more about Marie Curie and Elon Musk (which I didn't think I needed but I was more than happy to have had).

Besides giving us biographies of the 8 great innovators shortlisted, she examines the confluence of factors that lead to these successful innovators (for instance, intelligence, self-efficacy, perseverance, creativity). Sh
Mercy [Bookworm  | Engr]
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, genius
Ideas come from times when you were being alone.

Don't let the world corrupt your mind, stain your opinions, and erase your views.
You are your own, and you can change the world.
Be proud if you can't relate to others, be happy if you can't speak long enough with people.
Be in love with knowledge, be in love with your passion. Let it burn you, and may it burn the world.

I hate small talks. I find them as a waste of time. I hate efforts in conversation. If I don't like you, let's not talk.
I take book
Trung Nguyen Dang
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice book that studies the commonality of some of the greatest innovators in history: Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Dean Kamen, Benjamin Franklin. A lot of the materials seem to come from standalone biographies.

So what make them great innovators, a summary:

- a sense of separateness, give your children alone time
- self-education but typically don't do well in school, except for Marie Curie.
- extreme confidence or self-efficacy, which can be
Gregg R.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Distinctive Similarities of Eight Quirky Innovators: I’ve previously read biographies of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein, so I was fascinated to read about the distinctive similarities between each of their bios as well as those of Marie Curie, Dean Kamen, and Nikola Tesla. Further, I appreciated that the author didn’t just look back at history; she also gave clues for discovering and developing future inventors. Last night I was at dinner with some f ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Four stars because I really liked it.

So often we only hear the "glory" stories of our famous innovators. Ms Shilling certainly includes those, but she also describes the sacrifices, mental health issues, and demons that our extreme outliers can have.

She lets us marvel at the sheer brilliance of Einstein/Tesla/Musk/Curie, etc and their ability to hold thoughts, memory, and patterns and manipulate them. But then she shows their struggles with isolation, depression, domestic tension, etc, and tha
Christie Bane
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an inspiring and very readable book that summarized what we know about innovation by referring to the lives of eight people who are best-known for being innovative. I liked the book not only because it was well-written, but also because it made me believe that some of my own personality traits that annoy other people, match some of these very famous people's personality traits! The fact that I don't need a lot of sleep, don't really care what other people think, put work before relation ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
In an age where we vastly require information at a much more rapid pace and at a digestible book has done brilliantly in providing a summarized format into the lives, careers and profiles of exceptional people and their endeavours. The one thing that will be said however is, if one is to require a deeper understand of what makes an exceptionally strong innovator so, you may as well read the biographies of the people mentioned in the book. It provides a summary of all the profiles and (auto)biogr ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
As others have said, this book reads more like a biography than a self-help. I actually found that refreshing, to hear the stories of Einstein, Edison, Tesla, Curie, Franklin, Jobs and Musk. Serial innovators have unrelenting beliefs in whatever they stand for. This often comes at the cost of spending time with family, pursuing other varied interests etc. While hard to capture the recipe of a genius, the author concludes that family background and timing play a pivotal role (vs. access to capita ...more
Stanley Trice
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: social
The author makes an attempt to explain the successes of Einstein, Franklin, Musk, Kamen, Tesla, Curie, Edison, and Jobs. She tries to find a common link that they all have to make them inventive.

As an example, they all have some type of “social detachment” that makes them think differently. They have a “sense of separateness”, “extreme confidence”, “driven to work”, and others. She believes “it is the convergence of such traits that increases the likelihood of breakthrough innovation.” A brief b
Jaksone Wallbank
Dec 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very well researched book. The author is able to draw upon a vast range of research and stories about the group of what she calls "serial innovators". I was a little bit frustrated that she only focused on innovators in the science and tech industries. I did understand her reasoning for it, but I would still have been interested to see if any of the patterns she outlines are visible in people who are trying to or have innovated in the Creative Industries.

One of the other issues is that
Vinayak Joshi
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting book. One learns a lot about how luck and chance led to innovation, as well as about the specific habits of serial innovators like Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk, Einstein, Marie Curie etc. which helped them be so good.

The author has a 'quirky' habit of always using the feminine form (she/her) of the personal pronoun when talking about general things. This is perfectly fine by me - except for the fact that at one place (and I belive it is just one single instance) in the book, s
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Quirky looks at a number of ‘serial innovators’, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Marie Curie, Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, to try and work out what things enabled them to invent / discover so many things and whether these things were common across the group. So, part biographies, part social study. I enjoyed the biographies (although having already read a biography of Steve Jobs, I didn’t learn anything new there) and some of the discussion of the serial innovators sha ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book looks at serial breakthrough innovators and for what they have in common. It certainly gives ideas about how we are preventing innovation and to some of these conclusions I have came myself when reading books about Tesla and electricity for example, here also Tesla is one of the people at whose life we are looking at. Well, I guess the only problem I personally had with the book was where it talked about good working memory as being part of creativity and previously I know exactly the ...more
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