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Uncommon Genius

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  185 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Drawing on interviews with 40 winners of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship—the so-called "genius awards"—the insightful study throws fresh light on the creative process.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published February 28th 1990)
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Nick Craske
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A compelling, intriguing and inspiring exploration of creativity through an amalgamation of interviews and discussions with forty MacArthur Foundation Genius Award winners. Shekerjian's lucid prose style, and her empathy for the complexities of the creative processes, approaches and thinking patterns of these creative folk, delivers a satisfying assessment of living a creative life.
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most honest books about creativity I've ever read. Fans of Creativity, Inc. will find this an invaluable companion read. Shekerjian weaves together the themes she has learned by interviewing 40 MacArthur "genius" grant recipients. Each chapter picks up on a characteristic of creative genius and highlights a few thinkers who display or describe this characteristics well. But Shekerjian also emphasizes how difficult it is to nail down exactly what makes one person a success (and how dif ...more
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am glad that I found this book by reference from the Malcolm Gladwell book, "Outliars." It really sheds light on what it takes to be a creative genius. I read this book wanting to know what the secrets were, if there was any predisposed behavior or genetic line but what the author founds out from his research with all the other MacArthur grant members is that everyone one of them has the same thing in common.

The author of this book is also a MacArthur grant member and got it because of his wor
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Hands down, my MOST favorite book ever. If I were stuck on an island, this would be my one book. The book is an inquiry into creativity. Ms. Shekerjian goes about interviewing 40 recipients of the McCarthur Award (aka, the "Genius Award") and finding out what they have in common and what sets them apart - what is the nature of their geniusness. She explains what the award is, how it came about, and writes about the process of finding and talking to these 40+ people. It is so interesting and insp ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
It’s time to shelve this book. I read about 60% of it, but ever time I picked it up - it was complete torture. Incredibly boring and I didn’t find anything valuable in that 60%. Perhaps it’s just me, because it appears a lot of people really like it.
Brandon Woodward
Apr 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read for class. A huge amount of biographical fluff and useless obsession over “creative geniuses” paired with generic creativity advice. So surface level. 1.5/5
G.M. Loggins
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Still relevant and interesting discussions on creativity that the author held with recipients of the MacArthur grant.
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
I picked this up expecting it to be way more fabulous than it was. I thought it would be a really dynamic, engaging series of biographical-type profiles of MacArthur fellows and it ended up being (what it was probably advertised to be, to be honest, which was) a book about creativity and genius and how all of these fellows probably came to warrant attention by the MacArthur Foundation. Somehow, my copy was plagued by typos and I am anal as f&^k about spelling and that was the end of it for me.

Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Virtuous: Five Stars. The people interviewed and the author are all interested in becoming better people. There are a few times where the author quotes one of the interviewees when they cuss. I don't remember any of it being terribly offensive though.

Lovely: Five Stars. So Interesting! The book is a quest to better understand creativity by asking those who should know: the receptors of the MacArthur award.

Of Good Report: Five Stars. My husband recommended it to me.

Praiseworthy: Five Stars. The a
Stephen Kiernan
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book on creativity based on extensive interviewing of 40 winners of the MacArthur award.

Compared with so many quick-fix books on idea generation and creative thinking, this book investigates the actual work and workings of creative people. The writing is clever, engaging and insightful. Plenty to learn in there.

In the movies, a person sits down to write a book one night, there's a 30-second montage during which the candle burns down, and in the morning voila, there is the finished m
Zachary C
Dec 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Fascinating vignettes of MacArthur Geniuses. Occasionally overwritten and pretentious (the italicized sections between chapters where the author discusses what they wanted to cut from the book, while mentioning it anyway, is a good example). You won't walk away with lots of actionable steps to improve your life. But the book delivers a great window into the hugely diverse processes and lives of brilliantly creative people. The author also does an excellent job showing how difficult creative purs ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Generally fascinating, occasionally pretentious. The author explores various aspects of creativity through interviews with 40 MacArthur fellows. One thing I found really interesting was the range of people who receive these "genius grants." A clown, a woodworker, a journalist. And they have all had varying levels of success in life, with some embraced by the mainstream in their fields and others definitely on the fringes.
Susan Waskey
I appreciated the premise of this book, and initially enjoyed it, but my enthusiasm faded as it progressed and I eventually found it a bit of a slog. Some of this was due to interviews that were less insightful, where I could not even ascertain the spark in their work that led to their recognition by MacArthur. Some aspects of the writing style have not held up well, and come across as somewhat sexist or culturally tone-deaf.
A different, more strategic look at how people are creative in all kinds of fields. From science to music, to business and environmentalists, they all have certain reoccurring traits that aren't bad places to start when you have trouble jump starting your own projects.
Benjamin Quiñones
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked it! I never really thought of creativity as something you could control until I read this book. I recommend it for anyone who wishes to increase their own creativity! It's very well-written and even a little comical.
Feb 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This book made me want to do some thing great with my life unfortunate it felt a bit dated and presented very little new info.
Jun 25, 2009 is currently reading it
I am excited about this book. I haven't delved into the actual meat and cheese of the book yet, but the prologue has made me very hopeful.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love these stories of a handful of MacArthur winners. find your inner genius!
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved meeting the 40 MacArthur Grant Winners who talked about creativity and learn about their work. An interesting read about interesting people.
Stephen Cranney
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
I would have preferred it if he had just published the interviews. He makes a lot of general statements and then backs them up with one or two of the fellows (out of 40) that he interviewed.
Ron Davison
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Teaches you about creativity and purpose through the lives of fascinating people.
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
excellent! very inspiring! my friend has asked for it back and I am hesitant to give it back!
C.R. Elliott
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Jul 28, 2011
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