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Review: Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer


Unfortunately, in the course of writing this review, I discovered that the author falsified some quotes in the book, and it was withdrawn from sale from both the US and the UK in August 2012. I’m not sure if I can review it now. I actually felt quite betrayed by this, because I’d never have picked up on the false quotes from Bob Dylan myself. I’d still recommend The Decisive Momenta book about how exactly people go about making decisions, and what impact those decisions might have on others, but I’m afraid this review can no longer stand. This is a shame, because I thought Imagine could have been a fascinating look into human creativity, but unfortunately, it is mainly a poster story for the wrong kind of creativity entirely.

How do you feel when a non-fiction author essentially makes up details to support his thesis? How does this escape the attention of everyone in the publication process?


7 comments to Review: Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer

  • I read quite a few articles about this scandal when it happened (my favourite is probably this one) because the whole thing is so baffling it’s almost fascinating. I wouldn’t have noticed either, but Bob Dylan is not exactly an obscure musician. He has people who did PhDs on his work, and the sheer arrogance of imagining you can pull something like this off and not get caught is something I can’t even begin to grasp.

    PS: I see you’re reading Among Others! Can’t wait to hear what you think.
    Ana @ things mean a lot´s last post …Terry Pratchett at Ely Cathedral

  • You could perhaps review it in the knowledge that it was untruthful? In a way it’s worrying it might be completely forgotten, because it was still published and out there. Bob Dylan though, did he really think no one would notice? So much non-fiction seems to be half made-up, and whilst it’s understandable sometimes, it’s silly. Personally I’m all for fully-backed up statements, and it’s worrying when you’re made to believe that the statements have been backed up.
    Charlie´s last post …Hélène Grémillon – The Confidant

  • Wow, if I found out some of the details were made up, I would doubt everything the author said.
    bermudaonion(Kathy)´s last post …Review: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man

  • Like Kathy, if I found out that some of the details were falsified, I would not believe anything else the author said. I actually took A Million Little Pieces back to the book store when that scandal broke. I told my husband that anyone could make up stories and sell them, but a memoir shouldn’t do that! I agree with your decision not to post this review.
    zibilee´s last post …The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory — 464 pgs

  • Now this may be because I haven’t read a huge amount of non-fiction since leaving university..but I haven’t heard of anyone making up details like this before! I agree with you and I would probably have chosen not to post the review as well.
    jessicabookworm´s last post …Monthly Reflection: September

  • Wow, talk about arrogance. At least the book was pulled, I suppose. It’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t be able to find quotes to support a thesis on creativity, no matter what it was.
    heidenkind´s last post …Review: TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT by Lawrence Block

  • CreativeGuy

    The Bob Dylan quotes are not the only fabrications in the book, search Google, there is more than that. Outside and before that book, Lehrer also got caught recycling for the New Yorker material he had previously written for other publications, and that was a breach of contract.

    I guess he got caught getting creative (or lazy). And it’s really not a good example of how creativity works – hence it’s a good idea to pull the book, and anything else he wrote.