Dean Keith Simonton


On his book The Genius Checklist: Nine Paradoxical Tips on How You Can Become a Creative Genius

Cover Interview of April 10, 2019

A close-up

The marketing people at MIT Press asked me to pick out a brief excerpt from the book that might provide the best entry. I answered that the four-page Prologue would do well. Fortunately, they agreed, and so they posted it on their website. It can easily be found by googling “prologue genius checklist.”

The piece begins by describing my bizarre experiences with “neglected geniuses” who were irate about an essay that I published in Nature entitled “After Einstein: Scientific Genius is Extinct.” They begged to disagree, engaging in self nominations. I then turned to the distinctive place creative genius has in popular culture. The media response to the so-called “Genius Grants” bestowed by the MacArthur Foundation provides one illustration. That leads to a topic already mentioned, namely the bifurcation in books about genius. Either you get a scholarly but boring monograph or a fascinating but ill-informed trade book (only in the Prologue I actually provide some sample titles for the latter). I then conclude by noting how my book occupies a unique spot between these extremes. That conclusion includes the justification for conceiving the material in terms of paradoxical tips.

Naturally, I would hope that our hypothetical browser will also take a peek at the back of the dust jacket, where three experts in creativity, giftedness, and genius added some fine blurbs on behalf of my book.

There are other options, too. An actual bookstore browser might just scan the table of contents to pick out a topic of choice and then turn to the designated pages. Or skim the index to see what creative geniuses I used as examples. Or, if the reader is a researcher in the area, they might beeline to the references to see if I included one of their publications in the list. If not, I imagine that the book will be immediately returned to the shelf with an audible humph.