Rethink by Steven Poole
The Surprising History of New Ideas

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There’s not much that’s new here, but that’s the point. A modest, enjoyable look at the care and feeding of creativity.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A brilliant and groundbreaking argument that innovation and progress are often achieved by revisiting and retooling ideas from the past rather than starting from scratch—from The Guardian columnist and contributor to The Atlantic.

Innovation is not always as innovative as it may seem. This is the story of how old ideas that were mocked or ignored for centuries are now storming back to the cutting edge of science and technology, informing the way we lead our lives. This is the story of Lamarck and the modern-day epigeneticist whose research vindicated his mocked 200-year-old theory of evolution; of the return of cavalry use in the war in Afghanistan; of Tesla’s bringing back the electric car; and of the cognitive scientists who made breakthroughs by turning to ancient Greek philosophy.

Drawing on examples from business to philosophy to science, Rethink shows what we can learn by revisiting old, discarded ideas and considering them from a novel perspective. From within all these rich anecdotes of overlooked ideas come good ones, helping us find new ways to think about ideas in our own time—from out-of-the-box proposals in the boardroom to grand projects for social and political change.

Armed with this picture of the surprising evolution of ideas and their triumphant second lives, Rethink helps you see the world differently. In the bestselling tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, Poole’s new approach to a familiar topic is fun, convincing, and brilliant—and offers a clear takeaway: if you want to affect the future, start by taking a look at the past.
 

About Steven Poole

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Steven Poole is the author of Trigger Happy (2000) and Unspeak (2006), a book about contemporary political language. He writes about books, music, and other cultural matters for the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Times Literary Supplement, and has appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Bath and Edinburgh Literary Festivals, the Rotterdam Film Festival, and GameHotel, as well as on BBC television, BBC radio, NPR and ABC radio. He lives in London.
 
Published November 15, 2016 by Scribner. 352 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Rethink
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Sep 22 2016

There’s not much that’s new here, but that’s the point. A modest, enjoyable look at the care and feeding of creativity.

Read Full Review of Rethink: The Surprising Histo... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Gareth Cook on Nov 25 2016

The whole project has a slapdash, cynical vibe. On the first page, Poole introduces us to the Scottish chemist Robert Davidson and credits him with building, in 1837, “the first known electric car.” In fact, it was a locomotive. In lieu of transitions, he reaches for easy, but quite awkward, rhetorical questions.

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Julian Baggini on Jul 08 2016

This rises far above satire or parody because what Poole actually says is largely both true and interesting. I don’t think anyone has subverted the smart-thinking genre like this before. That’s inspired rethinking.

Read Full Review of Rethink: The Surprising Histo... | See more reviews from Financial Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by David Shariatmadari on Jul 22 2016

Ultimately, though, his powers of orchestration succeed. Among the greatest compliments you can give a book is that it helps you to see things differently. So long as you’re not dazzled by the fireworks, Rethink could do just that.

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