David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.
Shortlisted for the 2011 Bristol Festival Best Book of Ideas
"A welcome new book...compelling...Shenk's thesis is that intellectual capacity is not a gift, fixed permanently in our cells. It's a process."
-- THE BOSTON GLOBE
"I wonder whether, finally, it's beginning to sink in among policymakers that the richness of people's lives depends on the richness of their environment, and not on the idea that some are doomed to be born thick. David Shenk's [book] should be read by anyone persisting with that myth." -- THE GUARDIAN (UK)
"Cogent and compelling...[Shenk's book] will convince many readers that the conventional wisdom about talent is due to be overthrown. Shenk gets that revolution well under way." -- THE WEEK
"Engrossing...revives faith in not just practice and determination but also parenting and lifestyle." -- BOOKLIST (starred review)
"Readable and well-researched...The big idea in this book is that talent is not a matter of genetic endowment, but of an ongoing interaction between genes and environment. The nature/nurture debate is therefore dead (or should be)." -- THE INDEPENDENT
"An incredibly well-researched meditation on the nature of human talent." -- KEVIN ROBERTS, CEO WORLDWIDE, SAATCHI & SAATCHI
"One of my all-time favorite books." -- KRISTEN PHILIPKOSKI, GIZMODO
"One of the best books I have read in the last year...Many of my favorite non-fiction books of recent years have been in different ways about the process of human improvement – Non-Zero by Robert Wright, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, Good to Great by Jim Collins. I would add The Genius in All of Us to this list." -- RUFUS GRISCOM, BABBLE
"Rather than championing nurture and downplaying nature, [Shenk] paints a picture in which genes and environment interact in a much more complicated way." -- THE LONDON OBSERVER (Paperback Book of the Week)
"The Genius in All of Us will give new hope to those of us who have not yet written a classic sonata or played center field for the Yankees. With a flair for explaining scientific research, [Shenk] debunks outdated assumptions that genes are destiny and shows how environment and mindset are just as important." -- THE DAILY BEAST (A Book Pick)
"Shenk dissects and demolishes the notion that some people are "born geniuses"...I hope that The Genius in All of Us is widely read and discussed among educators, and that all of us take a hard look at our own assumptions." -- INSIDE HIGHER ED
"Teachers, parents and anyone else who is guilty of setting low expectations for American boys should read The Genius in All of Us. -- EDUCATION WEEK
"Startling." -- MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW (Reviewer's Choice)
"Surprisingly compelling...vivid and eloquently described...equally suited to the bookshelf of a philosopher, educator, or popular science reader." -- PHENOTYPE JOURNAL
"Shenk robustly disputes the popular belief that intelligence and talent are genetically predetermined and methodically explains the thousands of hours of practice behind the “genius” of a host of musical and athletic superstars (and those amazing London cabbies)." -- FREAKONOMICS BLOG
"Clear and exciting prose...[this is the] one book that will change your thinking about intelligence, genetics, [and] the role of schools in creating learning." -- CINCINNATI METRO NEWS
MORE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW: "It’s ambitious indeed to try to overthrow in one go the conventional ideas and images that have accumulated since 1874, when Francis Galton first set the words “nature” and “nurture” against each other. Yet Shenk convinces the reader that such a coup is necessary, and he gets it well under way. He tells engaging stories, lucidly explains complex research and offers fresh insights into the nature of exceptional performance….. Just how tall a task Shenk took on is evident in his voluminous endnotes, which go on as long as the main text and are just as interesting. Here the author allows us to watch him working his way through the literature, inquiring, arguing, marveling, as he wrestles a new understanding into being."
Here's the first of my five guest spots on the new public radio morning show "The Takeaway." I'll be on every day this week. (I particularly like how they work George W. Bush's voice into the intro-clip.)
A very positive, and thoughtful, review by Laura Miller.
As someone who has always resisted genetic determinism while still subscribing to the secular mystery religion of talent, I confess that The Genius in All of Us has quietly blown my mind. But the book's premise has far more profound implications for social policy....While The Genius in All of Us isn't an inventive, sensitive piece of writing like Shenk's celebrated book on Alzheimer's disease, The Forgetting, it isn't meant to be; he has deliberately stripped it down to communicate a handful of insurrectionary ideas as simply and unequivocally as possible.
"In The Genius in All of Us Shenk beautifully explains why the nature-nurture debate is dead. It is not just the genes we are born with, but how we are raised and what opportunities are open to us that determine how smart we will become. Nurture and experience reshape our genes, and thus our brain. Shenk argues that the idea we are either born with genius or talent, or we aren’t, is simply untrue. The notion that relentless, deliberate practice changes the brain and thus our abilities has been undervalued over the past 30 years in favor of the concept of “innate giftedness.” Practice, practice, practice (some say 10,000 hours or more) is what it takes. Shenk argues that it is just some fantasy that effortless, gifted genius is born and not made. He marshals evidence to show that genetic factors do not trump environmental factors but rather work in concert with them. Shenk notes that by the sweat of our brow we can train ourselves to be successful--even if we are born with only average genetic talent. Scientists know that how we are raised and how we are trained affects the expression of our genes. If you think you’ve reached your talent limit, think again, Shenk says. It’s not just in your genes, he says, but in the intensity of your motivation. Ambition, persistence, and self-discipline are not just products of genes, but can be shaped by nurture and environment. Certainly it is important to have good genes, but that determines at most only 50 percent of your talent. He underscores the point that intelligence is made up of the skills that a person has developed--with an emphasis on “developed”--through hard work. Encouraging ourselves and our children to work hard requires being surrounded by others also wanting to achieve striving for excellence. Moreover, Shenk gives the hopeful message not just for kids, but also for adults. Happily for us, the human brain remains plastic, changeable and trainable well into old age. So no matter how old you are, if you’d like to be smarter--get to work!"
Louann Brizendine, M.D.,author of The Female Brainand The Male Brain, is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, and is clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF. She is founder and director of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic and the Teen Girl Mood and Hormone Clinic. After receiving her medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, she completed an internship in medicine and neurology at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center of Harvard Medical School. She sits on the boards of many prestigious peer reviewed journals and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards.