Just born lucky

Cover of QuirkyQuirky: The Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World
by Melissa Schilling
Published by PublicAffairs (£12.79)
(Buy at Amazon)

Are geniuses born, made, or just lucky? This book attempts to answer these questions by looking at the innovators, entrepreneurs and inventors who changed our lives. The author’s subjects range from Benjamin Franklin and Nikola Tesla to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, and she identifies eight major factors in their success. Some of them are intrinsic to the individual, such as creativity and a higher calling, but others are external, such as access to resources and support from patrons. In the case of Marie Curie, she was fortunate enough to receive an education far beyond the kind that most women of her era could expect.

Schilling is a talented storyteller and she identifies some fascinating common themes, such as the fact that many of her subjects suffered from neurological peculiarities; Tesla, for example, had an eidetic memory. However, the book feels a little jumbled and disorganised at times, and there doesn’t seem to be any logical progression towards a conclusion. As result, it seems more like a collection of anecdotes than a serious examination of what distinguishes innovators from the rest of us. Although it is billed as a management book, there are few lessons that are applicable in a business setting. The book is an entertaining read, perfect for a short flight – just don’t expect too much from it in the way of insight.