Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

Joshua Wolf Shenk. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-544-03159-3
In this intriguing yet uneven study, Shenk (Lincoln’s Melancholy) explores the nature of creativity as defined and manifested through numerous pairings, ranging from true partnerships like John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s to rivalries between competitors such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Shenk looks at how such duos nudge one another toward greatness, provide the missing ingredient in a winning formula, add a spark of inspiration, and so on. He looks at scientific teams (James D. Watson and Francis Crick), artistic pairs (Theo and Vincent van Gogh), business partnerships (Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger), and familial rivalries (the sisters who wrote the Ask Ann Landers and Dear Abby columns). Each category can further broken down into six stages—meeting, confluence, archetypes, distance, the infinite game, and interruption—to show how such pairs need not be limited by proximity, friendship, or even cooperation. One of the most telling stories is the rivalry between basketball legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who never even dared to relax their tension lest it impact their performances. While the narrative is somewhat disjointed, leaping from one pair to the next with dizzying speed, the material remains interesting, even eye-opening, illuminating a complicated subject. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/09/2014
Release date: 08/05/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 339 pages - 978-1-84854-592-2
Hardcover - 978-0-544-26409-0
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-544-03202-6
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-544-33446-5
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