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The Creators, A History of Heroes of the Imagination, by Daniel J Boorstin -- A Book Review

Updated on October 22, 2015
Photo is in the public domain
Photo is in the public domain

A long and sometimes disjointed read, but awesome content that makes it all worthwhile

4 stars for The Creators, by Daniel J Boorstin
The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination
The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination

The reviewed book. Awesome information on the history of human thought and imagination, but expect a long, dense read.


For as long as there have been humans there has been imagination. Over the centuries that imagination has morphed and developed through many different styles and has been expressed in countless ways. How did we get from cave paintings and pyramids to Picasso and skyscrapers? Author Daniel J. Boorstin strives to answer that question in his epic 750-page recounting of the journey the collective human imagination has taken since the beginnings of recorded history until now.

In what ways is the imagination expressed? According to Boorstin, it is most commonly influenced and expressed by religion, philosophy, art, architecture, and performance. Boorstin follows the beginnings of the early religious practices and philosophical beliefs around the world, and then shows how these began mutating and influencing the other arenas of expression.

This is a truly fascinating collection of information. The most obvious value of this book is its use as a road map for further learning, as each item of discussion is only a bare outline of actual people and events. People’s lives come into the picture only in the ways they influenced the imaginative timeline, inventions are only explained enough to show how they evolved from previous ways of thinking, and so on. However, through this outline it is very possible to find endless threads of continuing study in areas of interest.

People who have a true love of learning will likely be completely enthralled by this book as any reader will come out of it having learned a great deal. The writing style is surprisingly very plain and easy to read without bogging down anywhere. It is very rare that someone can read a 750-page and not only not be tired of it by time it’s done, but wish there was still more to read. The only possible area for confusion is that the book is not arranged chronologically, but rather organized according to lines of influence. For instance, a chapter on performing arts will follow acting from the huge community events of old to the star-centered film productions of today, then the following chapter may plunge the reader back into the Dark Ages for another form of influence or expression.

The book could have used a little bit of additional editing as there were quite a number of typos, including some incorrect dates. Luckily, all of the dates that were noticed were very clearly incorrect as they showed a person’s life or reign ending before it began (i.e., a reign printed as being from 1633-1628).

Anyone seeking a liberal arts degree may find it worthwhile to read this book in order to get a big-picture view of how the world became what it is today. However, having no other reason to read it but pure enjoyment and self-education will still make it an extremely rewarding read. Overall, this is one of the best works of general knowledge yet encountered by this reviewer. The book was certainly very enlightening and educational, and may leave on wanting to look up some of the other books by this author. Boorstin has also written books following inventors, explorers, early colonial America, and more. This is an exceptional one-time read, or a useful reference book to keep on hand for repeated use.


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