Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas are Born by Denise Shekerjian: I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s a study of creativity based on interviews with 40 MacArthur Fellows. If you’re not familiar with the MacArthur Foundation’s Fellowship program, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about how it works:
The MacArthur Fellows Program or MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the Genius Award) is an award given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation each year to typically 20 to 40 United States citizens or residents, of any age and working in any field, who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.”
According to the Foundation website, “the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.” The current amount of the award is $500,000, paid in quarterly installments over five years. As of 2007[update], there have been 756 recipients who have received a total of more than $350 million.
The Fellowship has no application. People are nominated anonymously by a body of nominators who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous. The committee then reviews every nominee and passes along their recommendations to the President and the board of directors. The entire process is anonymous and confidential. Most new MacArthur Fellows first learn that they have even been considered when they receive the congratulatory phone call.