Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £27.19

Buy Now for £27.19

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

In the tradition of Jared Diamond's million-copy-selling classic Guns, Germs, and Steel, a bold new synthesis of paleontology, archaeology, genetics, and anthropology that overturns misconceptions about race, war and peace, and human nature itself, answering an age-old question: What made humans so exceptional among all the species on Earth?

Creativity. It is the secret of what makes humans special, hiding in plain sight. Agustín Fuentes argues that your child's finger painting comes essentially from the same place as creativity in hunting and gathering millions of years ago and throughout history in making war and peace, in intimate relationships, in shaping the planet, in our communities, and in all of art, religion, and even science. It requires imagination and collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The manner of the collaborations varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and it brought us everything from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.

Weaving fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors' creativity, Fuentes finds the patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. This key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It's not the drive to reproduce, nor competition for mates or resources or power, nor our propensity for caring for one another that has separated us out from all other creatures.

As Fuentes concludes, to make something lasting and useful today you need to understand the nature of your collaboration with others, what imagination can and can't accomplish, and, finally, just how completely our creativity is responsible for the world we live in. Agustín Fuentes' resounding multimillion-year perspective will inspire listeners - and spark all kinds of creativity.

©2017 Agustin Fuentes (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Persuasive, entertaining, informative... Fuentes has done a fine job of summarizing recent research in anthropology and primatology... pointing to numerous examples in which problems such as the finding of food, the avoidance of predators, the transfer of information and the manipulation of the physical environment are solved by way of imaginative collaboration.” (Wall Street Journal)

The Creative Spark is strong on man’s imaginative accomplishments and offers an important corrective to the skewed debate on human nature. A species that, uniquely, ponders its own exceptionality will surely be fascinated by it.” (The Economist)

What listeners say about The Creative Spark

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5
  • 4 Stars
    2
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    6
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

For once, a positive look at humanity

An excellent and, in the end, inspiring and uplifting take on humanity and our species great use of creativity to both work with and overcome the challenges that the natural world has thrown at us over the course of our evolution

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mark
  • Mark
  • 02-05-17

What's new?

I’ve probably listened to about 15 books dealing with the history of humanity. One thing they pretty much all have in common is that they generally have some kind of hypothesis, or central idea, that they are trying to support. Some kind of new angle or perspective to help us to think about humanity in a new way.

This book claims to do this, but I don’t think it succeeds. Its central idea is a ‘new synthesis’ upholding the idea that human creativity is the crucial factor defining who and what we are. But really, isn’t this just another way of saying that we are big-brained, clever, cooperative creatures who have exploited the ‘intelligence’ niche in the World? I think it is. We all know that this is what we’ve done, and this author doesn’t add anything new to our thinking on this.

It’s an enjoyable enough book, retelling the story of hominids and hominins and tool-making and becoming successful at hunting, despite our lack of any fearsome body parts such as sharp claws or fangs, and our mastery of fire. I’m pretty easy to please on this front. I love going back to the savanna and imagining how our ancestors used their wits to survive in a harsh unforgiving world.

But there is no new theory in this book. And the final chapter, in which the author dishes out a load of advice on how we should live our lives, based on his now-proven hypothesis, verges on the irritating. But go ahead and listen to it. It isn’t bad, and it’s educational and entertaining, it just doesn’t, in my opinion, contain the new theory which the author claims will better explain the human journey.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for D. B. Williams
  • D. B. Williams
  • 27-10-17

Interesting book, irritating performance.

I enjoyed the substance of the book, and appreciated some ideas that had not previously been 'front and centre' in my thinking. Specifically, the idea that animals create 'niches' for themselves, modifying the environment in a way that feeds back as selection pressure on future generations, particularly as the human 'niche' expanded to include toolmaking, language, domestication of the food supply, and eventually cities. The narrator was extremely irritating - he often uses a staccato presentation that separates words into separate units, providing (often) unwarranted emphasis. In addition, he tends to commence sentences loudly, and then trail off at the end into a soft, muffled, poorly projected articulation of what is often the crux of the thought, leaving you struggling to understand the point of the sentence or paragraph. I often lost the thread of the story as I took time to realise he had said 'beads' and not 'bees', or 'Balinese' and not 'Bolognese', or 'forager' and not 'forger'. In the end I spent far too much time being irritated, trying to decipher the narrator's performance, and too little time concentrating on the author's thoughts.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Federico
  • Federico
  • 17-01-18

Wow. Accidental gem

I found this book by sheer accident and have enjoyed it so thoroughly that this will be the first review I ever took the time to write. The author tells an amazingly coherent and interesting story. He lays out the science in a very easy to understand way and gives supporting evidence in abundance. But it doesn’t read like a scientific book. It reads like a wonderful and entertaining history of humanity. Also, this is one of only a few books where the author does an excellent job of narrator. Very engaging.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anand Pareek
  • Anand Pareek
  • 28-09-17

Not pure Antropology but still a very good read

The book talks in a very smooth way the creative self has impacted the creation of human society the way it is and how it is bound to take shape in the future. It is a very good read if you are keen on topic.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for "ctung@csua.berkeley.edu"
  • "ctung@csua.berkeley.edu"
  • 02-06-21

excellent journey and scientific approach of modern anthropology

very thorough and deeply thoughtful book; can’t put it down. it is hard to capture all of human evolution in one book but Fuentes does pretty amazing job. it includes facts that dismisses the “roots” of science used to explain racism, sexism, misogyny, and religious fundamentalism - kudos to Fuentes for blowing these very modern structures of bias away so succinctly and elegantly. however, what i was hoping for the later chapters were sadly missing. where Fuentes immaculately directed the readers to the importance of creativity in solving humanities biggest challenges. he falls short in reality; his message felt inadequately and prohibitively positive. it misses points of danger as various groups are subverting “scientific analysis” to fit their biases, eg the small but vocal group perpetuating anti-vaccine “science” and significant impact in recovery from the COVID pandemic or climate-science deniers. and the part about addressing environmental catastrophe felt written off in his tone of let’s be creative, consider diversity, and let’s make mistakes. while these are good mantras as guidelines, we can’t afford to make mistakes given the agonizing adoption of climate policies. and diversity is important but until individuals and groups/corporations take accountability seriously, acknowledging diversity as important isn’t not going to get us anywhere - we need a way to really integrate it. while change takes time, what to do when we are really running out of time?

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 25-12-20

A great evolutionary investigation into the origins of hominid creativity

The author provides a thorough and optimistic perspective into human creativity and its origins. The author cites a wealth of existing literature in making claims pertaining to human creativity. The book is also very fair and objective, a great read for anybody interested in paleo anthropology!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Beth
  • Beth
  • 20-07-18

Excellent

This book should be required reading for all humans! The narration was also just perfect.