"This Is Not A Book," Keri Smith

Pros: Very freeing; highly unusual; childlike and playful
Cons: Needs a few more blank pages to keep exercises from interfering with each other
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.


Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal was a lot of fun to play with and review, so I was looking forward to This Is Not A Book. Once again, Keri fills a bunch of pages with weird, wacky creativity-building exercises that’ll definitely have you coloring outside the lines—and outside of the pages!


This Is Not A Book is much like its predecessor, except that it pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone much further. A handful of exercises push you to put yourself forward publicly in one way or another, or to risk losing your copy of the book to the results of an exercise. For example, one exercise encourages you to leave This Is Not A Book someplace overnight and see what happens. Another suggests that you read a piece of writing that you really like out loud where others can hear you. Some challenge you to risk looking silly in front of others, or do something you’ve always wanted to do.

Others are a little more… well, I don’t want to say traditional, because they aren’t. But they’re easier to do, in that they have less of an element of social or fiscal risk to them. An “Idea Formulation Generator” has you make three separate lists of terms (things found in nature, objects you use every day, and words you like), combine one from each list randomly, and use to come up with an idea for a new concept or product. The pages are filled with images, frames, white space, thought bubbles, and anything else needed to leave room for your experiments. The only problem I found is that there were a few places where the layout neglected to leave a blank page in the right place, resulting in conflicting exercises. I.e., one exercise requires you to cut out parts of the page, and there’s another exercise on the back of the page.

If you just can’t get yourself to leave your comfort zone and try wacky things, then Keri Smith’s publications (I can’t really call this one a book, can I?) are not for you! Or maybe they’re aimed particularly at you, because you’ll need the most help loosening up. (In that case, I recommend trying out Wreck This Journal first, to get your feet wet.) This Is Not A Book is a great method for forcing yourself to think outside the box, color outside the lines, etc., and that’s definitely a nice boost to creativity!

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