HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

James Geary

<i. New York Times Best-selling Author, Expert on Aphorisms and Metaphors in Business & Politics


  • Advertising & Branding: Why Metaphors (Visual Imagery) and Aphorisms (Taglines) are Crucial to the Creation of Memorable Ads and Successful Brands
  • Finance & Economics: The Use of Metaphors in Financial Commentary and How They Can Dramatically Affect Personal Finance Decisions
  • Innovation & Creativity: The Essential Role of Metaphorical Thinking in Business Innovation and Scientific Discovery
  • Leadership & Management: What Metaphor and Aphorisms Can Teach Us About Everything from Motivating Others to Navigating Office Politics
  • Politics: The Power of Metaphor to Form Public Opinion and Shape Political Debates



"James Geary spoke at our TEDGlobal 2009 conference in Oxford, and then again at a smaller TEDSalon in London in April 2010, and both times he captivated the audience with great and offbeat storytelling, informed by a breadth of examples, anecdotes, and, of course, aphorisms and metaphors."
-- Bruno Giussani, European director, TED Conferences

"Geary's depth of knowledge and sense of humor make for a dynamic performance, leaving the audience keenly aware and energized."
-- Chrisstina Hamilton, Director, Penny Stamps Lecture Series, University of Michigan

"Dare invited James to speak to the whole advertising agency as part of its monthly Talks Series, but a usual talk it certainly was not. James truly managed to inspire and engage the audience fully through his alternative approach to presenting. It's more storytelling meets spectacle, which for an audience who spend too much time being taken through PowerPoint presentations is a breath of fresh air. Finding speakers who can talk about a subject matter with such entertaining passion is not an easy task. When achieved, it proves to have a really positive influence on all agency employees and clients, who see it as an added extra in their agency relationship."
-- Rachel Filer, Dare Digital, online advertising agency

James Geary is the author of the New York Times best-selling The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism and Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists, both of which celebrate the lively, witty, and provocative art of the short, philosophical sayings known as aphorisms. I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (Harper), Geary's latest book, offers a fascinating look at metaphors and their influence on every aspect of our lives, from economics and advertising, to politics and business, to science and psychology.

A sought after keynote speaker and presenter, Geary has appeared in a wide variety of venues across the country. He has performed his Juggling Aphorisms and Mixing Metaphors show -- literal juggling of words and balls, a performance based on his aphorism and metaphor books -- at TEDGlobal, "Live from the New York Public Library", the Foreign Policy Association, University of Michigan, the English Speaking Union, the Genoa Science Festival, the Sun Valley Writers' Conference, the Guardian Hay Festival, and at literary festivals throughout the United States, the U.K., and continental Europe.

According to Geary, Elvis Presley was more than just a rock star -- he was also a master of metaphor ("She touched my hand, what a chill I got / Her lips are like a volcano that's hot / I'm proud to say that she's my buttercup / I'm in love; I'm all shook up"). But as Geary posits in his lively talks about one of our most basic forms of language, metaphor does more than provide a good chorus for us to dance to. It also wholly forms how people look at and experience the world and drives invention and creativity. Although most people would assume that metaphor's only place of influence is in literature and song, as Geary argues, metaphors are found in all aspects of life from economics to neuroscience to advertising.

In I Is an Other, Geary takes us from Aristotle's equation for metaphor x = y (as in 'Juliet = the sun,' one of Shakespeare's most well-known lines, "Juliet is the sun") to showing how metaphors such as a soaring housing market may have contributed to the most recent economic downturn and the rise in foreclosures. For Geary, metaphor is so ingrained in our daily lives, it actually influences how we see, react to, and affect the world around us.

Formerly the editor of the European edition of Time, Geary is now the Deputy Curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. 

Praise for I is an Other:

"Metaphor isn't just a fancy turn of speech. It shapes our thoughts and feelings, reaches out to grasp new experience, and even binds our five disparate senses. James Geary's fascinating and utterly readable I is an Other brings the news on metaphor from literature and economics, from neuroscience and politics, illuminating topics from consumer behavior to autism spectrum disorders to the evolution of language. As a writer, as a teacher, and as someone just plain fascinated by how our minds work, I've been waiting years for exactly this book."

-- James Richardson, professor of English and creative writing, Princeton University, and author of National Book Award finalist By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms

"A delightful examination ... Voters, consumers, and investors interested in knowing how their decisions may be influenced by well-planned metaphors will be fascinated by Geary's adept explication of the metaphor's role in defining perceptions."

-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A fascinating excursion to the land of metaphor, with many delightful side trips selected by a knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide."

-- Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like

"This book is a prism, refracting the white light of language into a kaleidoscopic celebration of its images and etymologies."

-- Ben Schott, author of Schott's Original Miscellany and Schott's Almanacs

"Sherlock Holmes could glance at a bowler hat and tell that its owner's wife had ceased to love him. In this brilliant book, James Geary is no less astonishing, as he deciphers the subtle implications embedded in advertising slogans, familiar slang, and government double-talk. After all, human beings don't just use language; language uses us. Whether a man refers to his wife as the 'light of his life' or his 'old ball and chain' says a mouthful about their marriage. Linguistic theory, brain research, Asperger's syndrome, childhood education -- Geary covers all these with a crack reporter's eye for the humanizing detail and an easy-going essayist's light touch. You'll learn an immense amount about metaphor from I is an Other, but you'll also have more fun than a barrel of monkeys or a ride on a Ferris wheel or a trip to the moon on gossamer wings."

-- Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure

"There are books that are in themselves a whole library of wit and wisdom: James Geary's I Is an Other is one of them. This is a distillation of distillations, a core collection of core pronouncements, the crème de la crème de la crème."

-- Alberto Manguel, author of The Library at Night and A History of Reading

"Geary vividly shows the poetry, the science, and the power of metaphor in every aspect of our lives. From anthropology to behavioral economics to social psychology to cognitive psychology to neuroscience, he gets the science right. A first-rate achievement."

-- Sam Glucksberg, professor of psychology, Princeton University

"This is perhaps the very best book on metaphor ever written!"

-- Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., professor of psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding

"This book is for everyone interested in the subtle operations of language and thought. James Geary brings into play an astonishing range of thinking on the matter -- literary, commercial, scientific. His examples and anecdotes are compelling. In all, he's a marvelous teacher, with his own unique gifts of expression. I is an Other is one of those 'must-read' books for this year, for any year. It deserves a wide audience, and it will find one."

-- Jay Parini, Professor of English and Creative Writing, Middlebury College and author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America

"Metaphors are not just for poets anymore. As Geary's wonderful book shows, metaphors are a major way we communicate with each other and even a major way your own body communicates with your brain! Geary shows us that once you look for them, metaphors are everywhere, like water to a fish, which might explain why we have taken them for granted for so long and therefore missed their important clues about the basic architecture of the mind."

-- John A. Bargh, professor of psychology and cognitive science, Yale University

Praise for The World in a Phrase:

"[An] entertaining love letter to the compact form."

-- The New York Times

"A reward. Geary presents several dozen coiners of pithy, memorable sayings."

-- The Washington Post

"Probably the definitive work on aphorisms, a love letter-cum-memoir disguised as a reference book."

-- Publishers Weekly

"A pleasant, personal, thoughtful little book ... Geary's account is full of wonderful aphorisms ... Delightful."

-- Booklist

Praise for Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists:

"A wonderful breviary of wisdom, insight, and cynicism, and one that will immediately find a place at many bedsides ... There are pleasures and surprises galore."

-- Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"An agreeable thing to have in your lap."

-- Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"A masterful compilation from a man adept at taking the pith."

-- Ben Schott, author of Schott's Original Miscellany


Author photo by Philip Hollis