Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

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Connecting these dots — showing that Leonardo shared interests and ideas with many predecessors and contemporaries — would have made Isaacson’s history even richer. Then again, the choice of a tight angle lens might have been deliberate.
-NY Times

Synopsis

The #1 New York Times bestseller

“A powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life...a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it.” —The New Yorker

“Vigorous, insightful.” —The Washington Post

“A masterpiece.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Luminous.” —The Daily Beast

He was history’s most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us?

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography.

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo’s lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.
 

About Walter Isaacson

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Walter Isaacson, presidente del Instituto Aspen, ha sido presidente de la CNN y director ejecutivo de la revista Time. Es autor de Einstein, su vida y su universo, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life y Kissinger: A Biography, y es coautor, con Evan Thomas, de The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Vive con su esposa en Washington, D.C.
 
Published October 17, 2017 by Simon & Schuster. 524 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Travel. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Dec 31 2017
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Leonardo da Vinci
All: 6 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on Sep 03 2017

Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate, this book should garner serious consideration for a variety of book prizes.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Anthony Grafton on Nov 27 2017

Connecting these dots — showing that Leonardo shared interests and ideas with many predecessors and contemporaries — would have made Isaacson’s history even richer. Then again, the choice of a tight angle lens might have been deliberate.

Read Full Review of Leonardo da Vinci | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Nov 01 2017

Yet in the conclusion of “Leonardo da Vinci,” Isaacson capitulates to the easy seductions of TED-ism, and boy is it disappointing.

Read Full Review of Leonardo da Vinci | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Blake Morrison on Dec 16 2017

Isaacson doesn’t claim to make any fresh discoveries, but his book is intelligently organised, simply written and beautifully illustrated, and it ends with a kind of mental gymnastics programme that suggests how we can learn from Leonardo...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Robin McKie on Oct 23 2017

Irritatingly, the book’s original American spelling has been kept for its UK edition but this is a minor flaw in an otherwise splendid work that provides an illuminating guide to the output of one of the last millennium’s greatest minds.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Robert Collison on Oct 27 2017

Among the strengths of Isaacson’s exhaustive examination of da Vinci’s extraordinary life is the balance he strikes between chronicling the public genius and the private man.

Read Full Review of Leonardo da Vinci | See more reviews from Toronto Star

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Liviu Moldovan 7 Jan 2018

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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