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Leonardo da Vinci (2017)

by Walter Isaacson

Other authors: Lene Stokseth (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,911694,589 (4.2)19
"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"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Excellent! I learned so much about the Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci. Not a page turner but easy enough to keep reading. ( )
  kevindern | Oct 27, 2023 |
My biggest gripe here is that Isaacson acts like a cheerleader for the subject. Given da Vinci’s mythical status in the common consciousness that’s not really helpful. We get part art criticism, mostly handed down courtesy of Kenneth Clark, and part surrounding history of the period. That’s where the book really had an opportunity to use its massive size, detailing the context of the people Leonardo interacts with, and to a certain extent it tries to do this, it just falls a bit short, as we have to get back to talking about how great a painter the perennial procrastinator was. There’s also side-tracks concerning the authenticity (or not) of paintings that have caused some controversy and spawned entire books in recent history. Maybe out of a sense of completeness, but it really just furthers the lack of focus the biography has. Is this the historical Leonardo da Vinci? Speculations about the inner psychology of the same (something Isaacson returns to several times if just to explain how it’s Freudian bunk - then did we need to cover it?). Art criticism (again, mostly through the established opinions of others)?
A man with a rich and varied life in a dynamic time period might well need multiple volumes to cover all aspects of his being. Trying to combine them into one book didn’t work that well. Despite these criticisms it kept me engaged while on tour in Florence which nets it an extra star. ( )
  A.Godhelm | Oct 20, 2023 |
An extraordinary celebration of a most extraordinary person

Walter Issacson unpacks the life of Leonardo in brilliant detail and then collects those details together and gives you multiply views of his life and contributions. After reading this wonderful work, I feel like I’ve know Leonardo. It has my Highest recommendation. ( )
  stevetempo | Jun 9, 2023 |
4.5!! There is not much I disliked about this audiobook. Isaacson writes clear, concise, well-researched, well thought-out prose. Alfred Molina's reading/narration is just fine. The focus of Mr. Isaacson in this instance made all the difference for me. da Vinici, the polymath, the genius, the painter, the engineer, the playwright, the anatomist, the journalist, the doodler, the procrastinator, the squirrel-moments, the patron, the Florentine, the Milano, the person, the human. All detailed exquisitely by the author and read with such verve and aplomb by Molina that by the end the great man seemed not unlike somebody I could know. They brought him to life in this biography unlike other writers of this genre. Just an amazing job, couldn't recommend this more highly. ( )
  Schneider | Jan 18, 2023 |
Leonardo da Vinci remains a household name, despite having lived more than half a millennium ago, due to the legacy of beauty, creativity and innovation he bequeathed to the world. Beyond his name, though, how much does the average person today really know about him? I myself could have ticked off perhaps 5-10 da Vinci facts prior to reading this biography, but I've now discovered there was much more to this genius.

With the benefit of a 21st-century lens, among the first observations I made based on the text is that he appears to have been experiencing some sort of lifelong attention deficit, flitting from project to project as the mood struck him, often abandoning works unfinished, to the dismay of his patrons/financiers. I loved the ephemera he fastidiously included in his myriad notebooks, from inventories of clothing and books he owned, a breakdown of his mother's funeral expenses, peculiar to-do lists, etc. Da Vinci was a man ahead of his time with respect to his discoveries in physics, anatomy, geology and engineering. In fact, a recurring theme throughout the book is the astounding number of innovations and breakthroughs across multiple disciplines that would be neither fully appreciated during his lifetime nor even replicated until hundreds of years after his death, which feels a little bit tragic. Also kind of heartbreaking are all of his grand hydraulic, military and architectural schemes which never came to fruition, though to be fair many were arguably unrealistic. I have just two minor complaints: First, the book is quite heavy due to the weight of the paper necessitated by the number of quality color photographs. It was not a cozy book to curl up with. Second, some portions of the narrative jump around due to the way the author has chosen to organize the topics, probably for dramatic effect. I would have appreciated a greater adherence to a more chronological timeline. That said, this book was a well-researched, educational and wow-inducing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who shares da Vinci's intellectual curiosity. ( )
  ryner | Dec 22, 2022 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Isaacsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stokseth, LeneTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clercq, Anne-Sophie deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerlier, JérémieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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(Introduction) Around the time that he reached the unnerving milestone of turning thirty, Leonardo da Vinca wrote a letter to the ruler of Milan listing the reasons he should be given a job.
Leonardo da Vinci had the good luck to be born out of wedlock.
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"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"--

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