Travel the world with Eric Weiner, the New York Times best-selling author of The Geography of Bliss, as he journeys from Athens to Silicon Valley - and throughout history, too - to show how creative genius flourishes in specific places at specific times.
In The Geography of Genius, acclaimed travel writer Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places, like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. And, with his trademark insightful humor, he walks the same paths as the geniuses who flourished in these settings to see if the spirit of what inspired figures like Socrates, Michelangelo, and Leonardo remains. In these places, Weiner asks, "What was in the air, and can we bottle it?"
This link can be traced back through history: Darwin's theory of evolution gelled while he was riding in a carriage. Freud did his best thinking at his favorite coffeehouse. Beethoven, like many geniuses, preferred long walks in the woods.
Sharp and provocative, The Geography of Genius redefines the argument about how genius came to be. His reevaluation of the importance of culture in nurturing creativity is an informed romp through history that will surely jump-start a national conversation.
©2016 Eric Weiner (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
An interesting romp trough some of the global nexuses of brilliant work. Lots of historical perspective but also lots of hasty conclusions, perhaps driven by the author' s preconceptions. A case in point. Presumption: The church (or religion in general) squelched creativity. No genius could develop in its "shadow". The author coveniently disregards Copernicus, Mendel, Bacon, Ockham and many others. Might the church also be a super-geographic locatiom of genius? Another example is the concept of "phase transition" as a brilliancy driver. Increase the population density and a non linear dramatic change will happen. The analogy to states of matter is unfortunate. Yes, water will transition to ice under pressure but only under enormous pressure thousands of times atmospheric (or all the ocean bottoms would be solid ice). A lot easier to just slow a sparse population down a little (cool) to get the same effect...
I'm willing to admit that I really disliked this book because it wasn't at all what I was expecting. I was expecting non-fiction and let's get that right from the beginning, this was not at all a non-fiction book. This was much closer to a very long op-ed piece. There is very little science, history, or substance to this book and what little there is is mixed in with an interminable amount of pure opinion, fluff, and non-sense. I really don't wanna know what you named your fish in China, I don't wanna know what the restaurant you met someone looked like, and I don't wanna know that someone else paused before they said something. Mostly though this book is a failure to me for two reasons. The first being the condescension that is pepper through this whole book, but that really comes out when the author talks about other, non-Western, non-Modern cultures. There is no attempt to understand the culture for what it was and to value it for what makes it different from ours. The author looks down on the people and places that he is supposed to be interviewing. The other major problem is that most of the places the author talks about are in the past, these are the places where the genius was more prevalent. But the author talks more about the modern day people and culture than the past. If you want to talk about the genius in ancient Athens then talk about the culture and people of ancient Athens, not the people in the modern day city.
A travel novel in disguise (or perhaps an excuse for travel) the Geography of Genius entertainingly explores genius and the places it's found through fascinating conversations and observations, in an attempt to build a psychological, sociological, logistical and philosophical profile of places we consider today to be (or have been) places of genius.
This is an entertaining and informative book. well written and well researched. But the theories put forward by the author are shaky at best. He takes us to places of concentrated genius yet his explanation on the nature of genius are more anecdotal than scientific.
I was a bit dissapointed not to see places like Paris in the 20s or Abbasid Baghdad in the list, but one cannot cover everything in one book. All things considered, I do highly recommend this book.
A rambling collection of interesting musings, reasonably entertaining, but not a particularly nourishing read.
Mr. Weiner gadflys from one far-flung center of historical creative flowering to another, and on to our own contemporary Silicone Valley. Along the way he interviews not-necessarily-authoritative or compelling people, and generally brings us anecdotal, almost stream-of-consciousness considerations, as to possible correlations between geography and genius; and / or any other arguably plausible environmental prerequisites thereto.
Mr. Weiner is an articulate fellow, and tells pleasant anecdotes. The stories of the people he meets on his travels are reasonably amusing if not altogether to the point. His ponderings on genius and it's underpinnings are interesting if not definitive. The narration is surprisingly good given that the author reads the book himself (usually a big mistake). Weiner has an excellent voice and reads very well.
Still and all, there isn't all that much "there" there in this book. The author's reveries are somewhat entertaining, but the conclusive suggestions and pronouncements he dribbles and drabbles along the way seem much subjective, and not much authoritative; --again this book comes off more or less as a compendium of the author's meandering meditations under the influence of travel. It occurred to me more than once when listening to this book, that it reads like an author's erudite excuse for tax-deductible world travel.
In sum, unless you're looking for a very light listen, you can better allocate your time and expense elsewhere among audible's extensive offerings.
Excellent writing and keep the reader engaged throughout. With an elaborate dive into the lives of people who changed our world and the cities that created them!
Say something about yourself!
No, I don't want to hear about every place you went and everyone you met and every thought that passed through your mind as you explored your topic.
Eclectic, Irreverent, Humerous
It reminded me of the travel stories of Bill Bryson all be it these locations were displaced in time as well as in space.
Reading this with the current political slogan of "Make America Great Again" shows how hopeless and counter productive those policies are.
The selection of locations and times for ages of genius was highly skewed by the author. No clear definition of what is genius nor why the periods that he picked were better examples than other times and places. Certainly the time of Elizabethan England was missed.
I loved the personal perspective the author brought to the subject of "Why there" when it came to understanding the genius of geographical locations.
Dear Eric Weiner - I simply loved this book - so beautifully written and narrated also. You said at one point that you are too late for genius. Not so Sir - you are a genius and this book is evidence of it - well done and very best wishes.
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