Eric Weiner

Author, The Geography of Genius, The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God

A wry yet sincere searcher for happiness and the divine.

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Biography

Eric Weiner can't keep away from the big questions. His book, The Geography of Bliss, was about happiness (big topic); and, Man Seeks God, is about, well, God (even bigger topic). But as you know if you've read Bliss, Eric has the special ability to take these big questions and make them personal: he brings an everyman's perspective, immediately sympathetic, full of humor, insight, and even self-doubt, that makes everything he talks about funny and real. He calls it "funny/serious": a unique balance of skepticism and sincerity.

Now Eric seeks to answer the question of how creative genius flourishes in specific places at specific times. He explores the history of places from ancient Athens to Renaissance Florence to modern day Silicon Valley in his New York Times bestseller The Geography of Genius. It's being published in 15 countries, from Bulgaria to Vietnam.

Since Eric's a former international correspondent for NPR and The New York Times, when he has questions, he travels. The Geography of Bliss took him from Bhutan, where the government measures the country's well-being by its Gross Domestic Happiness, to Iceland, where strong communities and stiff drinks keep citizens cheery in the brutal cold. Now, in Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With The Divine, Eric is prompted by a health scare to explore the world's religions and try them on for size. It's an amazing story filled with such memorable characters as the UFO-worshipping Raëlians and the great Nepalese Buddhist sage Wayne-from-Staten-Island, but also a very real spiritual journey that teaches Eric deep truths. As for his personal decision? We'll let him tell you that himself.

When he does, we know you'll enjoy the chance to laugh while you learn. And there is a lot to learn. As the world grows more connected, a real understanding of global faiths only becomes more crucial. More personally, Eric's talks could create a safe space for exploring these traditions outside the spin zone, or just a chance to glean some knowledge from these ancient teachings. Whatever your angle, you'll leave Eric's talks smiling — and a little wiser, too.

Books

The Geography of Genius

Lessons from the World's Most Creative Places

Eric Weiner

Travel the world with Eric Weiner, the New York Times bestselling 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 this favorite coffee house. 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 jumpstart a national conversation.

Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (November 1, 2016)
Simon & Schuster (January 5, 2016)

An Amazon Best Book of the Month (January 2016)
A January Indie Next pick
Conde Nast Traveler Top 10 Books of 2015 (a 2016 bonus pick)
Fortune Magazine’s 3 Books That Can Help You Be Better in 2016

Audio

We Get the Geniuses We DeserveInnovation Hub WGBH
How Certain Cities Create GeniusesLake Effect WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio
Genius linked to geography more than genesCBC
Geography of Genius' Explores How Surroundings Influence IdeasNPR
Geography of GeniusAsk Rick Steves

Videos

The Geography of Genius — Book trailer
Book explores "genius clusters" in the worldCBS This Morning
What are the ingredients for genius?PBS NewsHour
The Geography of Geniusreason.TV

Reviews

'The Geography of Genius' asks why genius so often emerges in clusters?The Christian Science Monitor
'The Geography of Genius'The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Something in the waterThe Wall Street Journal
'The Geography of Genius'Financial Times

Articles

Genius Is Cultivated, Not FoundInverse
Can the Right Geographic Conditions Help Create Geniuses?National Geographic
Renaissance Florence Was a Better Model for Innovation than Silicon Valley IsHarvard Business Review
What Powered the Renaissance? (Could It Have Happened Without Cash?)Burning Man
City of Joy to Genius: a new book that maps the world's 'genius cities' picks Kolkatacatch news
Point Person: Q&A with Eric Weiner on how cities influence creativityThe Dallas Morning News
Why Is Silicon Valley Creative?Worth
3 Books That Can Help You Be Better in 2016, and BeyondFortune
The 10 Books to Read in 2016LinkedIn

Praise

"A witty, entertaining romp. Weiner’s vivid descriptions of modern-day life in each locale make the spots feel like must-visit destinations.”
The New York Times Book Review

"A global odyssey that seeks to discover why geniuses gather in certain places during certain eras and why these hot spots burn out, often after a half-century of grand achievements. Weiner is a superb travel guide: funny, knowledgeable, self-deprecating and always up for sharing a bottle of wine."
Washington Post

“An entertaining and thought-provoking book, a combination of history and travelogue… Part of the book's charm stems from the pure joy of experiencing these places alongside a narrator like Weiner… His wry wit shines through as he drinks sublime tea in China and contemplates a coffin collar in an Edinburgh museum; as he interviews figures such as Jack Ma, a Hangzhou native who founded multibillion dollar company Alibaba; and as he wanders the Ringstrasse of Vienna and the strip malls of Silicon Valley, pondering the conditions that lead to genius.”
Christian Science Monitor

"Weiner is an affable tour guide and a lively, witty writer in the style of Bill Bryson; the connections he makes between places of genius are sharp and sometime unexpected."
Booklist

“Informative and dryly witty, Weiner's odyssey is both an insightful examination of genius and a call to readers to explore their own untapped creative resources.” — Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Fun and thought provoking.”
Miami Herald

"Weiner illustrates the power that culture and location can lend to creative efforts. Using a series of well-crafted travel essays the author propels readers across the globe… A welcome read for lovers of geography, history of geography, historical travel, travelogues, and the history of science."
Library Journal (starred review)

“Well read, thoughtful and above all curious, Weiner invites the reader to explore a satisfying take on a meaningful topic while also enjoying daily pleasures in cities around the world.”
— BookPage.com

"In the genial style of Bill Bryson, Weiner scouts the world looking for places that have spawned geniuses."
Kirkus Reviews

“There are some writers whose company is worth keeping, whatever the subject…..And Mr. Weiner is blessed with this gift. He is a prober and questioner, a big-hearted humanist who will always take a colorful, contradictory reality over some unfounded certainty.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Part of the book’s charm stems from the pure joy of experiencing these places alongside a narrator like Weiner. His wry wit shines through….Although Weiner’s book functions as an intriguing history and travelogue, it also includes deeper sociological and psychological implications.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Eric Weiner has single-handedly invented a new nonfiction genre in which a brilliant and hilarious writer leaves his home and family to circle the globe in search of the answer to a timeless question. The Geography of Genius is an intellectual odyssey, a traveler’s diary, and a comic novel all rolled into one. Smart, original, and utterly delightful, this is Weiner’s best book yet.”
— Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness

"A charming mix of history and wisdom cloaked as a rollicking travelogue filled with colorful characters.”
— Walter Isaacson

Journalist Weiner (The Geography of Bliss) illustrates the power that culture and location can lend to creative efforts. Using a series of well-crafted travel essays the author propels readers across the globe from Athens to the Song Dynasty in China, Florence during the Renaissance, Vienna, Calcutta, and even Silicon Valley to experience the “origins” of invention in each of these places, illuminating historical figures such as Socrates, Plato, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. Each essay goes into the depths of the environs that spawned many of the world’s great artistic, intellectual, scientific and philosophical awakenings. Weiner illustrates several of the properties of these innovative events, proving that all arose from the cultural milieu of the time. No two were alike yet many received their initial spark of genius from unlikely places, whether a back street in Calcutta or a coffee shop in Vienna. The author successfully carries to fruition his intentions of providing a well-written compilation of “histories” of renaissance events, proving that imaginative ideas can originate in any place at any time as long as the mind is receptive. Verdict: A welcome read for lovers of geography, history of geography, historical travel, travelogues, and the history of science.
LIBRARY JOURNAL - STARRED Review

In this follow-up of sorts to his best-seller The Geography of Bliss (2008), Weiner explores the concept of the creative golden age, attempting to get to the heart of why certain places produce clusters of geniuses. A former foreign correspondent for NPR, Weiner sets up his exploration as a travelogue, devoting each chapter to a trip through a place where geniuses once thrived (Athens, Hangzhou, Florence, Calcutta, Vienna) as well as present-day Silicon Valley. Weiner is an affable tour guide and a lively, witty writer in the style of Bill Bryson; the connections he makes between places of genius are sharp and sometime unexpected. Though the characters he encounters are engaging and entertaining, they occasionally seem a bit too convenient, showing up with sound bytes of wisdom just when he needs it. Nonetheless, Weiner not only leads readers on an enchanting journey with serious questions at its core, he also thoroughly debunks the myth of the lone genius and makes a provocative case for the “three d’s” of creativity: disorder, diversity, and discernment.
— BOOKLIST (Nov 15 issue)

The Geography of Genius is witty, informative, and compulsively readable. Whether you’re getting genius tips from Freud in Vienna or hearing the secrets of high-tech powerhouses in Silicon Valley, you’ll emerge smarter after reading this delightful travelogue of ingenuity.”
— Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of To Sell Is Human and Drive

“It’s rare to read a book that makes you laugh and learn, but Eric Weiner has done it again. This witty, wise explorer offers fascinating insights on how culture has inspired creativity across the ages — ripe for chats at water coolers and cocktail parties — and offers a practical map for how we can all become a bit more inventive.”
— Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals

“Why do certain places produce a spontaneous eruption of creativity? What made Athens and Florence and Silicon Valley? This witty and fun book has an insight in every paragraph. It’s a charming mix of history and wisdom cloaked as a rollicking travelogue filled with colorful characters.”
— Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs

Man Seeks God

My Flirtations with the Divine

Eric Weiner

After a health scare leaves him reeling, Eric Weiner-an atheist by default-sets out on a worldwide search for an experience of the divine. Propelled by the confrontation with his own mortality and questions about the best way to raise his daughter, Weiner travels to Nepal, where he meditates with Tibetan lamas and a guy named Wayne; to Turkey, where he whirls (poorly) with Sufi dervishes; to China where he attempts to unblock his chi; to Israel where he studies Kabbalah, sans Madonna; and to Las Vegas, where he has a close encounter with Raelians (followers of the world's largest UFO-based religion).

Weiner's journey takes place at a time when more Americans than ever-nearly one in three-are choosing a new faith. At each stop along the way, Weiner tackles our most pressing spiritual questions: Where do we come from? What happens when we die? How should we live our lives? Why do socks abscond? With his trademark wit and warmth, Weiner leaves no stone unturned.

Twelve (December 5, 2011)

Excerpt

The Inner Nightclub of Everlasting JoyWorldHUM

Reviews

Searching for a deity to believe inThe Seattle Times
Finding My ReligionThe New York Times
Stumbling Toward the DivingAARP
'Man Seeks God'San Francisco Chronicle
'Man Seeks God'The Washington Post

The Geography of Bliss

One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Eric Weiner

Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.

Twelve; Reprint edition (January 5, 2009)

Reviews

Why Is That Land Smiling?The New York Times
Ode to joyThe Guardian
Chasing HappinessForbes

*Praise "Part travelogue, part personal-discovery memoir and all sustained delight, this wise, witty ramble reads like Paul Theroux channeling David Sedaris on a particularly good day..... Fresh and beguiling."
— Kirkus Reviews

"Laugh. Think. Repeat. Repeatedly. If someone told me this book was this good, I wouldn't have believed them."
— Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do With My Life?

"With one single book, Eric Weiner has flushed Bill Bryson down a proverbial toilet, and I say that lovingly. By turns hilarious and profound, this is the kind of book that could change your life. The relationship between place and contentment is an ineffable one, and Weiner cuts through the fog with a big, powerful light. The Geography of Bliss is no smiley-face emoticon, it's a Winslow Homer."
— Henry Alford, author of Municipal Bondage and Big Kiss

"Think Don Quixote with a dark sense of humor and a taste for hashish and you begin to grasp Eric Weiner, the modern knight-errant of this mad, sad, wise, and witty quest across four continents. I won't spoil the fun by telling if his mission succeeds, except to say that happiness is reading a book as entertaining as this."
— Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

Topics

Eric tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE WORLD’S MOST CREATIVE PLACES (AND A FEW OF THE HAPPIEST ONES TOO)

When attempting to manage disruption, corporate leaders typically turn to management journals and similar such sources for guidance. These are fine, but there is a better resource: the world. In his research and writing, Eric views the world, historically and today, as a laboratory of good ideas. In particular, he has spent the past several years investigating golden ages, from ancient Athens to today’s Silicon Valley. These extraordinary places produced a mother lode of good ideas and bright minds — and they have much to teach us. So does the emerging “science of creativity.” Here are a few of the lessons Eric will explore in this talk:

Why the Italian Renaissance is a Better Model for Innovation than Silicon Valley
The Hidden Upside of Disruption / The Importance of Mentors / The Benefits of “Friendly Competition”

Lessons from Ancient Greece
The Benefits of Messiness / Why Borrowing Ideas Should be Encouraged

Lessons from Freud’s Vienna
The Power of “Third Places” / Openness to Experience: the Single Most Important Trait for Innovation / How to Find Inspiration in Difficult, Even Painful, Circumstances / Why Walking Leads to Good Ideas

Lessons from China’s Golden Age
Innovating By Building on Tradition / Trickle-down Leadership During Hard Times

Thailand and the Power of Not Thinking (too much)
Plus: Why Relationships are More Important than Problems

Lessons from Bhutan, the land of “Gross National Happiness”
How to Ask Better Questions / How to Convert Liabilities (like isolation) into Advantages

Iceland: a Case Study In Reliance
How this Small Nation Survived a Financial Crisis — and Why It is (Still) one of the happiest, and wealthiest, in the world.

Videos

Hotbeds of genius and innovation depend on these key ingredients

Book explores "genius clusters" in the world | CBS This Morning

The Geography of Genius

One Man's Search for "His" God | TEDx

Feedback

From a major university on their first 'common reader' program:
Dear Eric — You were wonderful today. I enjoyed both talks, and was pleasantly surprised at how much new there was for me this evening. I ran out a bit early but I understand the Montclair students were lined up long to ask you questions!

You really exhibited what you said about the importance of honesty in writing, and having read many essays by students pondering your exploration of bliss against their own thoughts on the subject, this point rings especially true.

Thank you for making our first common reader such a success. Those of who have been working on bringing a common book experience to our university, in an effort to further our students' sense of the joyful, fruitful possibilities of the life of the mind, are delighted and grateful that our first stab at it with you has been so successful. Because it went so well we can do it again, which is great.

A public library:
Eric was the perfect guest author. The words I would use to describe him would be gracious, open, inquisitive, explorative, reflective and funny.

His visit was well-received by our community, and those who met him were thrilled. As an author of a popular book he was queried with repeat questions whereupon he answered each as if it were for the first time.

The audience at the [...] Theatre totaled nearly 485 and he was great. He interacts with the audience in a very natural way, everyone laughing with him as he chimed in with a humorous take. The book signing was lined up with eager fans who had, for the most part, already read his book. Each was eager to get a personally scribed and signature autograph.

As we say on the [...] committee – Whoaa!

Articles

— Fast Company
— Vogue
— The Washington Post
— Chief Learning Officer
— Los Angeles Times
— BBC
— Pew Trusts Magazine
— Business Insider
— Reason.com
— Knowledge@Wharton
— Forbes
— Slate
— re/code
— Harvard Business Review
— PBS NewsHour
— Fortune
— The Wall Street Journal
— The Christian Science Monitor
— The Wall Street Journal
— LinkedIn
— EricWeiner.com
— NPR
— CBC
— The New York Times