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.
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)
“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
“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