The Geography of Genius
by Eric Weiner
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: Jan. 5, 2016
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description from Back Cover:
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.
The Geography of Genius is a travelogue. The author described his experiences as he visited seven cities. He visited historic sites and mused over coffee, tea, or alcohol about why these places had a cultural Golden Age. It's not actually about geography, but places, and the similarities these places had at the time of their golden ages.
We also get brief biographies of several of the geniuses that the author admires and details about what the city was like at the time of their golden age. His definition of "genius" varied throughout the book, but it primarily referred to talented people with lasting name recognition whose actions had an enduring impact on society. He mainly focused on philosophy, painting, and music, though science and technology get a nod.
The author visited Athens, Greece (to explore the time of Plato, Socrates, etc.); Hangzhou, China (969-1276 AD); Florence, Italy (for the Renaissance); Edinburgh, Scotland (for the Scottish Enlightenment in the second half of the 18th century); Calcutta, India (1840-1920s for the Bengal Renaissance); Vienna, Austria (for music in the 1800s and psychology in 1900-1914); and Silicon Valley in USA. The author had a lighthearted, entertaining approach which made the book an enjoyable read.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.