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The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  3,367 ratings  ·  508 reviews
Tag along on this New York Times bestselling “witty, entertaining romp” (The New York Times Book Review) as Eric Winer travels the world, from Athens to Silicon Valley—and back through history, too—to show how creative genius flourishes in specific places at specific times.

In this “intellectual odyssey, traveler’s diary, and comic novel all rolled into one” (Daniel Gilbert
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 5th 2016)
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Oscar Romero He--I think--was surprised to realize how not-different it was, the actual place where some of these Geniuses actually lived and worked. Not at all di…moreHe--I think--was surprised to realize how not-different it was, the actual place where some of these Geniuses actually lived and worked. Not at all different-in many aspects- to the places where we, mere mortals-or non-genius, live and work. (less)

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David
Eric Weiner has written a wonderful book about how and why golden ages of genius creativity sprout up at different places and times around the world. He has chosen half a dozen golden ages, where there was a critical mass of genius creativity in diverse fields. The working definition of creativity is the ability to come up with ideas that are new, surprising, and valuable. Genius is not genetic. It clusters in certain places and times.

For Classical Athens, the culture became creative due to its
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Trike
I don't try to subvert the Goodreads rating system: 3 stars means "I liked it." And I did like this book.

There are a lot of interesting tidbits and factoids about why genius flowers in specific places and about creativity in general. Unfortunately, they are weighed down by busy-ness where Weiner meets people and drinks copious amounts of caffeine. He could have easily chopped 1/4 of this book out and no one would miss it. I don't care that his guide talks to her French car in German while in Aus
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Bandit
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved Geography of Bliss and was so excited to read Weiner's new geography. This one certainly doesn't disappoint, maybe not genius per se, but definitely pretty awesome. Reading Weiner's books is sort of like having a conversation with an intelligent, well traveled, erudite, funny person...one sided conversation, of course, such is the nature of reading, but nevertheless extremely enjoyable and enlightening. He writes in a very accessible style expertly mixing history, sociology, psychology, tr ...more
Negin
I read Eric Weiner’s “The Geography of Bliss” several years and loved it. In that book, he travels the world searching for places of happiness. “The Geography of Genius” follows the same formula. Here he searches for certain places and time periods of genius and innovation. Since I love travelogues, I enjoyed those parts most of all. He visited seven places where a genius golden age has flourished: Athens, Florence, Hangzhou, Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and Silicon Valley. I particularly enjoye ...more
Annette
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Genius – some describe as someone with a high IQ, but that is misleading. “Plenty of people with extremely high IQs have accomplished little, and conversely, plenty of people of “average” intelligence have done great things.” In this book the author explores the “genius in the creative sense – as the highest form of creativity.”

Some define creative genius as “someone with the ability to come up with ideas that are new, surprising, and valuable.”

“Certain places, at certain times, produced a bumpe
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Cheryl
Jan 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hugely disappointing. I remember liking Geography of Bliss quite a bit, but this fails.

For one thing: his 'excuse' to write this is to learn how to best nurture his own child's potential for genius. Ok fine. But all this traveling, all this research, all this writing - could that have been good for her? And then, what did he learn about how geniuses and the environments that have been rich in them? Not much of anything that would actually help him with his daughter, unless he wants to be even mo
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Katie
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
tl;dr version of this review: "I didn't really enjoy it, but it was mostly worthwhile? I guess?"
I don't know whether to give this two or three stars. I feel like "it was okay" sums up my experience but two stars seems overly harsh (yolo I'm going for it). It was just meh, honestly. I learned a lot, and I enjoyed discovering the "places" of genius and the history behind the cities, people, and cultures. That really is all I can say I liked, though. The author seemed like an alright guy, though I
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S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
There are two things I didn't like about this book: Its Cover, and Its Title. In my opinion, the cover should have been more colorful, or a bit stronger to advertise the idea of "genius" around the world. A lamp engulfing the world map just doesn't cut it. As of the title, I think that The Geography of Genius is not limited to visiting spaces on the physical, tangible scale. In fact, it dwells more into the "time" essence of the place. Eric didn't speak only about the Athens or Florence of today ...more
Yousif Al Zeera
The book is written in a novelistic interdisciplinary fashion where the author magically story tells his journey to 7 different places to understand historical and present "genius" eras with various writing flavors (philosophy, business, psychology, physics, social science, history). It is a nonfiction travelogue with little bits of the aforementioned flavors.

I liked the "schema violations" concept and how participating in such activity or merely watching it inspires the genius in you. It is whe
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John
As a reader, the trouble with (relatively) high expectations comes into play when a book proves a decent, worthwhile read, but there are times "I still have that much to go!" kicks in. Such was the case here, more than once; a confession, however, that I read it primarily for the travel narrative aspect. The search for "genius" itself I found a bit too philosophical, with the local interview portions just not holding my interest consistently.

Weiner's self-deprecating humor went a ways towards ge
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Colleen
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cafes are a second kind of home - "a great good place."

The past, it's been said, is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Squint. Sometimes we can see more by narrowing our view than by expanding it.

I'm hoping to find answers to questions, or at least better questions, as Socrates would say.

The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.

The inability to acknowledge and mourn loss is apt to lead to a shutdown of vital creative impulses...only the resolution of loss allows for a fr
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Julie
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I love this book. It was well written, a delight to read. And that is no easy task when covering such a heady subject as genius.

I feel the need to read this book again but this time take notes. It is so jam-packed full of interesting things. And by things I mean wisdom.

It also made me want to write a play or short story about all the geniuses throughout history and how they would fare in the same time period. Also the apparent misogyny that rears its ugly head because all “the greats” are ofte
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Beth Jusino
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there’s one thing to take from The Geography of Genius, it’s this:

“What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.”

It’s why ancient Greece excelled in philosophy (but lived without basic plumbing), and 18th century Vienna produced a whole crop of composers still considered the best in the world (who were all men, because women were expected to have babies, not ideas), and the 20th century exploded the ways that we communicate electronically (but has pretty much ignored art and philoso
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David V.
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 10-17-15. Finished 10-28-15. Excellent, well-researched book about times and places in the world where "genius" developed: Athens, Hangzhou (China), Florence, Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and Silicon Valley. Written in a straight-forward manner but also with humor.It explains the relationship between the "bright and creative folks" and their environment, including their families, and their historic times. So along the way, the reader also gets a his ...more
Anne Janzer
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: places
Eric Weiner travels the world to help us discover more about ourselves - and manages to pull it off in an entertaining and conversational way. In Geography of Bliss and again in Geography of Genius, he offers personal, thoughtful, and witty explorations of different places (and, in this book, periods of time) - holding them up as mirrors to ourselves. It's an entertaining and informative book! ...more
Jon Hewelt
May 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
(Spoilers, I think?)

This would be a great book if it wasn't about the geography of genius.

Eric Weiner, philosophical traveler and recovering malcontent" (HA!), sets out on a globetrotting tour to identify what, if anything, makes places of genius so ripe for genius. From Athens to Edinburgh, from Calcutta to Silicon Valley, he explores each city's famous (and infamous) landmarks, and talks with experts on a variety of subjects, trying to discern what allowed Florence to have its Renaissance, wha
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Megan
Actual rating: 2.5

I had a hard time getting through the chapters. Maybe travel writing isn't for me. Maybe Eric Weiner isn't for me. I just ... trudged. It was ok. I appreciate the amount of work that went into this and I found the premise of the book interesting, but just wasn't completely down for the execution. He jumped around a lot, and seemed to be talking more about different places rather than the one he was currently in. I just would have liked more. Maybe more dialogue between the peop
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Tom McCluskey
Aug 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christine Zibas
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best travel books I have read in years, although perhaps it shouldn't strictly be put into that narrow genre. It's actually a combination of biography, history, and sociology or as I like to call it, a guide to the thinking person's road trip. It helps if you've actually traveled to some of the places covered by Weiner (I count Athens, Edinburgh, Florence, and Silicon Valley among the journeying points I have landed). Of course, that's optional. The book would be completely en ...more
Book Concierge
Book on CD read by the author

The subtitle is all the synopsis you need: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley.

Weiner explores the culture of various cities and eras that resulted in an environment that fostered genius – Ancient Athens, Hangzhou in the time of the Song Dynasty, Renaissance Florence, 18th century Edinburgh, Calcutta from about 1840 to 1920, Vienna with TWO golden ages, separated by nearly a century (Mozart to Freud), and California’
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A Man Called Ove
3.5/5 This book tries to analyse why "golden ages" happen by looking at 7 city+era combinations and... fails. But it is the journey that matters not the destination, isnt it ?
When he does abandon his pseudo-comic, loud idiotic irritating tone, the author provides some really valuable insights and anecdotes. But, as an engineer would put it, he has pointed out the necessary conditions for golden ages and not the sufficient ones. In colloquial language, its all hindsight :)
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Charles Haywood
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Geography of Genius” is a bit of a puzzle. The author’s stated goal is “a search for the world’s most creative places.” A search is certainly what it is; as others have pointed out, much of the book is a travelogue, and a pretty interesting one. At the same time, the author aspires to find out WHY genius arises in specific places. But he’s coy about that being the goal, probably because the goal is too large. This makes the book somewhat frustrating as social analysis. Nonetheless, Weiner h ...more
David Kent
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The geography where genius lives, in the eyes of Eric Weiner, include ancient civilizations such as Athens; more recent but still old Hangzhou, Florence, and Edinburgh; slightly more recent Calcutta and Vienna; and the modern in-progress of Silicon Valley. With each location he interviews modern thinkers and guides as well as delves into appropriate texts. What emerges is an informative and sometimes entertaining look at the factors - and locations - that have spawned genius.

Genius is, of course
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Max Hristov
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining and informative.
Bree Dunscombe
Not as personal as "Man Seeks God," which I read and loved last year, but a fascinating look at places that have been home to the great Golden Ages -- Athens, Florence, Vienna, etc. -- what they have in common, and what made them different. Highly recommend. ...more
Kat (Lost in Neverland)

3.5 Stars

I knew going into this book that the term 'genius' would most likely be used to describe a lot of white men. And I was right. What I didn't expect were the brief moments where the author actually made interesting psychological/philosophical points and wrote this nonfiction most like a story.

The book is told in chapters dedicated to specific places where household genius names rose up: from Mozart and Freud in Vienna, to Leonardo DaVinci in Florence, or Jack Ma in Hangzhou.
Each place
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Royal Sequeira
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 rounded off to 4
Menglong Youk
3.5/5 stars

"Geography of Genius" explores the environment and the interconnection of various factors that create geniuses throughout the history from Athens to Vienna, Hangzhou, Renaissance Florence, Calcutta and Silicon Valley. I personally adore the author's description of each place he visited plus the narration of what the important figure of each chapter had done in their time and place.

Instead of using my own words to summarize what I learned, I will quote the author instead. "We need to b
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Julie
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished listening to this! As always, I really enjoyed listening to Eric Weiner read his book. I was especially interested to hear about the "genius places" I've actually been to—Florence and Vienna—but all were intriguing.

My favorite Eric Weiner book is still The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, but this one is worthy of the four stars I gave it.
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Anthony Chan
I felt like during most of the book, the author was grasping at straws trying to reinforce his thesis.
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Eric Weiner is best-selling author of such books as THE GEOGRAPHY OF BLISS, THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENIUS and the just-released THE SOCRATES EXPRESS.

His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. A number of high schools and universities have incorporated them into their curricula. Weiner is the recipient of the Borders Original Voices Award, and a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover
...more

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