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Leonardo da Vinci

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  76,845 ratings  ·  4,461 reviews
Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. ...more
Hardcover, 600 pages
Published October 17th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
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Roger Stone Absolutely buy the book! It weighs four pounds and covers over 525 pages, many filled with excellent reproductions of Leonardo's work that simply don'…moreAbsolutely buy the book! It weighs four pounds and covers over 525 pages, many filled with excellent reproductions of Leonardo's work that simply don't come out on any e-book. Plus, you'll have the satisfaction of holding a high quality actual book in your hands. It's the difference between hand writing a letter and typing it on a keyboard.(less)
Ananggadipa Raswanto You don't have to login IIRC, just go to the book page: and click the link on the bottom of the summary: Down…moreYou don't have to login IIRC, just go to the book page: and click the link on the bottom of the summary: Download the accompanying reference guide.

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Bill Gates
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shortly after Melinda and I got married, I told her I was bidding on a notebook that could wind up costing a lot of money. “Don’t you already have a great portable computer?” she asked.

I explained that by “notebook,” I meant the old-fashioned kind. And by “old-fashioned,” I meant really old-fashioned, as in more than 500 years old. The notebook in question was one of the 32 surviving journals of Leonardo da Vinci.

After I won the bid, I broke a longstanding tradition. I was supposed to change the
Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
”Although generally considered by his contemporaries to be friendly and gentle, Leonardo was at times dark and troubled. His notebooks and drawings are a window into his fevered, imaginative, manic, and sometimes elated mind. Had he been a student at the outset of the twenty-first century, he may have been put on a pharmaceutical regimen to alleviate his mood swings and attention-deficit disorder. One need not subscribe to the artist-as-troubled-genius trope to believe we are fortunate that Leon ...more
Hannah Greendale
Marvelous! Isaacson's comprehensive biography is written to delight, to inform, and to inspire curiosity.

Video review to come in my March Wrap Up.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
“ How might you describe the tongue of a woodpecker?” And so it begins, in my ongoing attempt to learn more about important figures in history. This time, I turned to the latest biography by Walter Isaacson, exploring the life of Leonardo da Vinci. A man of many talents, da Vinci lived a full and exciting life as he sought to scratch the many itches that came to mind and paved the way for scores of significant discoveries. Isaacson offers a thorough and highly informative piece that will educate ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As the writer says in the final chapter LEARNING FROM LEONARDO

Seek knowledge for its own sake. Not all knowledge needs to be useful. Sometimes it should be pursued for pure pleasure.
Such was the reading of this book to me.

This book introduced me to a man from a long ago time who was thirsty enough for knowledge and information that he valiantly erased all the lines between reality and fantasy, broke all the rules separating science and arts and even made use of the illegitimacy of his own exist
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The audiobook is a fantastic production. It is in this manner non-fiction audiobooks should be made. You are given a huge PDF file with 144 pictures, a character list and a timeline. To get the most out of the audiobook one should sit by a computer and look at the pictures as one listens; the audiobook follows the pictures one by one in the order they are presented, each picture being referred to in the text. Each is minutely analyzed and discussed. A listener is given clear instructions stating ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Honestly, I preferred Serge Bramly's 1991 Da Vinci biography to this one by Isaacson. I read (and reviewed here on GR) his biographies of Einstein and Ben Franklin, and found them both really good. In the present work, the author is way too present in my opinion and pitches his Steve Jobs biography on nearly every other page. OK, I am exaggerating but only a little bit. Did I learn some stuff about my favorite Renaissance Man? Yes, I did and I did appreciate the insight into the major works and ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, biography
This is the third book that I have read of Walter Isaacson. The first one, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, was fantastic. The second one, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution was not as interesting to me. Now this book, about Leonardo da Vinci again brought me to a high level of enjoyment. I learned so much about Leonardo, he was such a fascinating man, one of the true Renaissance men.

Leonardo was truly one-of-a-kind. He had a truly scien
Unlike many readers of this book who were well acquainted with Walter Isaacson and loved his previous works, I picked this biography being quite sceptical and absolutely unaware of how Isaacson approaches his subjects. His bibliography looks like a very impressive collection of genii of all sorts - Jobs, Einstein, Kissinger and Franklin. Surely, adding Leonardo da Vinci to this list must be tempting, but this task, if you ask me, was too difficult for Isaacson to handle.

Apparently, Isaacson can
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Леонардо да Винчи" - биография от Уолтър Айзаксън (ревю на български след текста на английски)

One of the best books I read in 2018 was a biography. Not to anyone but to Leonardo da Vinci - a historical figure that I'm sure almost every normal person associates with a genius.

Actually after reading the biography written by Isaacson, I was left with the impression that Leonardo was not a genius. He was the most ordinary person in the world who only happened to ask a lot of questions about things
Philip Allan
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Before reading this biography my perception of Leonardo da Vinci was of the bearded genius behind a handful of remarkable paintings, and endless pages of drawings devoted to either anatomy or futuristic but impracticable machines. The challenge for Isaacson was to coax the man from behind the work. Five centuries of time and a paucity of sources beyond the work itself, presented the author with considerable difficulties. In spite of these, this book largely succeeds in revealing Leonardo as a ch ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
“he never finished any of the works he began because, so sublime was his idea of art, he saw faults even in the things that to others seemed miracles.”
― Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci


This was an interesting biography, and an interesting approach, but it just wasn't great. Isaacson is one of those former editors of large, popular news magazines who can seemingly throw out a biography every couple years. He loves writing about transformative geniuses and polymaths, thus his books on: Steve J
Andrew Smith
I suppose everyone is familiar with DaVinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. It might just be the most famous painting of all time, by anyone. I once queued up to see it in person, only to discover that I could only view it under the arms of and between the heads of a throng of people who’d beaten me to it. I recall being surprised at how small and how dark it was. I also enjoyed Dan Brown’s conspiracy theory regarding his painting of the Last Supper in his novel The Da Vinci Code, a theor ...more
Melody Sams
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you like a little psychology with your history, this is a book for you! It gives you a wonderful insight into the mind of one of the most fascinating men in human history. Da Vinci was quite the character. A bit enigmatic and mercurial. It was a delight learning more about his personality through this book.
Barry Pierce
Walter Isaacson never makes Leonardo out to be anymore more than a human being. He points out that art history can often descend into hagiography, especially when it comes to its greatest minds. Both Vasari and Kenneth Clark placed Leonardo on a god-like pedestal, untouched by any other human in history and in possession of a truly divine mind. Isaacson does his best to refute this. He paints Leonardo as almost painfully human, as a man who rarely finished any of the jobs he began and whose atte ...more
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book provides an in-depth analysis of Da Vinci's life and works. Have always been interested in the Master, though my interests revolved around his magnificent painting. Thanks to this book I have learnt a lot about everything he was interested in. The books is well-written and the language rather easy to follow, some general knowledge regarding science required at times, though. I have thoroughly enjoyed this massive reading, and was especially drawn by the mystery behind one of the painti ...more
Sean Gibson
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
When most people hear the phrase “Renaissance Man,” they immediately picture me in hose and doublet, speaking in iambic pentameter or singing lustily whilst expounding on the physical properties of precious metals as I gnaw on a turkey leg at a local festival. While that is, in fact, the proper image to bring to mind, there are a few individuals out there, less culturally astute than the general populace, perhaps, who might think of Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo drew curly hair better than anyone
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"What made Leonardo a genius, what set him apart from people who were extraordinarily smart, was creativity, the ability to apply imagination to intellect. His facility for combining observation with fantasy allowed him, like other creative geniuses, to make unexpected leaps that related things seen to things unseen. "Talent hits a target that no one else can hit," wrote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "Genius hits a target no one else can see." (518)

"Be open to mystery. Not everythi
Jay Pruitt
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind."

--Leonardo da Vinci

The reviews of this book are extensive and overwhelmingly positive, so I would add only a few points. First, if you listen to the audio version as I did, you REALLY need to have a copy of the accompanying PDF (which I didn't because I listen in my car). The author gets into such detail with regard to Da Vinci's paintings and drawings, that it's difficult to
Laura Noggle
Very entertaining, but like the man himself, chaotic, varied, and slightly rambling.

Still thoroughly enjoyable and informative, if not exactly chiseled to perfection.

This one is a tough one to rate, why doesn’t GR have half stars?!

4.5 rounded down.

~ I have a sneaking suspicion your enjoyment of this book will depend on how much you appreciated your collegiate art history class. ~
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an engrossing, well-paced biography that is a pleasure to read. I'm left with a deep and motivating admiration of many facets of Leonardo's character, especially his eager mind, attention to detail, thinking from first principles, his use extensive use of physical notebooks, and, most intriguingly, his use of art as a thinking tool. It's fascinating to get a glimpse of someone so far ahead of his time, and it's fun to think about what he would make of today. ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Thank you, Net Galley for the opportunity to review this book --- as people who follow me know, I do not regurgitate what the book is about as that is what the description from the author and publisher at the top of the page are for.

This book is very well written.
This book is very long
This book has many interesting facts ... his paintings are mathematical and he was gay.
Did I mention that this book is very long???
This book is full of insane details...pages and pages and pages of insane details.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Walter is a storyteller....If you have read his other bios, you already know this. Same situation here...but I must warn you....Leonardo was a very complicated man....a genius in his art....kept copious notes about everything he thought, felt, and dreamed about....he was a scientist,way ahead of his time,and he used science in his art, and mathematics in his paintings. Walter included all the vast details, because that's the type of person Leonardo was.....and while reading this book his paintin ...more
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is plenty to learn here about Leonardo DaVinci, and his art, its histories unravelled, codexes explained in ways, and the story of the process and people in the art work.
Detail, details meticulously written by the author, almost with obsession like mastery and a hugely accessible reading.
Mysteries of the man, the artist, scientist and engineer and the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa expounded in a glorious work of profound inspiration.
A multitude of
Joseph Williams
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have read two of Isaacson's previous biographies (Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein). I particularly liked the Steve Jobs biography since the author was able to effectively get under his subject's skin due to his unique access to the subject. In the case of Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson was unsuccessful in my opinon of bringing Da Vinci to life probably due to a lack of primary source material on the subject. That is always the bugbear of writing biographies of subjects from so long ago. In this bo ...more
A really marvelous book, although I could have done without Isaacson's personal opinions interjected throughout. I found that odd for a biography.

Nonetheless, the way the information was presented, along with over 144 well-described illustrations, made it an enjoyable and educational read. Highly recommend.
Mohamed Tahar Hamada
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"
Since i remember sir leonardo da vinci was always the ultimate idol and having a mind and being a polymath like him was the prize to get and the goal to reach but little i did know about this superhuman.
this book was in my ''to read list'' for quite a time and i always kept pushing it for the length of the book which made me worried if it is worth it or not especially being my first book by ''Walter Isaacson'',But deep inside i knew that i had to read t
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After going through a lot of reviews I thought I should give this Epic biography of Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson a shot. I was curious to know more about Da Vinci.
I am normally more into thrillers, so was a bit hesitant to start.
Coming back to the book narrative is in detail, I would recommend to every book lovers who likes to explore life's of eminent personalities. This should be on your wish list.
Very eager to know how this book will take me deep into the life of Da Vinci till then
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Leonardo went from seeking knowledge that could be of practical use and began seeking knowledge for its own sake, out of pure curiosity and joy"

A magnificent and fascinating read of the life and times of one of the most brilliant human beings that ever lived. Walter Isaacson's starting point for this biography was not his art masterpieces (The Last Supper, Mona Lisa) but rather his notebooks that he left and which survive to this day. They contain sketches and doodles, mathematics, anatomy, and
✨    jay   ✨
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Going into this book I knew literally nothing about Leonardo Da Vinci (well, besides the extreme basics like, 'he painted Mona Lisa/The Last Supper!'). Upon finishing this book, I think I know more about Leonardo Da Vinci then I will ever need to know in my lifetime.

I've been trying to get more into art history, just because I find it interesting even though I know little about art. I'm not sure why I was compelled to read this 550+ page book about Leonardo Da Vinci specifically, but I'm glad I
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add page number 2 12 Dec 21, 2020 12:18PM  
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Goodreads Brasil: Semana 1 (28/05 - 03/06): Introdução - Capítulo 6 3 51 Jun 04, 2020 08:01PM  
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Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He is the author of 'Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Visit him at and on T ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Walter Isaacson, it’s safe to say, is not afraid of tackling the really big topics. In 2011, he wrote about our ubiquitous computer culture...
112 likes · 20 comments
“Vision without execution is hallucination. .. Skill without imagination is barren. Leonardo [da Vinci] knew how to marry observation and imagination, which made him history’s consummate innovator.” 49 likes
“Above all, Leonardo’s relentless curiosity and experimentation should remind us of the importance of instilling, in both ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.” 28 likes
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