A few days ago I was enjoying a brief visit with long time friends. By a warm fire with a glass of wine in my hand, they asked one of my favorite questions: “So Roy, any book suggestions?”
Without hesitation I said they must read Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
Isaacson is one of my favorite biographers because he explains how his subjects — such as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, and Steve Jobs — innovate at the intersection of science and art. These are Renaissance thinkers who understood electricity, physics, politics, technology … but also literature, beauty, design, even calligraphy.
So naturally a book about Leonardo da Vinci had to be one of Isaacson’s subjects. I’m glad it was because this biography brings Leonardo alive in an understandable and approachable way. Isaacson addresses some of Leonardo’s quirks but is never sidetracked by them. He keeps the focus on the genius of the man and the incredibly inquisitive mind of an artist who could not stop asking questions.
There are a few things I think could have been developed further to help us understand the passion Leonardo had for life. His awkward relationship with his father would be one. Another would be how the unique times Leonardo lived in and how they created opportunities few ever have. To be fair, Isaacson does cover these topics and others. I just wish there had been a bit more.
But I’m quibbling when I share these criticisms. Other biographies of Leonardo sufficiently discuss them, and there was no reason for Isaacson to write about well covered angles.
It’s been a long time since I posted a full review of a book. This one is worth my effort, and Leonardo da Vinci will be worth your time to read.