Author: Eric Weiner
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Summary: This an enjoyable, engaging microhistory, full of lots of fun facts about some really interesting places.
Travel writer Eric Weiner’s exploration of genius begins with the observation that, historically, geniuses often appear in clusters, with many geniuses originating in one place during one era. To explore what made these places inspire genius, Eric visits places of past and present genius, from Athens to Silicon Valley. He observes similarities and differences between the places he visits and connects them to many theories about what inspires creative thinking.
Like Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief, the story was organized around the author’s experience doing research. I found this an engaging way to tell the story, although in this case, it did sometimes lead to disorganized jumping between different theories of genius. I also wish each idea were explored in more depth. Most often, the author mentioned only one study that supported a theory or just supported it anecdotally. I think it’s possible that this is about as good as it gets with theories of genius though – if we knew the answer to the questions the author asks, we’d all be geniuses 🙂
Even though I wish that there had been more science and definitive answers, I found this book very enjoyable. The author has an irreverent sense of humor that reminded me a bit of A.J. Jacobs. It seemed genuine, not over the top, and made the book even more fun. I also appreciated the author’s efforts to be inclusive. Although Africa and Australia were left out of the author’s travels, I’m pretty sure he at least mentioned both. He also notes that there are few women recognized as geniuses because of the social constraints preventing women from pursuing the work necessary to gain that recognition.
I would recommend picking this book up when you want a microhistory, looking at the world through the lens of studying genius. I expected something a bit more about science and maybe a little about self-help, but instead it was full of all the fun facts and interesting stories I look for in a good microhistory.
This is my first read out of my Futuristic Friday picks for this quarter. If you’re looking for some more exciting reads coming out this year, be sure to check out my and Tamara’s other picks in our Futuristic Friday post over at her blog, Travelling with T.