Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci: Reviewed and Recommended

Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read: lucidly edited and vividly written, it balances any and all aspects of such a work perfectly. I’ve been sharing excerpts from it with all of my students, and now we all eagerly await the much-ballyhooed film version starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

Besides the extremely riveting writing, the book has 150 full color illustrations and thick, heavy, glossy paper. I was wondering how such a luxurious volume could have a cover price of only $35, but found the answer as I progressed through the book–the publisher skimped on the binding, and pages started coming out in big chunks, as seen below. Deeply sad.

Other than that, every page was pure joy.

Some of my favorite passages follow:

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It would have been worth an extra twenty bucks to have better binding!

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On his obsession with observation

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On dissecting eyeballs

 

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On a historical meeting of three major figures

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A sobering lesson for our own lives as well, I hope–Isaacson does this plenty of times

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I also enjoy when Isaacson interrupts his narrative to ask readers to pause and ponder what’s going on

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On the Mona Lisa

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“He enjoyed the challenge of conception more than the chore of completion.” Great line.

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The moral of the story

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