'Leonardo Da Vinci' by Walter Isaacson
The author demonstrates his usual impressive thoroughness in this 600+ page biography. Isaacson also wrote 'The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution' and 'Steve Jobs' - both of which I reviewed favorably.
The da Vinci book has two problems. First, since the subject died almost 500 years ago, it is difficult to obtain reliable biographical details about Leonardo Da Vinci. Second, the author mixes biographical information with lessons in art history and appreciation. While it was informative, there was waaay too much art analysis for my liking.
My takeaway from reading the book was that, while Leonardo was brilliant, he was easily distracted by his many simultaneous projects and failed to deliver works to his patrons on time - sometimes not at all. Mona Lisa apparently began as a commission for a patron but da Vinci kept screwing around with it and took almost 40 years to complete the painting. His lifetime of procrastination left a legacy of unfinished works and ideas which never got beyond the sketch or model stage.
It should be noted that this book is printed on thick, high-quality paper with numerous photographs of relevant artwork and sketches.
Verdict: This massive book will probably impress Renaissance historians but casual readers will probably skip through some parts which they find tedious. (posted 1/18/18, permalink)
'Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History' by J.P. Romney and Rebecca Romney
This 280-page book contains some interesting stories. The one on Ben Franklin was especially enjoyable. In this tome about the history of printed books, each chapter stands on its own. Some chapters are very educational; others are boring.
I picked this book up because it was on display at my local library and the cover attracted me. I knew nothing about the authors. I found out later that Rebecca Romney is a regular on 'Pawn Stars' - a program I have never watched and has a following as a knowledgeable hottie. Which meant nothing to me.
The problem with 'Printer's Error' is that each chapter is littered with sarcasm, snide remarks, snark, filppancy, stupid pop culture references and pointless profanity. The authors' lame attempts at humor fell flat, making it difficult to take them as serious as historians.
Verdict: Too bad. It could have been a contender. (posted 1/10/18, permalink)
'The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet' by Henry Fountain
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck Alaska. It was the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history and the shaking and the huge tsunamis that followed killed more than 130 people. It demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega. Portions of the Alaska Railroad were destroyed, buildings and people were devoured by large fissures, large commercial buildings in Anchorage crumbled. People in Crescent City, California and near Newport, Oregon were killed by surprise waves. Well-water tables surged as far away as Florida.
This book is about the quake, its devastating effects and about the people who were affected by it. Human interest stories are sprinkled throughout and, at under 250 pages, the book makes for an easy read.
Verdict: Recommended ... very informative. (posted 1/4/18, permalink)