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New York Times best-selling author Eric Weiner visited Google’s Mountain View campus to discuss his new book, “The Geography of Genius.”
In his previous New York Times bestseller The Geography of Bliss (2008), Eric Weiner searched for the happiest places in the world. Now, in “The Geography of Genius,” he sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas.
Weiner writes: “The toddler steps of incremental innovation don’t earn you a patent, or the title of genius. Only a leap does. The question that intrigues someone such as myself, a creature of geography and a student of history, is not simply what these leaps look like but where, and when, they take place… certain places, at certain times, produced a bumper crop of brilliant minds and good ideas. The question is why.”
In an attempt to find the answer, Weiner travels the globe exploring the history of ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, Renaissance Florence, Enlightenment Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna of 1900, and today’s Silicon Valley, illustrating how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. With insightful humor, Weiner walks the same paths as the geniuses who flourished in these places, to see if the spirit of what inspired figures like Socrates, Michelangelo, and Mozart still remains.
Along the way, Weiner describes important research about genius and the contribution geography can make to creativity. He learns why geniuses thrive during times of tension and even chaos, how oysters (yes, oysters) played a pivotal role in the Scottish Enlightenment, how the Renaissance may never have happened if not for the plague, and why the genius of Silicon Valley has little to do with technology.
Provocative and entertaining, THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENIUS is an informed romp through history that will start a national conversation about the importance of culture in nurturing creativity. Weiner shows we need to change the way we think about creative genius—not simply as a matter of genetics or even hard work but, rather, the fruits of a culture that encourages ingenuity. Genius, he argues, is not a private act but a public commitment. As he writes: “If it takes a village to raise a child… it takes a city to raise a genius.”
Eric Weiner is a philosophical traveler and recovering malcontent. His books include the New York Times bestseller The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God. A former foreign correspondent for NPR, his work has appeared in Slate, Quartz, Foreign Policy, the BBC, AFAR, The Best American Travel Writing, and elsewhere. For some reason, he lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
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