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About Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography. He is also the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.
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Titles By Walter Isaacson
The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a “compelling” (The Washington Post) account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.
When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.
Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.
The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.
Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?
After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is an “enthralling detective story” (Oprah Daily) that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.
Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard’s Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation’s alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution.
In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin’s amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.
Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson “deftly reveals an intimate Leonardo” (San Francisco Chronicle) in a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.
He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.
In the “luminous” (Daily Beast) Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson describes how Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance to be imaginative and, like talented rebels in any era, to think different. Here, da Vinci “comes to life in all his remarkable brilliance and oddity in Walter Isaacson’s ambitious new biography…a vigorous, insightful portrait” (The Washington Post).
Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in 21st century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.
Although Jobs cooperated with the author, he asked for no control over what was written. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.
Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.
Steve Jobs is the inspiration for the movie of the same name starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels, directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.
How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk—a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate—became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.
What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?
The Innovators is a masterly saga of collaborative genius destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution—and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. Isaacson begins the adventure with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.
This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative. For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators is “a sweeping and surprisingly tenderhearted history of the digital age” (The New York Times).
Upon release, Invent and Wander will be available on Kindle Unlimited.
In Jeff Bezos's own words, the core principles and philosophy that have guided him in creating, building, and leading Amazon and Blue Origin.
In this collection of Jeff Bezos's writings—his unique and strikingly original annual shareholder letters, plus numerous speeches and interviews that provide insight into his background, his work, and the evolution of his ideas—you'll gain an insider's view of the why and how of his success. Spanning a range of topics across business and public policy, from innovation and customer obsession to climate change and outer space, this book provides a rare glimpse into how Bezos thinks about the world and where the future might take us.
Written in a direct, down-to-earth style, Invent and Wander offers readers a master class in business values, strategy, and execution:
- The importance of a Day 1 mindset
- Why "it's all about the long term"
- What it really means to be customer obsessed
- How to start new businesses and create significant organic growth in an already successful company
- Why culture is an imperative
- How a willingness to fail is closely connected to innovation
- What the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us
Each insight offers new ways of thinking through today's challenges—and more importantly, tomorrow's—and the never-ending urgency of striving ahead, never resting on one's laurels. Everyone from CEOs of the Fortune 100 to entrepreneurs just setting up shop to the millions who use Amazon's products and services in their homes or businesses will come to understand the principles that have driven the success of one of the most important innovators of our time.
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos is co-published by PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, and Harvard Business Review Press.
A captivating blend of personal biography and public drama, The Wise Men introduces six close friends who shaped the role their country would play in the dangerous years following World War II.
They were the original best and brightest, whose towering intellects, outsize personalities, and dramatic actions would bring order to the postwar chaos and leave a legacy that dominates American policy to this day.
The Wise Men shares the stories of Averell Harriman, the freewheeling diplomat and Roosevelt’s special envoy to Churchill and Stalin; Dean Acheson, the secretary of state who was more responsible for the Truman Doctrine than Truman and for the Marshall Plan than General Marshall; George Kennan, self-cast outsider and intellectual darling of the Washington elite; Robert Lovett, assistant secretary of war, undersecretary of state, and secretary of defense throughout the formative years of the Cold War; John McCloy, one of the nation’s most influential private citizens; and Charles Bohlen, adroit diplomat and ambassador to the Soviet Union.
By the time Henry Kissinger was made secretary of state in 1973, he had become, according to the Gallup Poll, the most admired person in America and one of the most unlikely celebrities ever to capture the world's imagination. Yet Kissinger was also reviled by large segments of the American public, ranging from liberal intellectuals to conservative activists. Kissinger explores the relationship between this complex man’s personality and the foreign policy he pursued. Drawing on extensive interviews with Kissinger as well as 150 other sources, including US presidents and his business clients, this first full-length biography makes use of many of Kissinger’s private papers and classified memos to tell his uniquely American story. The result is an intimate narrative, filled with surprising revelations, that takes this grandly colorful statesman from his childhood as a persecuted Jew in Nazi Germany, through his tortured relationship with Richard Nixon, to his later years as a globe-trotting business consultant.
La biografía definitiva de Steve Jobs, el fundador de Apple, escrita con su colaboración.
La muerte de Steve Jobs ha conmocionado al mundo. Tras entrevistarlo en más de cuarenta ocasiones en los últimos dos años, además de a un centenar de personas de su entorno, familiares, amigos, adversarios y colegas, Walter Isaacson nos presenta la única biografía escrita con la colaboración de Jobs, el retrato definitivo de uno de los iconos indiscutibles de nuestro tiempo, la crónica de la agitada vida y abrasiva personalidad del genio cuya creatividad, energía y afán de perfeccionismo revolucionaron seis industrias: la informática, el cine de animación, la música, la telefonía, las tabletas y la edición digital.
Consciente de que la mejor manera de crear valor en el siglo XXI es conectar la creatividad con la tecnología, Jobs fundó una empresa en la que impresionantes saltos de la imaginación van de la mano de asombrosos logros tecnológicos.
Aunque Jobs colaboró en el libro, no pidió ningún control sobre el contenido, ni siquiera ejerció el derecho a leerlo antes de su publicación. No rehuyó ningún tema y animó a la gente que conocía a hablar con franqueza. «He hecho muchas cosas de las que no me siento orgulloso, como dejar a mi novia embarazada a los veintitrés años y cómo me comporté entonces, pero no hay ningún cadáver en mi armario que no pueda salir a la luz».
Jobs habla con una sinceridad a veces brutal sobre la gente con la que ha trabajado y contra la que ha competido. De igual modo, sus amigos, rivales y colegas ofrecen una visión sin edulcorar de las pasiones, los demonios, el perfeccionismo, los deseos, el talento, los trucos y la obsesión por controlarlo todo que modelaron su visión empresarial y los innovadores productos que logró crear.
Su historia, por tanto, está llena de enseñanzas sobre innovación, carácter, liderazgo y valores. La vida de un genio capaz de enfurecer y seducir a partes iguales.
«El fallecimiento de Steve Jobs ha precipitado un alud de libros sobre su figura. De todos ellos, la aproximación más completa e interesante al personaje es la de Isaacson.»
In this collection of essays, the brilliant, acclaimed biographer Walter Isaacson reflects on lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and other interesting characters he has chronicled both as biographer and journalist. The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, but that is not the secret to their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiousity.
Isaacson also reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges for journalism in the digital age.
He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which offers many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. In an anecdotal and personal way, Isaacson describes the joys of writing and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives.
When Jennifer Doudna was a sixth grader in Hilo, Hawaii, she came home from school one afternoon and found a book on her bed. It was The Double Helix, James Watson’s account of how he and Francis Crick had discovered the structure of DNA, the spiral-staircase molecule that carries the genetic instruction code for all forms of life.
This book guided Jennifer Doudna to focus her studies not on DNA, but on what seemed to take a backseat in biochemistry: figuring out the structure of RNA, a closely related molecule that enables the genetic instructions coded in DNA to express themselves. Doudna became an expert in determining the shapes and structures of these RNA molecules—an expertise that led her to develop a revolutionary new technique that could edit human genes.
Today gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR are already being used to eliminate simple genetic defects that cause disorders such as Tay-Sachs and sickle cell anemia. For now, however, Jennifer and her team are being deployed against our most immediate threat—the coronavirus—and you have just been given a front row seat to that race.