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Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers

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Yo-Yo Ma’s ear for music emerged not long after he learned to walk. By the age of seven, he was performing for President Kennedy; by fifteen he debuted at Carnegie Hall. Maya Angelou, by contrast, didn't write her iconic memoir, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, until she was 40. What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of l Yo-Yo Ma’s ear for music emerged not long after he learned to walk. By the age of seven, he was performing for President Kennedy; by fifteen he debuted at Carnegie Hall. Maya Angelou, by contrast, didn't write her iconic memoir, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, until she was 40. What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of life while others discover their passions decades later? Are prodigies imbued with innate talent? How often are midlife inspirations triggered by propitious events, like Julia Child's first French meal at the age of 36? Do late bloomers reveal their talents because their skills require life experience and contemplation? Through engaging storytelling and intriguing historical and cutting-edge scientific research, best-selling author and acclaimed journalist Claudia Kalb explores these questions to uncover what makes a prodigy and what drives a late bloomer. In this series of linked biographies, Kalb follows the journeys of thirteen remarkable individuals--from Shirley Temple to Alexander Fleming to Eleanor Roosevelt to Bill Gates--to discover the secrets behind their talents. Each possessed a unique arc of inspiration. Each--through science, art, music, theater, and politics--reached extraordinary success at different stages of life. And each offers us a chance to explore the genesis--and experience--of genius.


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Yo-Yo Ma’s ear for music emerged not long after he learned to walk. By the age of seven, he was performing for President Kennedy; by fifteen he debuted at Carnegie Hall. Maya Angelou, by contrast, didn't write her iconic memoir, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, until she was 40. What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of l Yo-Yo Ma’s ear for music emerged not long after he learned to walk. By the age of seven, he was performing for President Kennedy; by fifteen he debuted at Carnegie Hall. Maya Angelou, by contrast, didn't write her iconic memoir, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, until she was 40. What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of life while others discover their passions decades later? Are prodigies imbued with innate talent? How often are midlife inspirations triggered by propitious events, like Julia Child's first French meal at the age of 36? Do late bloomers reveal their talents because their skills require life experience and contemplation? Through engaging storytelling and intriguing historical and cutting-edge scientific research, best-selling author and acclaimed journalist Claudia Kalb explores these questions to uncover what makes a prodigy and what drives a late bloomer. In this series of linked biographies, Kalb follows the journeys of thirteen remarkable individuals--from Shirley Temple to Alexander Fleming to Eleanor Roosevelt to Bill Gates--to discover the secrets behind their talents. Each possessed a unique arc of inspiration. Each--through science, art, music, theater, and politics--reached extraordinary success at different stages of life. And each offers us a chance to explore the genesis--and experience--of genius.

54 review for Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    Kalb, an award-winning author and journalist, beautifully and masterfully writes about creative geniuses and what made them who they are. Through an engaging and very captivating read, I learned about these well known individuals that have affected our lives in one way or another through their passions and purpose. What I find fascinating is how some of these geniuses start very young and some don’t emerge until later in life. Claudia Kalb uses her journalistic experience to explore these questi Kalb, an award-winning author and journalist, beautifully and masterfully writes about creative geniuses and what made them who they are. Through an engaging and very captivating read, I learned about these well known individuals that have affected our lives in one way or another through their passions and purpose. What I find fascinating is how some of these geniuses start very young and some don’t emerge until later in life. Claudia Kalb uses her journalistic experience to explore these questions through cutting edge scientific research. What are the inspiration that sparks these innate talents? What propels creativity and passions? This book is so inspiring and I guarantee that you will find something in one of these stories to inspire you and spark your hidden passions. What an illuminating and enjoyable read!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve Sternberg

    Claudia Kalb has delivered again, this time a baker's dozen of compulsively readable profiles of fascinating figures, with the focus on inspiration. Kalb, a veteran science writer, examines questions we'd all like answered: When does inspiration strike? Why does it come early for some and later for others? Does chance really favor the prepared personality? How much of a role does serendipity play in a person's rise to greatness? Her characters are all people you'd like to spend an afternoon with Claudia Kalb has delivered again, this time a baker's dozen of compulsively readable profiles of fascinating figures, with the focus on inspiration. Kalb, a veteran science writer, examines questions we'd all like answered: When does inspiration strike? Why does it come early for some and later for others? Does chance really favor the prepared personality? How much of a role does serendipity play in a person's rise to greatness? Her characters are all people you'd like to spend an afternoon with: Maya Angelou, Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Newton, Shirley Temple, Sara Blakely (who created Spanx) and, among others, the surprisingly adventurous Peter Mark Roget, reknowned as a physician/scientist and compulsive listmaker who invented maybe the most beloved and best used book of all time, Roget's Thesaurus. Did you know that Maya Angelou sang Calypso tunes and performed in Porgy and Bess all over Europe? She didn't start her first memoir "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" until she was in her 40's. Kalb is both a stylist and perfectionist. Spark is deeply-reported and entertaining. Summer is coming, a perfect time to spend a few hours with Maya, Yo-Yo, Isaac and the rest of this remarkable cast.

  3. 5 out of 5

    BOOKLOVER EB

    In "Spark," Claudia Kalb pays tribute to thirteen extraordinary men and women. They are, in many ways, quite different from one another. Julia Child was an accomplished chef, author, and ebullient television personality; Peter Mark Roget was a doctor who adored language and, after he retired, published a treasure trove of synonyms; Maya Angelou had a challenging childhood, but found her voice in poetry and memoirs that captured her struggles and those of other African-Americans; Yo-Yo Ma, a cell In "Spark," Claudia Kalb pays tribute to thirteen extraordinary men and women. They are, in many ways, quite different from one another. Julia Child was an accomplished chef, author, and ebullient television personality; Peter Mark Roget was a doctor who adored language and, after he retired, published a treasure trove of synonyms; Maya Angelou had a challenging childhood, but found her voice in poetry and memoirs that captured her struggles and those of other African-Americans; Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist and ambassador of good-will, shares his love of classical music with the public and collaborates with musicians in a variety of genres; and Pablo Picasso, who started drawing as a small child, continued producing paintings, sculptures, collages, and more until his death at ninety-one. Others whose attainments are highlighted in these pages are Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Shirley Temple, Alexander Fleming, Eleanor Roosevelt, Grandma Moses, and entrepreneur Sarah Blakely. We cannot fully explain the nature of genius. Moreover, the drive that propels extraordinary individuals to make the most of their exceptional gifts may emerge anytime—from childhood until old age. Shirley Temple was an adorable child star and cultural icon who sang and danced her way into the hearts of moviegoers. She had a fine memory that enabled her to master pages of dialogue and complex dance steps and, equally important, she handled her fame with grace and humility. Grandma Moses was a late bloomer. She started out as a busy farmer and homemaker who began painting in her seventies. This anthology contains intriguing, entertaining, and well-researched biographical essays. Kalb gleaned her information from primary and secondary sources, visited such places as Alexander Fleming's laboratory and Eleanor Roosevelt's home in upstate New York, and attended several concerts performed by Yo-Yo Ma. She quotes experts who discuss why certain individuals become standouts in their chosen fields. Although brainpower is important, it is not enough. One also needs talent, passion, determination, curiosity, the ability to learn from and cooperate with others, and the resilience to overcome adversity. Furthermore, there is no question that happenstance can redirect a person from an ordinary path to one that will eventually transform him or her into a superstar. "Spark" is an inspiring and enlightening celebration of innovation, creativity, imagination, activism, and artistry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Have you ever wondered why some people are child prodigies while others hit their genius in middle or old age? I have often wondered about this. Spark looks into this phenomenon through the exploration of the lives of twelve geniuses from Pablo Picasso to Grandma Moses. These stories offer “New insights into the relationship between brains, talent, willpower, and circumstance, illuminating the history, science, psychology – and humanity – of genus.” Each chapter in the book is a biography of a g Have you ever wondered why some people are child prodigies while others hit their genius in middle or old age? I have often wondered about this. Spark looks into this phenomenon through the exploration of the lives of twelve geniuses from Pablo Picasso to Grandma Moses. These stories offer “New insights into the relationship between brains, talent, willpower, and circumstance, illuminating the history, science, psychology – and humanity – of genus.” Each chapter in the book is a biography of a genius in chronological order by the age in which their genius ignites. I found this entire book to be both enlightening and fascinating. I love to read biographies of great people. I really liked the fresh angle of this book focusing on when and what caused the spark of genius to ignite. Some of my favorite people that I have read a lot about were included such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Maya Angelou, but there were many others such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Fleming, Peter Mark, etc. that I had previously not known much about. I enjoyed learning more about all of these people and loved the fresh perspective from author Claudia Kalb. Favorite Quotes: “What role do our personality traits play I the livelihoods we pursue? Are we born with talent or lured by passion? How do we discover the spark that fuels our souls? And how do we know when we’ve found it?” “Creative people in the arts – poets, writers, painters, sculptors – often emerge from troubled pasts.” Overall, Spark is an inspirational book for people of all ages. Book Source: Review Copy from Hachette as part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you! This review was first posted on my blog at: https://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2021...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Albright

    I'm so in love with this book. Each chapter about a different creative individual is so incredibly fascinating. The early beginnings, the struggles and hardships endured, the lessons learned, the realizations and collaborations stumbled upon or created, the research into how and why genius happens and the possibilities with each individual all make for an amazing captivating read that will leave you ready to take on the world and discover your own potential. It is illuminating, inspiring, and en I'm so in love with this book. Each chapter about a different creative individual is so incredibly fascinating. The early beginnings, the struggles and hardships endured, the lessons learned, the realizations and collaborations stumbled upon or created, the research into how and why genius happens and the possibilities with each individual all make for an amazing captivating read that will leave you ready to take on the world and discover your own potential. It is illuminating, inspiring, and encouraging. It is revelatory and unique. It is it's own spark. I received a gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Li

    This book is all over the place without a central coherent theme. It is a loose biography of some famous people, all focusing on their positive attributes but the analysis is only skin deep. I couldn't go past chapter 6, with the excessive brown-nosing embedded in the writing. I mean regardless of the recent marriage issues (I love Bill Gates, except for his pick of Steve Ballmer to succeed him) but what on earth does the repetitive description of the affection of the pair, have anything to do w This book is all over the place without a central coherent theme. It is a loose biography of some famous people, all focusing on their positive attributes but the analysis is only skin deep. I couldn't go past chapter 6, with the excessive brown-nosing embedded in the writing. I mean regardless of the recent marriage issues (I love Bill Gates, except for his pick of Steve Ballmer to succeed him) but what on earth does the repetitive description of the affection of the pair, have anything to do with this book??? Wast of time and nothing learnt.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ariana

    A fascinating book with each chapter focusing on a different character of note. I wish however there was more exploration of each persons “genius” in particular, instead it is just a small biography focusing on their productive years, with little dissection of their minds or speculation on the different aspects which create or Influence genius. The book description seeks to suggest it does more exploration

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marina Kalb

    Fascinating, entertaining, and informative, each chapter offers a different glimpse into the traits and life experiences that combine to produce a genius. Lively, personal stories interwoven with comprehensive research and data make for a terrific read, and leave the reader with many surprising insights into what makes a genius. Highly recommend!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The thing that I liked most about this book is hinted at in the title. The book organizes its genius profiles according to the age of the genius at what is considered their masterwork. It is a great approach that points out that genius doesn't fit neatly on a timeline. I had heard of all the people profiled, but this book presented them in an interesting way and I learned quite a bit. The thing that I liked most about this book is hinted at in the title. The book organizes its genius profiles according to the age of the genius at what is considered their masterwork. It is a great approach that points out that genius doesn't fit neatly on a timeline. I had heard of all the people profiled, but this book presented them in an interesting way and I learned quite a bit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul Vogelzang

    Excellent book, with great insights into why and when we discover what we do best, and love most. My own experience took many years to develop and this book 'spoke' to me in real ways. I'll interview Ms. Kalb for my show, but I highly recommend the book. Excellent book, with great insights into why and when we discover what we do best, and love most. My own experience took many years to develop and this book 'spoke' to me in real ways. I'll interview Ms. Kalb for my show, but I highly recommend the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eli Kalb

    Incredibly interesting. Must-read 💯

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gossman

    Very well written

  13. 5 out of 5

    Candy

    Interesting for the bios as well as Kalb's thoughts on genius. Interesting for the bios as well as Kalb's thoughts on genius.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Johnson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yuri

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nikilesh N

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charles F. Mitchell

  22. 4 out of 5

    April Hernandez

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristinn Friðriksson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Feinberg

  28. 4 out of 5

    Josh Maulucci

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  30. 4 out of 5

    Scott Walker

  31. 5 out of 5

    Moonis Haahmi

  32. 4 out of 5

    kfe

  33. 5 out of 5

    Sameen

  34. 5 out of 5

    Emily Ever

  35. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

  36. 4 out of 5

    katie

  37. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  38. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  39. 4 out of 5

    Eliany

  40. 5 out of 5

    Sara Conroy

  41. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  42. 5 out of 5

    Zee

  43. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Brown

  44. 5 out of 5

    Alli Johnson

  45. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Johnson

  46. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  47. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  48. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  49. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  50. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Phung

  51. 4 out of 5

    Bailey S.

  52. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

  53. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  54. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

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