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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.

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

  1. 4 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eli Kalb

    Incredibly interesting. Must-read 💯

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julia Sanchez

    The author did a great job. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star, just submit your story to [email protected] or [email protected]

  6. 4 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Feinberg

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott Walker

  10. 5 out of 5

    Moonis Haahmi

  11. 5 out of 5

    kfe

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sameen

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily Ever

  14. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

  15. 4 out of 5

    katie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eliany

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara Conroy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zee Rock

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Brown

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alli Johnson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Johnson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  26. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Phung

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bailey S.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

  32. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  33. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

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