10 books like Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

By Frank Zöllner, Johannes Nathan,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Leonardo Da Vinci

By Walter Isaacson,

Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci

This intimate biography of Leonardo made me feel like I had a front-row seat in his life and legacy. He was best known for his two paintings: The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. His genius was unparalleled and it’s easier to list what he could not do! One of the stories that I adored learning about this Master was how Leonardo layered his brushstrokes to create an almost ethereal effect on canvas. Angels were usually depicted with a halo and yet Leonardo created faces and figures that needed no adornment. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most extraordinary human beings of all time!  Isaacson is a gifted storyteller, bringing this legend’s life and legacy to life through his vivid descriptions and exceptional research.  

Leonardo Da Vinci

By Walter Isaacson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Leonardo Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller from Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography that is "a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it...Most important, it is a powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life" (The New Yorker).

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…


Living with Leonardo

By Martin Kemp,

Book cover of Living with Leonardo: Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World and Beyond

Here we shift the focus to what it’s like being a Leonardist. Yes, that is a word! Oxford professor Martin Kemp is one of the world’s most in-demand Leonardo scholars. His inbox is full of emails from strangers who think they have an undiscovered Leonardo in their attic. He rebuilds Leonardo’s flying machines for museum exhibitions. And when a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting is recovered, he gets a call from the police. Somehow Kemp manages to be self-regarding and self-deprecating, accessible and a little superior at the same time, as he whisks you along on his adventures in Leonardoland.

Living with Leonardo

By Martin Kemp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living with Leonardo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living with Leonardo is a set of highly focused memoirs, a personal journey interwoven with historical research that encapsulates the author's relationship with Leonardo da Vinci over more than half a century.

We learn of his encounters with the vast population that surrounds Leonardo: great and lesser academics, collectors and curators, devious dealers and unctuous auctioneers, major scholars and authors and pseudohistorians and fantasists; but also how he has grappled with swelling legions of 'Leonardo loonies', walked on the eggshells of vested interests in academia and museums, and fended off fusillades of non-Leonardos, sometimes more than one a week. Kemp…


Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael Farthing, Stephen Farthing,

Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Under the Skin

This is a slim volume, which stands out amidst the thousands of books on aspects of Leonardo, for its focus and unusual team of authors. Written by two brothers, one a professor of drawing, the other of medicine, it walks the reader through Leonardo’s anatomical drawings and their far-reaching influence on both science and art. The authors are particularly good at sorting out what Leonardo got from previous students of anatomy, from the Greeks onwards, and what was new that he brought to, or took away from the dissection table, where he claims to have examined over thirty corpses.

Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael Farthing, Stephen Farthing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leonardo Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) created many of the most beautiful and important drawings in the history of Western art. Many of these were anatomical and became the yardstick for the early study of the human body.

From their unique perspectives as artist and scientist, brothers Stephen and Michael Farthing analyse Leonardo's drawings - which are concerned chiefly with the skeletal, cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems - and discuss the impact they had on both art and medical understanding.

Stephen Farthing has created a series of drawings in response to Leonardo, which are reproduced with commentary by Michael, who also provides…


Leonardo Da Vinci

By David Hawcock,

Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Extraordinary Machines

Here’s the one to get to introduce your children to Leonardo da Vinci – a pop-up book with gloriously beautiful drawings and 3D models of Leonardo’s inventions, which included airplanes, a submarine, a parachute, helicopter, armoured vehicle, and a crossbow-machine gun. Aside from the renovation of the sewers and plumbing of a Florentine church, none of Leonardo’s technological designs are ever known to have been built and tested, which leaves us with the question of whether he was more of a dreamer than a doer. I think this would work for 6-12-year-olds.

Leonardo Da Vinci

By David Hawcock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leonardo Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most significant creations of Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci come to life in the pages of this lavishly illustrated pop-up book. Published to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death, this elaborate collectible reveals the intricacy and importance of his designs for robots, flying machines, and other timeless inventions. The 3-D models are based on the master's actual drawings and accompanied by his notes.


How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael J. Gelb,

Book cover of How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

Leonardo da Vinci is widely perceived as the most versatile genius of all time. Artist, sculptor, scientist, military engineer, bridge builder, and anatomical pioneer, no other person throughout history has shown Leonardo’s breadth of interest. In this book Michael Gelb distills the principles which permit the readers to learn and deploy Leonardo’s secrets in their own lives. 

How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael J. Gelb,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring and inventive guide teaches readers how to develop their full potential by following the example of the greatest genius of all time, Leonardo da Vinci.

Acclaimed author Michael J. Gelb, who has helped thousands of people expand their minds to accomplish more than they ever thought possible, shows you how. Drawing on Da Vinci's notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, Gelb introduces Seven Da Vincian Principles—the essential elements of genius—from curiosità, the insatiably curious approach to life to connessione, the appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things. With Da Vinci as your inspiration, you will discover an…


If You Should Fail

By Joe Moran,

Book cover of If You Should Fail: Why Success Eludes Us and Why It Doesn't Matter

I don’t know if misery loves company but I’m convinced that failure does. When their projects fall flat, my kid likes nothing better than to hear about the wreckage of mine: romantic fiascos, flunked tests, athletic defeats. Joe Moran’s “book of solace,” If You Should Fail, is in part a compendium of stories like these, in part an effort to dislodge our tendency to think of human beings as winners or losers at all. “To call any life a failure, or a success, is to miss the infinite granularity, the inexhaustible miscellany of all lives,” Moran writes. “A life can’t really succeed or fail at all; it can only be lived.” 

If You Should Fail

By Joe Moran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If You Should Fail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'There is an honesty and a clarity in Joe Moran's book If You Should Fail that normalises and softens the usual blows of life that enables us to accept and live with them rather than be diminished/wounded by them' Julia Samuel, author of Grief Works and This Too Shall Pass

'Full of wise insight and honesty. Moran manages to be funny, erudite and kindly: a rare - and compelling - combination. This is the essential antidote to a culture obsessed with success. Read it' Madeleine Bunting

Failure is the small print in life's terms and conditions.

Covering everything from examination…


The Italians

By Luigi Barzini,

Book cover of The Italians

Want to know what really makes Italians tick? Why they’re so obsessed with la bella figura? What family means to them? Where the good side of the mindset morphs into the bad? The afia. Corruption. Barzini was the son of a journalist close to Mussolini, but went to high school and university in New York. This book, which he wrote in English in 1965 is as at once hilarious and essential reading.

The Italians

By Luigi Barzini,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Italians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this consummate portrait of the Italian people, bestselling author, publisher, journalist, and politician Luigi Barzini delves deeply into the Italian national character, discovering both its great qualities and its imperfections.

Barzini is startlingly frank as he examines “the two Italies”: the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought, “invaded, ravaged, sacked, and humiliated in every century.” Deeply ambivalent, Barzini approaches his task with a combination of love, hate, disillusion, and affectionate paternalism, resulting…


Oil and Marble

By Stephanie Storey,

Book cover of Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

This novel does an excellent job of telling the story of the artistic rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in 16th century Florence, Italy from 1501-1504. They were completely different artists, both fueled by ambition and a desire to be the best of all time. Leonardo was in his fifties and an internationally revered Master, when a young Michelangelo created the iconic David sculpture which thrust him onto the world stage. I enjoyed how Stephanie Storey paints an intimate portrait of both men. Leonardo was fastidious, brilliant, and had an ego. Michelangelo was known as hot-tempered, passionate, and someone who became so engrossed in his work that he did not bathe or clean his clothes. A must-read for lovers of Italy and the Renaissance.

Oil and Marble

By Stephanie Storey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oil and Marble as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her brilliant debut, Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive, entering with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters, creating a stunning art history thriller. From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself.

Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all…


Signora Da Vinci

By Robin Maxwell,

Book cover of Signora Da Vinci

Feisty female protagonists don’t come any better than Catriona Da Vinci. The Renaissance was a dangerous time for women when they were marginalized and bound by societal constructs. Not this lady, though. She was a brilliant, single mother—an alchemist and risk-taker. She devised a scheme that allowed her to be part of her illegitimate son, Leonardo’s life, which was nothing short of genius. She did what she had to do to protect him, no matter the cost to herself. She reminds me of my two amazing sisters and the lengths they would go to be there for their children, and for that—Catriona is my hero.

Signora Da Vinci

By Robin Maxwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Signora Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enchanting novel on the life and origins of Leonardo da Vinci’s mother, as imagined by the author of the “absolutely superb” (Diane Haeger, author of The Secret Bride) Mademoiselle Boleyn.

A young woman named Caterina was only fifteen years old in 1452 when she bore an illegitimate child in the tiny village of Vinci. His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever.

Caterina suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother and had no recourse when her boy was taken away from her. But no one knew the secrets of her own childhood, nor could…


The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

By Giorgio Vasari, Gaston du C. de Vere (translator),

Book cover of The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Many art historians consider this book sacred and the best first-hand account of the wondrous artists of the Renaissance. I found the stories extremely interesting about the character of these artists. Vasari was the biographer who gave the original account of how Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci hated each other. It also told the story of how both Michelangelo and Leonardo were hired to paint significant battle scenes on the same wall inside the Palazzo Vecchio. It was considered the greatest painting competition of all time as both men completed massive cartoons (preliminary drawings) on The Battle of Cascina and the Battle of Anghiari respectively.  

The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

By Giorgio Vasari, Gaston du C. de Vere (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A painter and architect in his own right, Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) achieved immortality for this book on the lives of his fellow Renaissance artists, first published in Florence in 1550. Although he based his work on a long tradition of biographical writing, Vasari infused these literary portraits with a decidedly modern form of critical judgment. The result is a work that remains to this day the cornerstone of art historical scholarship.
Spanning the period from the thirteenth century to Vasari’s own time, the Lives opens a window on the greatest personalities of the period, including Giotto, Brunelleschi, Mantegna, Leonardo, Raphael,…


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Interested in Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa, and Italy?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa, and Italy.

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