The best Leonardo da Vinci books 📚

Browse the best books on Leonardo da Vinci as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

By Frank Zöllner, Johannes Nathan

Why this book?

The definitive account of Leonardo’s life and work by one of the world’s greatest Leonardo scholars, magnificently illustrated, clearly written, admirably objective. Frank was very generous in his advice to me, as I wrote my own book about Leonardo, though he generally takes a more favourable view of the Saudi Salvator Mundi than I do. It’s a big book but easy to dip in and out of with its Catalogue Raisonée structure of an account of the artist's life followed by essays on each painting.

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The best books about Leonardo da Vinci

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Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Under the Skin

Leonardo Da Vinci: Under the Skin

By Michael Farthing, Stephen Farthing

Why this book?

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.

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The best books about Leonardo da Vinci

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Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Extraordinary Machines

Leonardo Da Vinci: Extraordinary Machines

By David Hawcock

Why this book?

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.

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The best books about Leonardo da Vinci

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

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

By Martin Kemp

Why this book?

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…

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The best books about Leonardo da Vinci

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

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

By Michael J. Gelb

Why this book?

This book had to be first. I’ve read three biographies about da Vinci, alert for clues into his brilliance. And I’ve never had a book recommended to me as frequently, by former students, colleagues, and friends. I’ve read it twice. Gelb draws on da Vinci’s notebooks and his work to shape The Seven da Vincian Principles—Curiosity, Being Sensual, Embracing Uncertainty, and Holistic Perspectives are my favorites—and also provides specific creative tips to help us live true to those principles in all aspects of our lives. I love da Vinci’s appreciation for what nature can teach us about being creative and…

From the list:

The best books for appreciating your natural creatively entrepreneurial genius

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Book cover of The Italians

The Italians

By Luigi Barzini

Why this book?

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.

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The best books for understanding the Italian mindset

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