I expected this book to be about drawing and to walk away with some superficial insights into perception and expecting to recommend it to a few people, if any. However, I found myself about halfway through wishing I could buy multiple copies that I could give to several friends and even family members. I know that when it first was published it was hugely popular, with reading groups working through it much the way people worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I can see why and wished I could lure some of my friends to join me in reading through the book.
Unlike Cameron’s book, Gelb’s doesn’t invite the reader to dig endlessly in a therapeutic manner, exploring childhood issues or even traumas. Instead, Gelb asks the reader to first go through the book without stopping, reading cover to cover, and the exercises are mostly journaling in the form of listing, taking the lists as a launching point to focus one’s intention, to make life more fulfilling not by necessarily doing more but through focusing, prioritizing, and opening yourself to playing with new ways of being. Along with the journaling exercises, Gelb uses right brain/left brain theory to explore ideas through mind-mapping which inevitably leads to the final section where he does encourage the reader to do some sketching. (And before you say “But I can’t draw” let me point out—anyone can draw, just some people are better at it than others. Like singing or writing or dancing—we can all do these things . . . some of us better than others.)
There is a thorough bibliography, organized by the themes of each of the chapters with additional resources for more about the Renaissance. Anyone who wanted to revisit a particular section of the book, to explore the ideas more fully can easily find complementary resources through the bibliography, an invaluable resource because even though Gelb is certainly introducing a lot of ideas, strongly contextualized within the life and works of da Vinci, most readers will find some chapters more provocative and inspiring than others.
I still wish I could lure some others to play with this book along with me. I think it would be great fun. I further wish I could buy copies to give as gifts because I would enjoy sharing this book with so many people. For now, the best I can do is share this book review.