Spotlighting 13 icons past and present, Kalb explores how and when inspiration strikes among prodigies, midlifers, and late bloomers, from Yo-Yo Ma and Issac Newton to Julia Child and Eleanor Roosevelt. What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of life while others discover their passions decades later? The chapters in Spark are organized not by birth order but by the age at which genius ignites. Through engaging storytelling and deep reporting on human behavior, Spark unravels the relationship between brains, talent, passion, creativity, willpower, and imagination.
To illuminate her historical profiles, Kalb took trips to landmarks of ingenuity: she traveled to Vinci, Italy, the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci; stood in Newton’s bedroom overlooking his famed apple garden; visited the lab where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin; and walked along Roosevelt’s favorite path through the woods at her home in upstate New York. Kalb interviewed a number of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Pablo Picasso, Shirley Temple, Roosevelt, and Grandma Moses, and bolstered her reporting by delving into letters, memoirs, and biographies. Although her 13 subjects differ in numerous ways — the eras in which they were born, the livelihoods they pursued — they share a combination of core features that tie them together: intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and luck.
Spark’s captivating narrative and deft analysis offer a fresh interpretation of genius that will surprise and energize readers. “My home is that these profiles will not only illuminate the many junctures at which discovery can happen,” Kalb writes, “but also inspire those who are still searching for fulfillment.”