In the Mail: biographical history

–> Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution by Madeline Goold

From the Publisher

Mr. Langshaw's Square PianoA handwritten serial number inside a neglected 1807 Broadwood square piano inspired this illuminating story of an almost-forgotten musical instrument that transformed the musical and cultural perceptions of the western world. Square pianos were the first popular pianos, and the core of the classical piano repertoire—Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven—was written for such early pianos. This absorbing history leads back to the early days of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of mass production, commoditization, and global distribution of pianos from the ports of London to the shores of America and around the world. Both an investigative story and genealogical study that highlights a key period in music history, this chronicle closely examines the roles of John Broadwood—the most successful piano maker in late-Georgian London—and of one of his professional customers, Mr. John Langshaw, an organist and music master.

–> American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane by Walter Isaacson

From the Publisher

What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history?

In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting characters he has chronicled as a biographer and journalist. The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, in most cases, but that is not the secret of their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiosity.

Isaacson reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges he sees for journalism in the digital age.

He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which both before and after Hurricane Katrina offered many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. In an anecdotal and personal way, Isaacson describes the joys of the “so-called writing life” and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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