Award-Winning Author, Historian & Chronicler of ExplorationBook This Speaker
At A Glance
Laurence Bergreen is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into 25 languages worldwide. His most recent book Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius, published by Simon & Schuster in 2016, explores the real story… Read more
- Sailing around the World with Ferdinand Magellan
This talk will take the audience on board Magellan’s ships for the first-ever circumnavigation (1519-1522). Accompanied by a vivid slide show, we will visit strange lands and peoples, wars, volcanoes, orgies, and mysteries unknown to Europeans of that era. Our principal guide will be Magellan’s on-board chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, who recorded all the wondrous sights they encountered, from the Strait of Magellan (as it’s now called) to the discovery of the largest body of water on the planet, the Pacific Ocean, and ordeal of trying to cross it.
- Marco Polo: Walk a Mile in His Shoes, in fact, Walk Six Thousand Miles (more or less)
Marco left his native Venice in 1271 in the company of his father and uncle on a trading mission to China. There he became a favorite of the legendary emperor, Kublai Khan, and tax collector for the government, traversing the length and breadth of China for 24 years. It was a civilization well advanced over the West, and Marco's wide-ranging account of his travels have enthralled readers ever since. Laurence will show and tell what it's like travel in Marco's footsteps today in search of the ever present past.
- Christopher Columbus: He Never Even Knew America Existed
Between 1492 and 1404, Columbus, a Genoese merchant captain, made four voyages to the New World, sailing for Spain. Each time, he thought he’d reached the outskirts of Asia, as described by his travel guru, Marco Polo. Shuttling between the Iberian Peninsula and the Caribbean, he never glimpsed North America, and never even guessed at its existence. Subject to hallucinations - he thought he could sail uphill, and heard the voice of God speaking to him at crucial moments - Columbus had no idea what he was doing, but as a masterly navigator he knew exactly how to get there. Not only that, he did his best to disguise his track so that others could not copy his feat. In the course of researching of Laurence’s book about him, he did what he could to recreate his route, and to discover who Columbus really was.
- Giacomo Casanova: Libertine and Genius
Casanova wrote about his 124 lovers in a masterly, humorous, heart-wrenching 12-volume memoir that could have been called “My Life and Hard Times in Venice and Europe.” Whether describing his death-defying escape from the Leads, the high-security prison in the Doge’s Palace, his orgies with nuns (yes, nuns, this was Venice, after all), courtesans, and other libertines, Casanova left an indelible portrait of his life as a libertine. A true child of the Enlightenment, he knew everyone from Louis XV to Voltaire to Mozart, as he gambled and rambled across Europe. Based on Laurence’s recently-published biography, Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius.
Laurence Bergreen is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into 25 languages worldwide. His most recent book Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius, published by Simon & Schuster in 2016, explores the real story behind the famous writer, notorious libertine, and self-invented genius known around the world as one of the greatest lovers of all time. His previous book Columbus: The Four Voyages, published by Viking in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice” as well as a selection of the Book-of-the Month Club, MC2, the History Book Club and the Military Book Club.
In October 2007, Alfred A. Knopf published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, a groundbreaking biography of the iconic traveler. His previous work, Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe , was published to international acclaim by William Morrow/HarperCollins in October 2003. A New York Times “Notable Book” for 2003, this book was awarded the Medalla de Honor by the Asociación de Alcades de V Centenario (Spain), 2010. It is also in development as a motion picture and is now in its 28th printing.
In addition, Bergreen is the author of Voyage to Mars: NASA’s Search for Life Beyond Earth, a narrative of NASA’s exploration of Mars, published in November 2000 by Penguin Putnam. Dramatic rights were acquired by TNT. In 1997, Bantam Doubleday Dell published Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, a comprehensive biography drawing on unpublished manuscripts and exclusive interviews with Armstrong colleagues and friends. It appeared on many “Best Books of 1997” lists, including those of The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Publishers Weekly and has been published in Germany, Finland, and Great Britain. In 1994, Simon & Schuster published his definitive Capone: The Man and the Era. A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, it has been published in numerous foreign languages, was optioned by Miramax, and was a New York Times “Notable Book.” His biography, As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin, appeared in 1990. This book won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award and the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award and received front-page reviews in major American and British newspapers and appeared on bestseller lists; it was also a New York Times “Notable Book” for 1990. His previous biography, James Agee: A Life, was also critically acclaimed and was a New York Times “Notable Book” for 1984. His first book was Look Now, Pay Later: The Rise of Network Broadcasting, published by Doubleday in 1980.
He has written for many national publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Newsweek, Details, Prologue, The Chicago Tribune and Military History Quarterly. He has taught at the New School for Social Research and served as Assistant to the President of the Museum of Television and Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in New York. In 1995, he served as a judge for the National Book Awards and in 1991 as a judge for the PEN/Albrand Nonfiction Award. A frequent lecturer at major universities and symposiums, and aboard cruise ships, he has served as a Featured Historian for the History Channel.
Mr. Bergreen graduated from Harvard University in 1972. He is a member of PEN American Center, The Explorers Club, the Cosmos Club, the Harvard Club, the Authors Guild, the Harvard University Library Advisory Committee, the Century Association, and the Board of Trustees of the New York Society Library. He lives in New York City.
“I have lived as a philosopher, and I die as a Christian.” These were, supposedly, the last words of Giacomo Casanova, the 18th century’s most infamous adventurer, trickster, gambler and libertine. It is just the sort of thing he would have said,… Read more
The most notorious libertine in history was Casanova, whose memoirs fill a dozen volumes with travel, adventure, and stories of more than 100 sexual encounters in rapturous detail. He was also a mathematician who established the French lottery that is still going… Read more
If you’re worried that Laurence Bergreen’s “Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius,” about the notorious 18th-century libertine, might be one of those biographies that’s well-researched but a bit dull, fear no more. How many academic tomes include a blurb from Dr.… Read more
Our members loved Bergreen’s brilliant and eloquent talk…All afternoon, we were hearing compliments. Everyone admired his fascinating lecture, everyone has commented on how much they learned, they noted how the images enhanced today’s trip to 18th century Venice and they have been unanimous in saying that they wish the program were longer!The Colony Club
The Library was so fortunate to have him…an intelligent and entertaining event…It was just a wonderful visit to history throughout—excellent content, structure, slides, all of it.The New York Society Library