Toby Lester, the author of Da Vinci's Ghost (2012) and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), is a journalist, an editor, and an independent scholar. In addition to writing books, he is a longtime contributor to The Atlantic, for whom he has written extensively. Between 1995 and 2006 he worked for the magazine in a number of different capacities—as a staff editor, as the executive editor of the website, as a senior editor, and as the managing editor. He has also served as the editorial director of Boston (2012-2013), the editor of Country Journal (2000-2001), and the executive editor of DoubleTake (1999-2000). His writing has appeared in, among other publications, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Boston Globe, The American Scholar, The Wilson Quarterly, BBC News Magazine, the Huffington Post, and the London Times, and in a number of anthologies, including the New Literary History of America (2009).
Prior to 1995, Lester worked in international relief and development. From 1992 to 1994, he monitored intifada-related activity in the West Bank as a UN refugee-affairs officer; from 1990 to 1992 he helped establish Peace Corps programs in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as a country desk officer; from 1988 to 1990 he taught English in a mountain school in Yemen as a Peace Corps volunteer. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987 with degrees in English and French, and now lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters.
Lester comes from a family of writers. His father, James Lester, was a member of the first successful American Everest expedition, and is the author of Too Marvelous for Words (1994), the only biography of the jazz pianist Art Tatum. His mother, Valerie Lester, is the author of, among other works, Fasten Your Seat Belts: History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995), and Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004)—a biography of her great-great grandfather, Hablot Knight Browne, who was Charles Dickens’s principal illustrator. And his sister, Alison Lester, is the author of Locked Out (2007), a collection of short stories about expatriate life, and the forthcoming novel Lilian on Life (2014).