Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
I'm of two minds about this unusual book. On the one hand, it is a fascinating story about a book hunter and the extraordinary work he saves from near extinction. On the other hand, it's a history and commentary on the pre-Renaissance Western world. An interview with Stephen Greenblatt on NPR led me to expect the first subject; I didn't so much anticipate tackling the other.
Don't get me wrong -- the historical details are most interesting. There's eye-opening detail about the miseries perpetrated in the name of religion; one can feel the political and physical dangers of the times. I'm just saying there was so much digression from the story of Lucretius' book and the search that uncovered it that I had to take a few lengthy breaks from the listen.
I believe I was confounded partly by the narration. Mr. Ballerini's voice drones on in the manner of a sadly disappointed parent lecturing a misbehaving child. It's not an unpleasant voice, but it never varies from a rather sing-song tone, and it lacks enthusiasm.
On the whole, this is an extremely intelligent work of obviously rigorous research. There's much here for even the casual fan of history. So, I'd recommend it -- just take it easy, don't beat yourself up if you need a few breaks, and keep returning!
Lucretius may well be fascinating, but it is not at all clear how his De Rerum Natura was the "swerve" that changed our perceptions. It would seem that the author is somewhat overintent on trying to find a foundation for his own atheism. While I too am not a believer, this text seems something of a an exaggeration. But, beyond that, the incidents are most interesting.
More about the book hunters of the Renaissance.
I guess so.
Possibly as a documentary about Lucretius and the discovery of his poem. I'd avoid Greenblatt's over-wrought hypothesis that this one book changed the course of humanity, though.
I wouldn't buy this as an audiobook. Possibly it's better in hardcopy.
This book was very good, in parts excellent, but it wasn't as captivating as I had thought it would be based on the description. Somehow I was convinced it was going to be the greatest book ever! There were definitely sections that dragged and I wasn't always able to keep track of where we were in time. But the book did introduce me to Lucretius, which counts for a lot. I found the narrator's pace a bit slow at first, but I got used to it and he certainly has a beautiful voice.
There are two stories here. The first is an interesting story about a book hunter tracking down a lost tome. The other is an anti-religious diatribe. The former is compelling, the latter is heavy handed and inaccurate. The way the author frames Christianity in the first 1500 years would lead a read to believe they were all pleasure hating masochists. It is in this obvious disdain for religion that his credibility as intellectual guide through the ages is compromised.
What could have make The Swerve better? Focus on the first story.
I wasn't expecting this to be as good as it is. I expected sterile and dry but well researched. What I got was well researched but unexpectedly absorbing and fascinating. Time well spent.
Very Interesting book, part History, part Philosophy, the philosophy of Epicurus via Lucretius is amazingly insightful, it blows my mind that people so long ago with no scientific instruments and nothing more than their reason could so precisely know the world for what it truly is, from Atomic theory to Evolutionary Biology they seemed to somehow divine these truths using only their reason, ideas that have been confirmed by modern science thousands of years later.
In contrast i never fully realized just how stunting Christianity and Christian Dogma has been on Western Civilizations Intellectual growth, its inflexibility and downright hostility to any ideas that challenged its orthodoxy, though ironically much of the ideas of the ancients have only survived because the texts were copied and preserved by the Monasteries of Europe,
Although I have only the audio version, the content is so compelling, I would recommend both.
The narration of the audio version is among the best I have ever heard.
The key figure is Poggio Bracciolini and his life, adventures, talents and passion for books are as compellingly depicted as a character in a novel.
I had never come across Mr. Ballerini's work before, but his intelligent narration brought the words to life.
By chance, I had also just bought "Saving Italy" by Robert Edsel and was delighted to discover that it has the same narrator. In both cases, Mr.B's excellent Italian pronunciation enhances the listening pleasure. In "Saving Italy," he also pronounces the German names with reasonable accuracy. Bravo!
I was absorbed throughout.
Please see Ethan M's review. He expresses my views regarding this book just about perfectly.
Before I read this book I read "On The Nature Of Things" first. I hate reading books about a book before reading the actual subject-book first. That way I can have better appreciation of what the subject the author is talking about. This book 'The Swerve" is more about the era of rediscovery in the early 15th century, than about Lucretius. If you are intent to know about Epicureanism or Lucretius this could be one book, but the study is a broad one and you will need to find other authors that specifically focus on that material. To be sure the rediscovery of books like the work of Lucretius, did not help the theocracy of that time. The author does a good job humanising the long dead book hunters of the late middle ages. That is the best aspect of this book. Its the story of book hunters and the beginning of the end of Christian theocracy in Europe, not the story of Lucretius.
I love to learn.
I've listen to Swerve twice; I even bought the hard copy of the book.
Great voice; keeps you captivated and interested.
Yes, I even had my friends listen to certain parts.
Great Book, time well spent.