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.
reading a different book!
he could have written a better book!
It was impossible to detract from a book this poor.
Here's the gist of it: some Italian guy loves old Roman manuscripts. After a VERY long time, he gets his hands on this one, by Lucretius, a Roman writer who says, there is no God, you die, the soul dies, that's it, so enjoy yourselves now. Thinkl you've never heard of this guy? Think he's simply another atheist/epicurean type? Think again. Thomas Jefferson had 5 copies in his library which PROVES this is the most important book ever in the history of ever. Now I've just saved you 300+ pages of supposition, guessing and endless detail, much of which feels totally invented.
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.
A great history lesson that devolves into an anti-sermon.
What does that mean?
We are completely immerse in our western history, particularly Roman Catholic History, with extreme detail. It's all jaw dropping stuff until his conclusions. these are sadly from the point of view of someone who as a humanist turns his findings into a case against religion. The author tells us to open our minds to escape our beliefs but only to encase us again in his own humanist evangelism, which is still a belief and in the end no less a religion.
Not at all. Far more an adventure story that was of considerable interest. Certainly not anything I had the slightest idea about before listening.
Glad I bought this one.
I really enjoyed learning about the search for the ancient writings, i mean, it sounds dry, but it was pretty fascinating how some men tried to save these ancients texts for mankind. But i generally read books for entertainment, and this was a little longer on education, and short on entertainment for my palette. I generally do crime fiction anyway, so this was a departure for me (if that helps judge my review). I'm not sorry i listened, but perhaps an abridged version would've been more for me.
An excellent book I'd eagerly recommend to anyone who loves history, science, art, the humanities, humanity, literature, or book hunting/bookbinding, as well as anyone who is interested in the principles of harm reduction, atheism, deism, agnosticism, skepticism, & love.
This book covers a lot of ground, presenting an interesting perspective on the intellectual history of Europe and the US.
Such an eloquent and lovely read. Full of fascinating history and thoughtful insights on perceptions of our existence. There are two books that I believe everyone should read before their death; this is one of them.
The Swerve, How the World Became Modern
The book is about a former secretary to several popes who becomes the greatest book hunter of the Renaissance. His greatest find in a remote German monastery is a copy of Lucretius’ poem “On the Nature of Things,” which had been lost to history for well more than a thousand years. Along the way of this search there is fascinating exploration of the history of book collecting (especially the classics), paper making over the centuries, the formation of libraries, and how books survived from ancient Rome and Greece due to being copied for generations by monks. But the true power of the book is that Lucretius recognized that all matter is composed of atoms swerving in new directions and thus subject to the forces of evolution. This provides the basis for humanism which recognizes that virtue is achieved through pleasure (friends, literature, art) and not through self-denial (the religious fear underlying subjecting oneself to the orthodoxy of the church to please God). The subversive poem, written before the time of Christ, inspired the thinking and discoveries of Galileo, Freud, Darwin, and Einstein as well as Shakespeare and Thomas Jefferson.