Humorous and philosophical essays in Klosterman's own pop-culture-writ-large idiom. Read by the author himself, and in some cases by his interview subjects (Ira Glass, Errol Morris). It's strange and interesting to hear someone reading their own remarks after the fact. Overall enjoyable, and if you've liked Klosterman's previous works you won't be disappointed. Lost 1 star just for being regrettably short, and in need of some kind of cohesive narrative (although this might apply to all his essay collections).
"The Swerve" traces the little-known story of the poem "On the Nature of Things" by epicurean philosopher Titus Lucretius. Centuries ahead of its time, this poem envisioned a world governed by basic laws of physics operating at the atomic scale--and notably, the absence of a deity at the reins. Nearly lost to humanity during the dark ages, fortune put it in the hands of a bureaucratic book-hunter named Poggio Bracciolini in the 15th century.
The book is roughly divided into two parts--one exploring the philosophy and setting of Lucretius' poem, and the other the biography of Bracciolini. Both are fascinating stories, with excellent details of everyday life in both eras. Although touched on, I felt that more direct examples of how the poem influenced modern philosophers and scientists were needed. The author spends a fair amount of time in wistful descriptions of the poem's art and philosophical depth, yet scarcely quotes directly from the poem itself. The narrator seems to reflect this in tone, seemingly breathless from partaking in beauty which is, irksomely, not always made apparent to the reader.
In sum: Crucial for those interested in ancient philosophy and the Renaissance, although expect a high amount of surface to substance.
Great book for anyone even mildly interested in Native American history. Narrates the unique culture and complex politics of the Iroquois, Inca, and Aztec in thrilling detail, as well as the story of Native American people as a whole. Cinematic descriptions of the pilgrims and conquistadors from the native point of view. Emphasizes scientific findings about Native American origins, engineering, agriculture, and ultimately epidemics and downfall. Highlights remaining questions as much as the "current" answers. Narrator is clear and animated.
Traces the biography of Meriwether Lewis, with emphasis on the Corps of Discovery expedition. Builds mostly from primary texts with many quotes, but gives due respect to previous scholars and their discoveries and theories. Occasionally slow, but overall entertaining and readable. Narrator is monotone but clear.
Nate Silver introduces you to the art and science of forecasting, above and beyond his 538 blog (although he goes into that in detail). His goal is for us to understand how forecasters and statisticians see the world, and he explains things clearly yet thoroughly. Starting with an overview of model design and evaluation, he then gives examples from his own experience and some outside research: baseball, weather, earthquakes, gambling, politics, and more. Every chapter is entertaining and personal. He highlights common pitfalls in forecasting, and offers practical advice for making predictions in everyday life. In sum, a very worthwhile listen.
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