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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern | [Stephen Greenblatt]

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late 30s took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic by Lucretius—a beautiful poem containing the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2012

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2012

Renowned historian Stephen Greenblatt’s works shoot to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. With The Swerve, Greenblatt transports listeners to the dawn of the Renaissance and chronicles the life of an intrepid book lover who rescued the Roman philosophical text On the Nature of Things from certain oblivion.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late 30s took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic by Lucretius—a beautiful poem containing the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book—the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age—fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare, and even Thomas Jefferson.

©2011 Stephen Greenblatt (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"More wonderfully illuminating Renaissance history from a master scholar and historian." (Kirkus Reviews)

"In this gloriously learned page-turner, both biography and intellectual history, Harvard Shakespearean scholar Greenblatt turns his attention to the front end of the Renaissance as the origin of Western culture's foundation: the free questioning of truth." (Publishers Weekly)

“Pleasure may or may not be the true end of life, but for book lovers, few experiences can match the intellectual-aesthetic enjoyment delivered by a well-wrought book. In the world of serious nonfiction, Stephen Greenblatt is a pleasure maker without peer.” (Newsday)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (867 )
5 star
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Overall
4.0 (741 )
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Story
4.2 (744 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (19)
Performance
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  •  
    Dundas Malibu, CA, United States 08-21-12
    Dundas Malibu, CA, United States 08-21-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Grand history"

    Fascinating story. Most of the books I listen to are fiction, Nesbo, Lethem, Burke, and such. "Swerve" is full of lore that's new to me and helps explain aspects of our world today I hadn't understood.

    The writing is just splendid. It's paced, suspenseful, loving of knowledge, and an example to us all.

    The reader's fine. He's a reader, not someone needed to bring the work to life. The author has given us a book that needs no help coming to life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. A. Kenner Germany 08-20-12
    J. A. Kenner Germany 08-20-12

    lOuisVille

    ratings
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    1
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    Story
    "A Wonderful Story"
    If you could sum up The Swerve in three words, what would they be?

    This highly comprehensive and illuminating story chronicles an Italian man's quest for the lost works of antiquity. From the reaches of utter obscurity, he discovers a piece of work that will help fuel the renaissance and change the path of western thought forever.


    What does Edoardo Ballerini bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His pronunciation of Italian and Greek words and names.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It is one of the most interesting books I have ever encountered.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry Greenfield, NY, United States 08-18-12
    Jerry Greenfield, NY, United States 08-18-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Well narrated but a bit dry"
    Would you try another book from Stephen Greenblatt and/or Edoardo Ballerini?

    No


    What could Stephen Greenblatt have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Weaving in more mystery, interesting anecdotes.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    His voice, his emphasis, pronunciations


    Did The Swerve inspire you to do anything?

    I stopped listening about 90 minutes into it.


    Any additional comments?

    If you're a real history buff, this book is a find. If you're just interested in history, but prefer it spiced up with some intrigue, then this may not be the book for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Modesto, CA, United States 07-28-12
    J. Modesto, CA, United States 07-28-12 Member Since 2011

    J. Jason Gale

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "5-STARS is VERY RARE from ME"

    This book is lyrical, almost poetic. It is so pleasurable that this reader is stunned that it is deeply profound as well.

    I have a better understanding of ancient and medieval history and philosophy from Swerve than I got in from classes at the University. Stephen made the characters alive and interactive in their political/social environs.

    Thanks to this book, I no longer think modernity evolved into our scientific perception of reality. Instead, it's clear to me that we rediscovered it. And quite accidentally.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Aventura, FL, United States 07-11-12
    John Aventura, FL, United States 07-11-12 Member Since 2007
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    2
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    "Fantastic, a true eye opener"
    What did you love best about The Swerve?

    it gave me a new perspective on history and how important it is to learn from it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 07-02-12
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 07-02-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Strange choice of title, but a great read"

    I've always wanted to know more about how ancient writings come down to us. There's a lot of detail about manuscripts and how long they last, and how little actually dates back to ancient times. I found it very interesting. The story of Poggio Bracciolini, the renaissance book hunter is also interesting. The author writes in wonderful prose. The reader compliments it nicely. If you like ancient/Roman/European history, this book is an entertaining overview.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reed NEWPORT BEACH, CA, United States 05-29-12
    Reed NEWPORT BEACH, CA, United States 05-29-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unique book. Learned a lot."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Interesting book about how we got to where we are. Also really fascinating look back at both the classical and medieval periods.


    What other book might you compare The Swerve to and why?

    Guns germs and steel.


    Have you listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark San Jose, CA, United States 05-06-12
    Mark San Jose, CA, United States 05-06-12 Member Since 2012

    Winterone

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderfully revealing"
    What made the experience of listening to The Swerve the most enjoyable?

    The way in which the author describes the atmosphere of the time periods and the characters involved in the story is most enjoyable.


    What did you like best about this story?

    the story of a curiosity that engulfed those prior to the renaissance. How even under the pressure of a masochistic abomination that ruled the era tried to uncover truths buried in history.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was saddened by the stories of those that suffered under the intimidation of the Catholic church. And angered by the arrogance of those that refute reason, even today. How time after time the great religions of man have interfered with our development as humans.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 04-24-12
    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 04-24-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Simply outstanding"
    Would you listen to The Swerve again? Why?

    A must read! It makes you realize the fragility of human elightenment and makes you think about how we must carefully guard it and nurture it..


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book has given me a greater respect for the humanities than ever before.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sonoma 04-01-12
    Sonoma 04-01-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    29
    10
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    1
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    Story
    "Who'd have thought this could be so fascinating?"
    What made the experience of listening to The Swerve the most enjoyable?

    A terrific story and reader. I could have done without Greenblatt's story about his mother at the beginning, but otherwise it is a terrific book.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    A great reader


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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