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The Swerve Audiobook

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

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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

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Performance
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  •  
    Roy LANSDALE, PA, United States 02-25-13
    Roy LANSDALE, PA, United States 02-25-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Misleading title, but still a fascinating read"

    This book purports to be a discussion of how the rediscovery of one of Lucretius' works ignited the Renaissance. It falls somewhat short of this lofty goal, but manages nonetheless to be a really interesting and well-researched representation of European culture during the time of the Western Schism of the Roman Catholic Church. The lives of popes and anti-popes of the period, their backstories, their political alliances, and the lot of everyday people is graphically discussed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly ANN ARBOR, MI, United States 02-19-13
    Kimberly ANN ARBOR, MI, United States 02-19-13 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nobody writes likes Greenblatt!"
    Would you listen to The Swerve again? Why?

    Yes, and I will. His thoughts are complex but one can follow.


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

    I really don't think there is a comparable book....perhaps Haidt.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    There are not scenes in this book, really.


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

    No. It's a little dense for one sitting, but I would gladly listen to it repeatedly.


    Any additional comments?

    More from Greenblatt. Students and scholars benefit greatly from his writings!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth THE WOODLANDS, TX, United States 02-11-13
    Elizabeth THE WOODLANDS, TX, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2012

    Love that Texas weather!

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    "This book gives lots to mourn, much to celebrate"
    What made the experience of listening to The Swerve the most enjoyable?

    To say that I had no idea is to put it mildly. Greenblatt, in his thorough and inimitable style, tells of the world in Classical Greek and Roman times, how the growing Christian Church changed society and also preserved (despite themselves, seemingly) the "pagan" early writings, and how Petrarch inspired Poggio to (eventually) discover Lucretius's long poem, "On the Nature of Things." I have learned of the invention of beautiful handwriting, how books--codices-- existed in Greek and Roman times (it was not all scrolls), and that monks in the dark ages were required to know how to read, and to read daily for extended periods of time. I have learned so much; I am eager to re-read this book to fill in what I have missed in all the amazing disclosures. My long fascination with the Middle Ages and my complete ignorance of Classical Greek and Roman times are being amply rewarded with details and images of how it must have been.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Swerve?

    The realization of how deeply and extensively the ethic "Christian guilt and sin" quashed curiosity and learning.


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

    Language is speech; I appreciate hearing the words as well as reading the text. I am both listening and reading this book.


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

    This book introduces the reader to very exciting concepts and helps to connect modern times to ancient times. We are not so very different, except for the overlay of the Christian ethic. People and societies are so real in Greenblatt's telling. I can't wait to finish the book and read it again, making notes the second time.


    Any additional comments?

    I love this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suman Amarnath Hyderabad, India 02-05-13
    Suman Amarnath Hyderabad, India 02-05-13 Member Since 2012

    Suman Amarnath

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    "Academic"

    If you are someone interested in the process of discovery of medieval books from ancient monasteries - this is the book for you. I am not one of these people but even I could make out that this book is erudite and smart in that field. My problem with this was just that. Drawn in by the blurb, by Prof Greenblatt's Charlie Rose interview where he described Lucretius as the "honey on the lip of a cup of bitter medicine" - I was disappointed that this book did not have enough of Lucretius for me. For almost 5/6th of the book it is clever writing about Europe (or even more specifically Italy) in Middle Ages. It may be that I misled myself, but I would've liked a lot more discussion on Lucretius instead, right from the beginning, and a closer examination of the ramification of the discovery of "On the nature of things" not just the finding of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carol maplewood, NJ, United States 01-27-13
    carol maplewood, NJ, United States 01-27-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Learning made fun"

    Fascinating account of books, learning and society in middle ages. First half was a page turner but it slowed down in the second half. Still not to be missed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pegeen 01-19-13
    Pegeen 01-19-13

    reading is pure joy

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    "Transports you to the time, excellent voice"
    What made the experience of listening to The Swerve the most enjoyable?

    The historical details and the narrator. The voice reminded me of my Italian Lit professor in college reading Dante to us in Italian. Wish there was more in Italian, but in English (99% of the book) the tone and pacing were very enticing and enjoyable as well. I liked the specific-ness of the locations and the idea of following this one individual who often was at odds with his times. Seemed analogous to a modern person who suddenly finds himself laid off mid-career due to politics or downturns... and now what?


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    stop trying to make the poem the crux of the Renascence -- it wasn't.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    Pronunciation, timbre, pacing, warmth.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claudia 01-14-13
    Claudia 01-14-13

    cloudbusiness

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    "compulsively "readable""
    What made the experience of listening to The Swerve the most enjoyable?

    hard to stop listening to this one.


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

    actually, faintly reminiscent of "The Hare with the Amber Eyes" as it was a wonderful narration by same talented individual and a story of broad implications made personal by telling an individual's story.

    I was happy to have it on Audible as I might have been frozen in time reading a book I found hard to "put down".


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

    This narrator is magically adept at bringing the author's personal touches to life in this book as well as in "The Hare with the Amber Eyes" . Both of these books as well as Hillary Mantel's transcendental novels literally left a void in my life at the end of each book.

    Brilliant, talented writers and narrators bringing these works of art to life.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The road to modernity


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott bishop, CA, USA 01-13-13
    Scott bishop, CA, USA 01-13-13 Member Since 2016
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    "good book to hear"
    If you could sum up The Swerve in three words, what would they be?

    somewhat disconnected in spots, but overall an excellent book


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    there's only one character in the book


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

    his voice carries a good sense of suspense where this is useful


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

    no, I found it to be easy to read in small bits.


    Any additional comments?

    one of my friends , raised a catholic and Jesuit educated, found it compelling but depressing by making him seriously question his previously strong faith in a life after death.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Halifax, NS, Canada 01-11-13
    David Halifax, NS, Canada 01-11-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Superb"

    Stephen Greenblatt is one of the few academics who writes beautiful prose. This book showcases the elegant, engaging style that makes his work appealing to non-experts as well. In this book, Greenblatt takes what should be an obscure subject - the reception of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura in the Rensaissance - and uses it as a springboard for explaining how the world was changed by the rediscovery of the Greek and Roman classics. While I knew in an abstract sense that this rediscovery defined the Renaissance, Greenblatt's focus on the personal experience of the scholars who hunted for forgotten texts brings the idea to life vividly, and he carefully structures the book so that we can understand how startling and compelling Lucretius's ideas must have seemed to a person of that age.

    This is a tour de force and not to be missed. The reader is brilliant, with a great command of Italian pronunciation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Auriga FRONT ROYAL, VA, United States 01-07-13
    Auriga FRONT ROYAL, VA, United States 01-07-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Stunning work of scholarship"
    If you could sum up The Swerve in three words, what would they be?

    Immensely readable, fun


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

    Not sure


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

    He nuances the meaning in an extraordinarily helpful way


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

    not quite


    Any additional comments?

    wonderful read or listen should I say. Add to your must reading list for this year.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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