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
"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)
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.
Immensely readable, fun
He nuances the meaning in an extraordinarily helpful way
wonderful read or listen should I say. Add to your must reading list for this year.
I hold a BA in History from York University of Toronto; a 3yr Diploma in Computer Networking from Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario. I have been "reading" audio books sinces the late 80s and a member of Audible back to 2004. What a really like is a good long story preferable over 30 hours. :)
I was first inducted to Greenblatt in a 4th year history course. This should not put anyone off but underlined that this a scholar work rather then a personal essay which the sample make it appear.
I would suggest hearing "On the Nature of Things", which is on audible first, Greenblatt does describable the text but more as a sample of what pleasures you might enjoy rather as a summary.
This book is rather about the effort in the 15th and 16th century to rediscovery the great works of Greek and Rome by the humanists. It is interesting and a reminder of why we should keep printing books and teaching our children to write with a pen and not just with a keyboard.
Mr. Ballerini voice is very well suited to this book and while I can not comment on his ability with the Itailon and Latin to the untrained ear it was very enjoyable.
Anybody who is interested in the history of ideas should read this book.
His reading is dignified and his Italian pronumciation is impeccable.
It filled me with admiration for Greenblatt's research, and I was amazed by the progression of history from Greece to Rome to Christianity that I never learned in school. This is an important take on European history.
It's an interesting history of the discovery of a Roman poem and it's discoverer. As most history works do it tours setting, Renaissance Europe, but that tour is barely adequate. The main narrative is I suspect as strong as the evidence allows and is as I said interesting and worth reading. However the thesis of the author that this roman poem played an important role in 'making the world modern' is thinly supported at best.
Overall an average book, good for someone already predisposed to liking historical works, not likely to appeal to general reader and definitely not worthy of the awards it has recieved.
The narrator neither adds not detracts from the text, and with a nonfiction book, that is usually all the narrator can do,
It reveals the life of ancient books and the people that keep them alive through eons and avatars.
The main character of the book is Lucretius' manuscript itself. Though much guessed and revealed indirectly through the lives and actions of people that came in contact with it, The Nature of Things has a colossal spiritual force that changed the world once, then survived centuries of systematic attempts to eliminate it completely from history and from the world, then came to life again and changed the history of humankind forever.
It's very clear, well paced, and only rarely lets transpire the limited understanding of what he is reading.
The part about the villa in Herculaneum.
What a great way to learn history! This book captivates like a novel but provides the most interesting perspective on philosophy and science thousands of years old. Who knew that the "atom" was a concept promoted by Epicurus hundreds of years before the birth of Christ? Or that Thomas Jefferson incorporated another concept, "pursuit of happiness" promoted by Lucretius in his epic poem, The Nature of Things. This book was fascinating from beginning to end.
Edoardo Ballerini is THE BEST narrator that Audible has reading books. I found The Swerve by searching books that Edoardo narrated.
I have not read the book.
Very interesting view of history that I was unaware of.
Voice is somewhat slow but I listen at double speed. I think I used triple speed for this one!
I enjoyed the thorough treatment of the history.
I did not expect the book to cover what it did. The history was well written and highlights how much of human history is the product of chance and the dedicated works of single individuals at the right place and the right time. This is well worth the listen.
Overall great message and story, if you are looking for a science non fiction book you might want to look elsewhere, but Swerve puts together a more literary based version of how we evolved as a race and goes into the drawbacks of religion in the progress of man etc.
Really interesting historical perspective, would recommend to friends.
If you like "intellectual" books, you'll probably love this. It's a great book for anyone interested in ancient cultures, European history, the Catholic Church, and old books. The writing is good, the narrator is good, and the story is interesting.
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