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Publisher's Summary

The final and most personal work from Pulitzer Prize - winning author and historian Will Durant - discovered 32 years after his death - is a message of insight for everyone who has sought meaning in life or the council of a wise friend in navigating life's journey.

From 1968 to 1978, Will Durant made four public allusions to the existence of Fallen Leaves. One, in 1975, hinted at its contents: "a not very serious book that answers the questions of what I think about government, life, death, and God." And in 1975: "I propose... to answer all the important questions, simply, fairly, and imperfectly." Even into his 90s,he worked on the book daily, writing it out on legal notepads. Upon his death in 1981, no one, not even the Durant heirs, knew if he had completed it, or even if it still existed. Thirty-two years later, in a granddaughter's attic trunk, the manuscript was discovered.

Fallen Leaves is Will Durant's most personal book. It is precisely as he described: 22 short chapters on everything from youth and old age, religion and morals, to sex, war, politics, and art. The culmination of Durant's 60-plus years spent researching the philosophies, religions, arts, sciences, and civilizations from across the world, Fallen Leaves is the distilled wisdom of a gifted scholar with a renowned talent for rendering the insights of the past accessible. In its preface Durant mentions that over the course of his career, he received letters from "curious readers who have challenged me to speak my mind on the timelessquestions of human life and fate." With Fallen Leaves, he accepted their challenge. It contains strong opinions, elegant prose, and deep insights into the human condition as only Will Durant could provide, as well as his revealing conclusions about the perennial problems and greatest joys we face as a species.

©2014 John Little and the Estate of Will and Ariel Durant (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Story

Fascinating and humorous look at life

Would you consider the audio edition of Fallen Leaves to be better than the print version?

I didn't read the print version, but love Grover Gardner's voice and it fits Durant's voice so well, I know I would prefer the auydio version!

What did you like best about this story?

Just down-to-earth observations and wisdom told in a charming and folksy manner

Which scene was your favorite?

Just about all of them

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Each vignette touched me differently. I can't say I was "moved" but perhaps "mood-lightened"

Any additional comments?

Grover Gardner is the perfect Durant, Twain, Faulkner, Steinbeck...Americana voice. I really love simply listening to him....he might actually be able to make the Atlanta phone book charming and slightly witty.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful!

Enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoy the story of civilization series. I disagree with several of his ideas, but listening was joyful anyway. Surprised to find out he knew Emma Goldman, stunned at his conservative sexual views, my only negative remark is that the book isn't longer and more detailed. I recommend the title to every Durant fan out there.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Answering everything, simply, fairly & imperfectly

If you could sum up Fallen Leaves in three words, what would they be?

Enlightened, cathartic, elegant

What did you like best about this story?

Classic Will Durant. You don't have to agree with him to truly respect his views on life and society. He's wonderfully self-aware and balanced in his approach. Nothing too groundbreaking, especially if you're familiar with The Story of Philosophy, but it’s great to hear the summation of the lessons he’s learned in life. I’ll certainly come back and listen again.

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Mixed Feelings

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

Durant's prose is still refreshing and enjoyable; however, his thoughts are incomplete and often contradictory.

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 12-19-15

Old Man’s Book

One of the high points of the book is Durant’s modern sounding discussion of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the book is not greatly interesting or useful.

I really liked Durant’s Story of Civilization and most of his other history based books, but this is not history, it is the musing about life of a old (80’s), liberal (sometimes communist), academic man born in 1885. This book was not at all bad and had many interesting and strong points, but many of the ideas were dated. For example; Females and males should be educated separately, and the females should only be taught by other females who have already had children (after obtaining government approval to have children). He had quaint opinions about sex, parental authority, and marriage. He did not quite understand, and had serious doubts about, the results of modern science. Such opinions, of course, are expected from an old man.

The manuscript for this book was only recently discovered (long after his death) and it seems Will Durant did not authorize the release of this version of this book before his death (although he had the opportunity to do so). I suspect Ariel Durant would have argued against the publication of this book (or edited it drastically). In an interview regarding the earlier book “The Lessons of History” Ariel reminded us to “Remember that these are the opinions of an aged man” and “a philosopher should remind himself, now and then, that he is a particle pontificating on infinite”. She was great! I suspect there was a very good reason it took decades before this manuscript was found; that it was not intended to be found.

I do not regret having read this book, nor do I condemn its publication, for, as always, I learned from Durant. In this case I learned from example what age does to even the wisest of men.

I imagine only those who are longtime readers and lovers of Durant will fully understand and appreciate this book.

11 of 23 people found this review helpful