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American Philosophy: A Love Story Audiobook, by John Kaag Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: John Kaag Narrator: Josh Bloomberg Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2016 ISBN: 9781504772532
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The epic wisdom contained in a lost library helps the author turn his life around.

In American Philosophy, John Kaag—a disillusioned philosopher at sea in his marriage and career—stumbles upon a treasure trove of rare books on an old estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that once belonged to the Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. The library includes notes from Whitman, inscriptions from Frost, and first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As he begins to catalog and preserve these priceless books, Kaag rediscovers the very tenets of American philosophy—self-reliance, pragmatism, the transcendent—and sees them in a twenty-first-century context.

Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy. After studying under Harvard’s philosophical four—William James, George Santayana, Josiah Royce, and George Herbert Palmer—he held the most prestigious chair at the university for the first three decades of the twentieth century. And when his teachers eventually died, he collected the great books from their libraries (filled with marginalia) and combined them with his own rare volumes at his family’s estate. And there they remained for nearly eighty years, a time capsule of American thought.

Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is an invigorating investigation of American pragmatism and the wisdom that underlies a meaningful life.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ideas may be Kaag’s first love, but they bring him a flesh-and-blood Beatrice in this open-hearted account of a young man’s second chance at a sentimental education.”

    Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “Remarkable…Part history of American philosophy, part personal narrative, American Philosophy…takes us deeply into that ‘epic love affair with wisdom’ that is philosophy…leads us to where the heart of true philosophy lies: to a deep and abiding sense of wonder. This is an absolutely stellar memoir.”

    Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Accurate, engaging, and scrupulous…an unconventional argument for who was right, and who was wrong, in the classical tradition of American philosophy from about 1830 to 1930…It is an argument strikingly suited to our time.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “John Kaag hits the sweet spot between intellectual history and personal memoir in this transcendently wonderful love song to philosophy…a magnificently accessible introduction to fundamental ideas about freedom and what makes life significant. It’s an exhilarating read.”


  • “A compelling hybrid combining memoir, a dramatic narrative about saving an endangered rare book collection, and the intellectual history of philosophy…The author deftly intertwines the narrative threads in a story perfect for book lovers and soul searchers alike. Kaag’s lively prose, acute self-examination, unfolding romance, and instructive history of philosophy as a discipline make for a surprisingly absorbing book.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A unique combination of memoir and the history of American philosophy that is a joy to read.”

    Library Journal

  • “This is philosophy not as mere academic concepts but as lived experience.”


  • A Kirkus Reviews Pick of 11 Memoirs That Are Impossible to Put Down
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A NPR Best Book of 2016

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About the Author

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was an NPR Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He lives outside Boston with his wife and daughter.

About the Narrator

Josh Bloomberg, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, is a trained professional actor with extensive audiobook experience as a director and narrator. Having worked with some of the biggest publishers in the audiobook industry, he is used to performing at high standards. He speaks English, French, and Hebrew fluently and is a member of the Audio Publishers Association. He also records his voice for commercial spots and other types of voice-over. In his spare time, he loves making homemade almond milk.