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Download The Swerve: How the World Became Modern Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (6,278 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Stephen Greenblatt Narrator: Edoardo Ballerini Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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One of the world’s most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. 

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties 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, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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.”


  • “[A] gloriously learned page-turner, both biography and intellectual history.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • The Swerve is one of those brilliant works of nonfiction that’s so jam-packed with ideas and stories it literally boggles the mind.”


  • “A warm, intimate…volume of apple-cheeked popular intellectual history. Mr. Greenblatt…is a very serious and often thorny scholar…But he also writes crowd pleasers…There is abundant evidence here of what is Mr. Greenblatt’s great and rare gift as a writer: an ability, to borrow a phrase from The Swerve, to feel fully ‘the concentrated force of the buried past.’”

    New York Times

  • “A fascinating, intelligent look at what may well be the most historically resonant book-hunt of all time.”


  • “Greenblatt makes another intellectually fetching foray into the Renaissance…More wonderfully illuminating Renaissance history from a master scholar and historian.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • The Swerve is an intense, emotional telling of a true story, one with much at stake for all of us. And the further you read, the more astonishing it becomes. It’s a chapter in how we became what we are, how we arrived at the worldview of the present. No one can tell the whole story, but Greenblatt seizes on a crucial pivot, a moment of recovery, of transmission, as amazing as anything in fiction.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Can a poem change the world? Harvard professor and bestselling Shakespeare biographer Greenblatt ably shows in this mesmerizing intellectual history that it can. A richly entertaining read about a radical ancient Roman text that shook Renaissance Europe and inspired shockingly modern ideas (like the atom) that still reverberate today.”


  • “It’s fascinating to watch Greenblatt trace the dissemination of these ideas through fifteenth-century Europe and beyond, thanks in good part to Bracciolini’s recovery of Lucretius’ poem.”


  • “[The Swerve] is [a] thrilling, suspenseful tale that left this reader inspired and full of questions about the ongoing project known as human civilization.”

    Boston Globe

  • Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 ALA Notable Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Deb Armer | 2/17/2014

    " Great! Now to learn more about Hypatia of Alexandria, Pierre Gassendi, Montaigne, Leonardo Bruni, Jerome of Prague, Thomas Harriot, Giordano Bruno, Jan Hus and John Wycliffe. I love when books lead you down new avenues of discovery! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Ross | 2/17/2014

    " Entertaining. Sort of like a very long, good New Yorker piece. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Stacy Lewis | 2/12/2014

    " A long lost Latin poem found, shaping the future of modern thought "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jamison Shuck | 1/26/2014

    " Lucretius was obviously a genius and Poggio's book hunting quest is fascinating. This discovery, along with others, really did help Western Europe pull itself out of the dark ages. The author writes with passion and while its not a quick read, he always seems to make it interesting. "

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