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Author: Tony Judt Narrator: Ralph Cosham Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2012 ISBN: 9781483067513
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (245 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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An unprecedented and original history of intellectual life throughout the past century

Thinking the Twentieth Century is the final book of unparalleled historian and indomitable public critic Tony Judt. Where Judt’s masterpiece Postwar redefined the history of modern Europe by uniting the stories of its eastern and western halves, Thinking the Twentieth Century unites the century’s conflicted intellectual history into a single soaring narrative. The twentieth century comes to life as the age of ideas—a time when, for good or for ill, the thoughts of the few reigned over the lives of the many. Judt presents the triumphs and the failures of public intellectuals, adeptly extracting the essence of their ideas and explaining the risks of their involvement in politics. Spanning the entire era and all currents of thought in a manner never previously attempted, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a triumphant tour de force that restores clarity to the classics of modern thought with the assurance and grace of a master craftsman.

The exceptional nature of this work is evident in its very structure—a series of luminous conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, grounded in the texts of their trade and focused by the intensity of their vision. Judt’s astounding eloquence and range of reference are here on display as never before. Traversing the century’s complexities with ease, he and Snyder revive both thoughts and thinkers, guiding us through the debates that made our world. As forgotten treasures are unearthed and overrated thinkers are dismantled, the shape of a century emerges. Judt and Snyder make us partners in their project as we learn the ways to think like a historian or even like a public intellectual. We begin to experience the power of historical perspective for the critique and reform of society and for the pursuit of the good and the true from day to day.

In restoring, and indeed exemplifying, the best of the intellectual life of the twentieth century, Thinking the Twentieth Century charts a pathway for moral life in the twenty-first. An incredible achievement, this book is about the life of the mind—and about the mindful life.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An intellectual feast, learned, lucid, challenging, and accessible.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Fans will find plenty to sustain them in this poignant coda to a life marked by great feats of penmanship, scholarly insight and contemporary polemic…[Judt’s] bravery is ever-present, but rightly understated. As Mr. Snyder notes in his introduction, the book is both about the life of the mind and a mindful life. Judt exemplified both.”


  • “A lively, browsable, deeply satisfying meditation on recent history by a deservedly celebrated public intellectual.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “The two authors range over the entire twentieth century, focusing on the ideas that shaped it rather than events…Essential reading for anyone who purports to be well educated.”

    Library Journal

  • “Two brilliant scholars parse the politics and economics of the past one hundred years. That could be a dry task, but for the quiet passion of Judt and Snyder…Social democracy has rarely had better-informed, more ethically rigorous advocates than these two distinguished men…For readers who like to be challenged, this searching look at our recent history provides a firm intellectual and moral foundation for understanding the dilemmas of our time.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brian | 2/20/2014

    " A very indepth conversation of two scholars about Eastern and Western Europe from the 1930's onward to include in the last chapter some interesting thoughts about the United States. Very hard plowing at first but a very interesting last chapter. The older scholar, Tony Judt, has ALS and died by the time the book was printed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Richard | 1/17/2014

    " Intriguing, thoughtful, provoking. A "spoken book" that complements Judt's other work, from Past Imperfect through Postwar but with a lot more besides. Anyone interested in mid- to late twentieth century history, especially in regard to Europe, should give this one a serious look. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 1/16/2014

    " Judt is the Stephen Hawking of history. Enjoyed this book a lot and saw things from a different perspective. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 1/9/2014

    " I really enjoyed this... You get to sit in on really brilliant people having a brilliant conversation. In truth though, it moves so fast that it feels like a blur. It's a bit like Postwar in that way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marc | 1/9/2014

    " A long rambling dialogue. A better representation of Judt's amazing contribution would be his earlier work: Ill Fares the Land. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Creag | 1/5/2014

    " Would highly recommend. Full of sharply focused analysis and new ways of thinking about what we've recently lived through and where we may be headed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Peter | 1/3/2014

    " How do societies deal with the demands of the two Ws: war and welfare. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian | 12/24/2013

    " Tony Jdt held to the old religion, and this is as good a demonstration of that as any. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 8/17/2013

    " Not a format I would ever encourage anyone else to try, but it works to tie together a great volume of ideas "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Enrico | 5/11/2013

    " analysis of the twentieth century, and his personal story.. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonny | 3/5/2013

    " This was an ideal audiobook due to the conversational tone. The trouble with the audiobook is that the narrator does not differentiate Judt from Snyder, so I had trouble keeping track of who was saying what. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hazel | 9/16/2012

    " This book should be read by anyone who wishes to have an intellectual framework in which to think critically about our present state of political and economic affairs. Whether or not one agrees with all the assertions made by Judt and Snyder is irrelevant. "

About the Author

Tony Judt (1948–2010) was a British historian, essayist, author, editor, and university professor. He specialized in European history, was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University, and director of NYU’s Erich Maria Remarque Institute. He was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New Republic, the New York Times, and many other journals in Europe and the United States. In 1996 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. His book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

About the Narrator

Ralph Cosham (1936–2014), a.k.a. Geoffrey Howard, was a British journalist who changed careers to become a narrator and screen and stage actor. He performed in more than one hundred professional theatrical roles. His audiobook narrations were named “Audio Best of the Year” by Publishers Weekly, and he won seven AudioFile Earphones Awards, and in 2013 he won the coveted Audie Award for Best Mystery Narration for his reading of Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery.