Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Swerve


Title: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Author: Stephen Greenblatt (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini)

Publisher: WW Norton, 2012

Summary/Review: Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and is a historian.  His most recent book ,winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for general Non Fiction, revolves around a Roman poem  by Lucretius entitled On the Nature of Things. The poem, startling even for its time, asserts that there are only atoms that make up this universe, and the matter and the recombining of matter is all accidental – there is no god who guides and plans our lives; no god that cares about our existence. This is a startling assertion: a very disturbing and very modern idea is postulated about 50 years BCE!

Greek papyrus, Roman papyrus and codex suffer:  the ideas of the ancients deteriorate during the middle ages due to book worms, deterioration of ink and paper, persecution by church officials who deem them heretical, and the general ravages of time.  Enter Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary, scribe and book hunter, who found a neglected copy of On the Nature of Things in a German monastery, copying it and distributing it to his humanist friends, and thus reintroducing important ideas to the Renaissance and beyond, ideas that are even found in our own Declaration of Independence.  There is so much more to this book that I can tell you here – and not all historians agree with Dr. Greenblatt.  But this was a fantastic “listen” – the narrator is excellent.

Who will like this book?:  History buffs and philosophical thinkers.  Someone looking for a non-fiction read that will illuminate the history of thinking.

If you like this, try this:  If you enjoyed Greenblatt’s writing, he has a number of other books – many focused on Shakespeare.  If you’d like to go back to the basics, “On the Nature of Things” is readily available, as are multiple interpretations and writings about the poem.

Recommended by: Susan Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like something you would be interested, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if the book or audiobook are available!


Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Author: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papademitriou

Publisher: Bloomsbury, September 2009

Summary: Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, pacifist and lightning rod, was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. This ambitious graphic biography focuses equally on his turbulent personal life and his groundbreaking work in the area of mathematical logic. We follow Russell as he discovers a paradox and works (and reworks) his theories. He teams with and is opposed by heavyweights of early twentieth-century philosophy,  including Wittgenstein and Godel, all the while searching for truth and remaining haunted by the madness he believes is constantly circling him.

Bertrand Russell affected – and was affected by – some of the most dramatic personalities and events of the twentieth century. While a graphic  novel about math and philosophy might not seem like the most enticing subject, in the hands of  these gifted writers and illustrators, Russell’s story comes to life in surprising and compelling ways.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the history of science, technology and math.

If you like this, try this: For another unique take on philosophy, try The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart. If you are as clueless about math and science as I am, check out 100 Most Important Science Ideas by Mark Henderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian