I’ve been stuck in the world of books that are more than 500 pages for the last several weeks. This isn’t a bad place to be, but I’m looking forward to finishing something in the next few days. I’ve chosen Stephen Greenblatt’s “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” which, incidentally, just won the National Book Award for non-fiction. It’s the story of a man who, in 1417, rescues an old manuscript from oblivion, which turns out to be an ancient poem by Lucretius called “On the Nature of Things.” According to Greenblatt, this manuscript would literally affect the thoughts, ideas, and writing of men and women centuries later, among them Galileo, Freud, Darwin, Einstein, and Jefferson. The poem contained some dangerous ideas, especially for the time: that the universe is made up of an infinite number of atoms, that one should embrace beauty and pleasure, and that it is a waste of time to fear one’s death. Greenblatt calls the reemergence of this manuscript a “swerve” in history, meaning an anomolous departure from the way philosophy and popular thought at the time were headed. It sounds like a fascinating read, and Greenblatt has already received stunning reviews of his work. You can read the NY Times’ review of it here and decide if you’ll want to check it out next time you come to the library!
On My Reading List