The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern Summary

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction 
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Non-Fiction
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.

Book Reviews


The Swerve5 star

I thoroughly enjoyed The Swerve. It is enlightening, educational and entertaining and is an easy read. I have already recommended it to friend and family and will so continue.55

One Suitcase

An enlightening and entertaining read4 star

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2012, and the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2011. An enlightening and entertaining read.45

Ashraf Sami

Something missing4 star

Overall I enjoyed the book it was a good read. The author was eloquent in his style and the book flowed well. The subject itself was intriguing and from the beginning it set high expectation to what was to come. I was somewhat disappointed how the story unravelled. There was no climax as such and the story slowly started to lose steam at the very end. I was also surprised that there was no reference to the Islamic scholars of the period. There was a brief mention of ibn Rushd but it didn't serve these scholars there right. For the Islamic scholars of this age were instrumental in preserving the rich culture of the pre dark age west. I45

Salem Hill

The Swerve5 star

So good I read it twice. And will come back to it again and again. Spielberg, Ron Howard or Ridley Scott should make it into a film.55

Jeff Rudell

Exquisite and Extraordinary.5 star

A painstakingly thorough investigation (that reads like a spellbinding mystery) into one of the most beautiful and influential works of ancient literature. I suggest the Gideon's begin placing a cope in every hotel room in place of the Bible.55

No Target

Lucretius ideas are compelling. iTunes must find a way to allow us to read these books on our macs!4 star

Lucretius ideas are a compelling strain of classical thought. I kind of wish I had purchased the kindle version, I can view it on all devices… a Bordeaux inspired purchase.45


Time to learn French2 star

I bought this book in the hopes of listening to it with the voice function turned on. For some reason the voice speaks in French, all of the titles and navigation are in the usual English but the text on each page is spoken in a strong French accent. I like to listen to books while I work because I have so little time, now instead of enjoying the book this week I will read little bits here and there for a month or two when I get a minute. I don't feel like I got what I was promised. Please do something about this.25


Absolutely stunning5 star

Imagining how the world could have been if only Lucretius wasn't lost and, instead of reviled, followed as the visionary he clearly was, is tantalizing and inspirational. I read it cherishing each word and part of the story. When I got to the end I went right back to the first page and read it all again. Any person who has any interest in anything should know this story.55

Doc Mattson

The Swerve3 star

I generally enjoyed it, but a little dry and too many small facts to make it a must read. I am going to try and read " On the Nature of Things" next.35

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