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Publisher Description

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction • Winner of the National Book Award • New York Times Bestseller

Renowned scholar Stephen Greenblatt brings the past to vivid life in what is at once a supreme work of scholarship, a literary page-turner, and a thrilling testament to the power of the written word.

In the winter of 1417, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties plucked a very old manuscript off a dusty shelf in a remote monastery, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. He was Poggio Bracciolini, the greatest book hunter of the Renaissance. His discovery, Lucretius’ ancient poem On the Nature of Things, had been almost entirely lost to history for more than a thousand years.

It was a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functions without the aid of gods, that religious fear is damaging to human life, that pleasure and virtue are not opposites but intertwined, and that matter is made up of very small material particles in eternal motion, randomly colliding and swerving in new directions. Its return to circulation changed the course of history. The poem’s vision would shape the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein, and—in the hands of Thomas Jefferson—leave its trace on the Declaration of Independence.

From the gardens of the ancient philosophers to the dark chambers of monastic scriptoria during the Middle Ages to the cynical, competitive court of a corrupt and dangerous pope, Greenblatt brings Poggio’s search and discovery to life in a way that deepens our understanding of the world we live in now.

“An intellectually invigorating, nonfiction version of a Dan Brown–like mystery-in-the-archives thriller.” —Boston Globe

September 26
W. W. Norton & Company
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Customer Reviews

One Suitcase ,

An enlightening and entertaining read

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.

Jayenezy ,

The Swerve

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.

Ashraf Sami ,

Something missing

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.

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