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The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers Hardcover – August 25, 2020
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"Eric Weiner's The Socrates Express rekindled my love for philosophy. A smart, funny, engaging book full of valuable lessons, The Socrates Express is not an explanation—it's an invitation to think and experience philosophy filtered through Weiner's words. . . . The structure of this book is brilliant. . . . An engaging read . . . With plenty of humor and straightforward prose [Weiner] engages with deep thought and encourages us to focus on questions instead of answers. . . . A fun, sharp book that draws readers in with its apparent simplicity and bubble-gum philosophy approach and gradually pulls them in deeper and deeper until they're contemplating desire, loneliness, aging, and death." —NPR
“Delightful . . . There are so many reasons to love this book . . . . If you are planning summer travel or a staycation, this book will take you places intellectually and humorously.” —San Francisco Book Review
"With signature clarity and humor, [Eric Weiner] picks up where The Good Place left off. In a rare philosophy book that’s a delight to read, he illuminates what deep thinkers through history have known about a life well lived." —Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals
“A delightfully entertaining, practical guide to navigating life . . . Weiner crafts a seamless, engaging study of condensed knowledge crafted in graceful prose.”—New York Journal of Books
"[Weiner's] writing is fresh and even revelatory as he pulls together seemingly disparate notions and asks meaningful (and often unanswered) questions. His tone alternates between informative and insightful to cheeky and challenging. . . . Readers will enjoy Weiner's unique approach and ultimately satisfying conclusions." —Booklist (starred review)
“Such a globe-trotting tour of philosophy can only be as good as its guide, and Weiner proves to be a curious, sincere, and generous companion. His good cheer alone serves as a model for how to live, and many readers will appreciate his method of taking what’s useful for him and leaving what’s not. . . . ‘The world needs more philosophical enthusiasts,’ Weiner writes. This book is sure to generate its share.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A pleasant surprise. Part high-level survey of the central ideas of a diverse group of philosophers, part memoir, part 'how to' book and part travelogue, [The Socrates Express] is an invigorating introduction to some of philosophy’s eminently practical uses. . . . A serious man of ideas . . . refreshingly free of prescriptiveness.” —The Book Reporter
“Weiner makes a convincing and winningly presented case for the practical applications of philosophy to everyday existence in the 21st century. With humor and thoughtfulness, he distills the wisdom of thinkers from throughout history . . . into ways to slow down, ask questions, and pay attention. . . . His book offers an appealing way to cope with the din of modern life and look at the world with attentive eyes and ears.” —Publishers Weekly
“Equal parts vivifying travelogue and Philosophy 101 crash course . . . Weiner’s gift is his lively ability to unearth fresh insights about their ideas that relate to the chaos of the present day.” —Boca Mag
“Weiner offers bubble gum philosophy that provides a quick, sweet taste. . . . Those looking for lite insights will be drawn in gradually from the shallow (getting out of bed and walking) to the deep end (aging and death).” —Library Journal
Praise for The Geography of Genius:
"A witty, entertaining romp. Weiner’s vivid descriptions of modern-day life in each locale make the spots feel like must-visit destinations.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“There are some writers whose company is worth keeping, whatever the subject… And Mr. Weiner is blessed with this gift. He is a prober and questioner, a big-hearted humanist who will always take a colorful, contradictory reality over some unfounded certainty.”
— Wall Street Journal
"A global odyssey that seeks to discover why geniuses gather in certain places during certain eras and why these hot spots burn out, often after a half-century of grand achievements. Weiner is a superb travel guide: funny, knowledgeable, self-deprecating and always up for sharing a bottle of wine."
— Washington Post
"The Geography of Genius is witty, informative, and compulsively readable. Whether you’re getting genius tips from Freud in Vienna or hearing the secrets of high-tech powerhouses in Silicon Valley, you’ll emerge smarter after reading this delightful travelogue of ingenuity."
— Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of To Sell Is Human and Drive
"It’s rare to read a book that makes you laugh and learn, but Eric Weiner has done it again. This witty, wise explorer offers fascinating insights on how culture has inspired creativity across the ages—ripe for chats at water coolers and cocktail parties—and offers a practical map for how we can all become a bit more inventive."
— Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals
"Eric Weiner has single-handedly invented a new nonfiction genre in which a brilliant and hilarious writer leaves his home and family to circle the globe in search of the answer to a timeless question. The Geography of Genius is an intellectual odyssey, a traveler’s diary, and a comic novel all rolled into one. Smart, original, and utterly delightful, this is Weiner’s best book yet."
— Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
“An entertaining and thought-provoking book, a combination of history and travelogue… Part of the book's charm stems from the pure joy of experiencing these places alongside a narrator like Weiner… His wry wit shines through as he drinks sublime tea in China and contemplates a coffin collar in an Edinburgh museum; as he interviews figures such as Jack Ma, a Hangzhou native who founded multibillion dollar company Alibaba; and as he wanders the Ringstrasse of Vienna and the strip malls of Silicon Valley, pondering the conditions that lead to genius.”
— Christian Science Monitor
"Why do certain places produce a spontaneous eruption of creativity? What made Athens and Florence and Silicon Valley? This witty and fun book has an insight in every paragraph. It’s a charming mix of history and wisdom cloaked as a rollicking travelogue filled with colorful characters."
— Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs
"Weiner is an affable tour guide and a lively, witty writer in the style of Bill Bryson; the connections he makes between places of genius are sharp and sometime unexpected."
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.14 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501129018
- Product dimensions : 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (August 25, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The deepest questions regarding reality, knowledge, existence, morality, and politics cannot be solved by crunching numbers or running experiments; they must be solved by a process of deep reflection and logical rigor—at least for those interested in thinking for themselves. The manner in which you form your beliefs, treat others, and develop your character are all philosophical problems that you either figure out for yourself or else allow others to figure out for you.
That’s what makes books like the Socrates Express beneficial; for those with limited exposure to philosophy, it can force them to ask uncomfortable questions and challenge their most fundamental beliefs, leading to drastic changes in thought and behavior and a greater sense of intellectual independence (e.g., freedom from dogma).
In The Socrates Express, Eric Weiner takes the reader on a journey as he travels the world reading and reflecting on the works and ideas of 14 great philosophers from across history. Each chapter is devoted to a particular philosopher and idea that can help us to lead more examined and ultimately more fulfilling and rewarding lives. The reader will learn how to grapple with the big questions and apply the lessons from philosophy to develop gratitude, become more attentive and present, build character, cultivate generosity, better handle adversity, and much more. In this sense, the book works.
On the other hand, for seasoned readers of philosophy, the treatment of each philosopher will at times feel rather shallow. If you strip away the biographical details and personal commentary about the author's life and travels, you’re left with very superficial accounts of the actual ideas. If you are interested mainly in the ideas, don’t be surprised if you lose patience with the author’s digressions and constant attempts at humor.
Take the first chapter on the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius as a case in point. The Meditations is a brilliant work of philosophy with countless examples of deep philosophical wisdom, worthy of extended analysis and reflection. However, the author condenses all of this down into a few quotes and a couple brief comments about getting out of bed in the morning and fulfilling your duties. The rest of the chapter is devoted to the author’s experience on the train and some biographical details of Marcus. While some chapters are better than others, the coverage often feels superficial—almost like the author could have read an encyclopedia article on each philosopher and then wrote the chapter based on that alone.
The bottom line: some people are going to love the book while others are going to lose patience quickly. I’m somewhere in the middle. But before we criticize too harshly, we should remember that philosophy can be studied and practiced on multiple levels. If we insist that philosophy must always be highly technical, a wider audience cannot be reached, and instead of philosophy people will flock to religion and related forms of dogma. This is what we should want to avoid. While this may not be the most rigorous philosophy book you’ve ever encountered, it’s valuable in that it exposes the reader to fundamental questions in an entertaining and easily accessible manner. And, considering the entire subject of philosophy is essentially ignored in our public education system, there’s always a need for this.
I’ve studied most of these philosophers and can vouch that Weiner accurately represents their thought. Of course, the decision to concentrate on how to live is itself a selection process. Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas, whose ethics cannot be separated from their larger worldview, don’t form part of the study.
Although Weiner expresses the conventional disdain for academic philosophy, the book could really be used in Philosophy 101. It answers questions like what is wisdom, what is the love of wisdom and why would one study a tradition that comes to no mutually agreed upon conclusions.
It also provides a succinct view of much of what Western and Eastern philosophy has to say about how to live. While philosophers themselves may not learn much, even they can enjoy a highly personal and original perspective.
But the book is really intended for those who have yet to encounter philosophy or remember it only from textbooks gathering dust on their bookshelves. A well-written and accessible guide to the advice some philosophers have provided on life. Now, if only we could put these ideas into practice!
Wiener's witty and often humorous writing style made me laugh out loud more than once. At the same time, I was moved by many of the insights he gleaned during his travels.
I have been a fan of this author since I discovered The Geography of Bliss, which was the first audiobook I listened to and one of the few I have liked. I had very high expectations for The Socrates Express, and they were surpassed.
Top reviews from other countries
This book did inspire me, but not because it provided neat strategies for living, but because it made me want to search and wonder as well as feel and experience some of the ideas of the philosopher.
I also thank the author for sharing his own experiences; I felt like I was part of his journey at times.
This book does the philosophers justice.