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The Socrates Express

In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers

The New York Times bestselling author of The Geography of Bliss embarks on a rollicking intellectual journey, following in the footsteps of history’s greatest thinkers and showing us how each—from Epicurus to Gandhi, Thoreau to Beauvoir—offers practical and spiritual lessons for today’s unsettled times.

We turn to philosophy for the same reasons we travel: to see the world from a dif­ferent perspective, to unearth hidden beauty, and to find new ways of being. We want to learn how to embrace wonder. Face regrets. Sustain hope.

Eric Weiner combines his twin passions for philosophy and global travel in a pil­grimage that uncovers surprising life lessons from great thinkers around the world, from Rousseau to Nietzsche, Confucius to Simone Weil. Traveling by train (the most thoughtful mode of transport), he journeys thousands of miles, making stops in Athens, Delhi, Wyoming, Coney Island, Frankfurt, and points in between to recon­nect with philosophy’s original purpose: teaching us how to lead wiser, more meaningful lives. From Socrates and ancient Athens to Simone de Beauvoir and twentieth-century Paris, Weiner’s chosen philosophers and places provide important signposts as we navigate today’s chaotic times.

In The Socrates Express, Weiner invites us to voyage alongside him on his life-changing pursuit of wisdom and discovery as he attempts to find answers to our most vital questions.

Photograph by Bill O'Leary

Eric Weiner is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Geography of Bliss and The Geography of Genius, as well as the critically acclaimed Man Seeks God and, his latest book, The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers. A former foreign correspondent for NPR, he has reported from more than three dozen countries. His work has appeared in the New Republic, The Atlantic, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and the anthology Best American Travel Writing. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and daughter. For more information, visit: EricWeinerBooks.com.

“Part travelogue, part soul-searching memoir and part intellectual matchmaker, [The Socrates Express] packs an extraordinary amount into 287 pages of text. Erudite, funny and frequently self-deprecating, Weiner serves as your interpreter and guide along the way. Bursting with amusing trivia, insights and cultural references, he is on a quest to make even Schopenhauer relatable. . . . It is entirely possible to read this book just for pleasure, but it is so much more. . . .  Each chapter is like a chocolate truffle — tasty and dense. . . . Space them out and savor the ideas to see which ones suit you.” The Washington Post

"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."
Booklist

More books from this author: Eric Weiner