An Influential Book

This summer, the Librarian at St. John’s University asked several faculty members to submit a paragraph about books that have been very influential in their lives. My thoughts have just been published on the St. John’s Library blog.

Here’s what I had to say:

One book I find myself returning to is George Eliot’s masterful Middlemarch. Written in 1871-2, this epic novel charts the years leading up to the passage of the First Reform Bill in 1832, which initiated sweeping changes in the political and social structure of Britain. Like all great literature, Middlemarch is a book to return to again and again. In different periods of my life I have been struck by different facets of this book. As a high school student, hoping to become a writer, I was amazed by the quality of the writing, the way that Eliot drew the reader into the age she depicted so vividly. In graduate school, while beginning to work on Victorian era philosophy of science, I took note of the way in which science, and the new knowledge burgeoning in the time, is both revered and feared by the characters. And most recently, when I reread the book after suffering the loss of a close family member, I was most drawn to another theme of the book: human relationships, and the way that passion can lead either to perdition or salvation.


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About the Author

Laura J. Snyder, Ph.D., is a science historian, philosopher and writer whose most recent book, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends who Transformed Science and Changed the World, was an Official Selection of the TED Book Club, a Scientific American Notable Book, and winner of the 2011 Royal Institution of Australia Poll for Favorite Science Book. It was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title" in history of science and technology by the American Library Association. Snyder is Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University in New York City and writes frequently about science and ideas for The Wall Street Journal. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, and Past President of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.

 She is currently working on a book about how new optical technologies in the 17th century revolutionized not only science, but also art and the rest of culture. Follow Laura Snyder on Twitter and Facebook.

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