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2017, John Eidinow

John Eidinow has published three non-fiction books with his co-author David Edmonds.

John's Previous

Books

Wittgenstein's Poker

On October 25, 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, the great twentieth-century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The meeting -- which lasted ten minutes -- did not go well. Their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of instant legend, but precisely what happened during that brief confrontation remained for decades the subject of intense disagreement.

 

An engaging mix of philosophy, history, biography, and literary detection, Wittgenstein's Poker explores, through the Popper/Wittgenstein confrontation, the history of philosophy in the twentieth century. It evokes the tumult of fin-de-siécle Vienna, Wittgentein's and Popper's birthplace; the tragedy of the Nazi takeover of Austria; and postwar Cambridge University, with its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell. At the center of the story stand the two giants of philosophy themselves -- proud, irascible, larger than life -- and spoiling for a fight.

Rousseau's Dog

In 1766 philosopher, novelist, composer, and political provocateur Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fugitive, decried by his enemies as a dangerous madman. Meanwhile David Hume—now recognized as the foremost philosopher in the English language—was being universally lauded as a paragon of decency. And so Rousseau came to England with his beloved dog, Sultan, and willingly took refuge with his more respected counterpart. But within months, the exile was loudly accusing his benefactor of plotting to dishonor him—which prompted a most uncharacteristically violent response from Hume. And so began a remarkable war of words and actions that ensnared many of the leading figures in British and French society, and became the talk of intellectual Europe.

 

Rousseau's Dog is the fascinating true story of the bitter and very public quarrel that turned the Age of Enlightenment's two most influential thinkers into deadliest of foes—a most human tale of compassion, treachery, anger, and revenge; of celebrity and its price; of shameless spin; of destroyed reputations and shattered friendships.

In the summer of 1972, with a presidential crisis stirring in the United States and the cold war at a pivotal point, the Soviet world chess champion, Boris Spassky,and his American challenger, Bobby Fischer, met in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the most notorious chess match of all time. Their showdown, played against the backdrop of superpower politics, held the world spellbound for two months with reports of psychological warfare, ultimatums, political intrigue, cliffhangers, and farce to rival a Marx Brothers film. Thirty years later, David Edmonds and John Eidinow have set out to reexamine the story we recollect as the quintessential cold war clash between a lone American star and the Soviet chess machine. A mesmerizing narrative of brilliance and triumph, hubris and despair, Bobby Fischer Goes to War is a biting deconstruction of the Bobby Fischer myth, a nuanced study on the art of brinkmanship, and a revelatory cold war tragicomedy.

Bobby Fischer Goes to War

"A wonderful account of an extraordinary confrontation"

The Times

 

"A brilliant jeu d'esprit which tells the story of a legendary row."

Spectator

 

"Makes the meeting of Popper and Wittgenstein seem as fateful as that between the iceberg and the Titanic."

Time

"An outstanding piece of journalism which captures this unique sporting moment more accurately and vividly than before."

The Mail on Sunday

 

"Even if you think you know the story, this highly entertaining account will surprise and delight."

Publishers Weekly

 

"The most famous chess match of all time reconstructed in a style as compelling as that of a thriller."

Irish Times

"Rousseau's Dog is a gleefully unflattering account of two men who really ought to have known better."

The Daily Telegraph

 

"[A] delicious little history."

Entertainment Weekly

 

"An enthralling account of a trifling provocation inflated to epic proportions."

Kirkus Reviews