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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  469 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries—beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement.

Kindle Edition, 592 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Pantheon
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4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  469 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Nov 02, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have fallen in love with Maria Popova's weekly newsletter, Brain Pickings, and I cannot wait for this book.
Vivek Tejuja
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does one begin to explain a book like Figuring? Honestly, I don’t know, however, I shall try. The book Figuring is much like Popova’s site, it is sort of a Russian doll, revealing layer after layer after layer, only if you wish to see it, or perhaps experience it. Figuring is a book that you should read with the mindset of allowing the book to take it where it wants to, without expecting something too traditional or run of the mill.

Figuring is a beautiful combination of sc
For the first third or so of the book I wasn’t quite sure what Popova was really getting at. There were a lot of historical figures surrounding her “main” subjects and I was having a little bit of trouble keeping up with the jumps back and forth (and I kept confusing Maria Mitchell and Margaret Fuller, oops). But then Popova got to her chapters on Emily Dickinson and just wow. Blew me away. That was when the book began to gel for me and I started to really understand that Popova was drawing all ...more
The trouble of doing your research, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, is that - seduced by those happy coincidences and curious facts - you feel compelled to include almost everything in your final work. I know full well how frustrating is having to read dozens of articles, check as many books and references only to write 10-page essays. A name in a letter, an obscure allusion in a poem, or a detailed footnote can send anyone in that time-consuming frenzy of wanting to know more. The ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
Some truths, like beauty, are best illuminated by the sidewise gleam of figuring, of meaning-making. In the course of our figuring, orbits intersect, often unbeknownst to the bodies they carry – intersections mappable only from the distance of decades or centuries. Facts crosshatch with other facts to shade in the nuances of a larger truth – not relativism, no, but the mightiest realism we have. We slice through the simultaneity by being everything at once: our first names and our last names, o
Kristina Stefanova
The first book by the author of the prominent blog Brain Pickings - Maria Popova. Maybe it will disrupt my already compiled reading list.
I read the prelude just now and it is exciting! :)
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wonder how can one review a book as expansive and immersive as Figuring without somehow falling short in revealing its true splendour to its prospective readers. There’s only one thing that I can say about the book without a shadow of doubt — it is every bit as incredible and layered as Brain Pickings that is run by Maria Popova, who happens to be the author of this splendid labour of love and intense research.

The more I try, the more I fail to find the words that would do justice to this gen
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
The author of this book, Maria Popova is a well known curator of the excellent website Brain pickings has an eclectic collection of articles, books and other writings from various disciplines. Each post introduces a work followed by the author's unique take on the creative work. This site has provided me tons of recommendations for what next to read. And that is why I jumped into this book as soon as i saw it on my recommended list on goodreads. If nothing else this book would ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2019-reads
As seems fitting for the founder of the eclectic website "Brainpickings," Maria Popova's book is itself eclectic and wise - though not elliptic like that site tends to be - it's quite substantive. The intellectual lives and passions of Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, Lise Meitner, and Rachel Carson, among others, are exhaustively described and mined. It's dense and wordy; rambling and tangential; erudite and heavily researched but non-scholarly; genre-busting and multidisciplinary; but also em ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Popova's blog and I've been following her for years. She is an excellent curator. But I don't think her skills work in book format. There were some really beautiful stories in here--especially at the end. If the book had just been Emily Dickinson And Rachel Carson, it would have been great, but there are too many people in here and not enough of a thread to tie them together.
Asif B.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
michigan daily review to come -- but this was a dense beautiful read
Jean Rhude
I am loving this book. Amazing first sentence and it just gets better and better.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I finished "Figuring," I sent the copy I read to one of my closest friends, and I only wish I had more copies to send to more people.

As I read this book, I found it very difficult to describe what it was about when people asked. "Figuring" does not comfortably fit into any genre. It's not quite biography, not quite history, not quite science, not quite poetry--and yet, it's all of those and more. It transcends genre. It's a lyrical meditation on connection and meaning that traverses c
Radmila Mladenova
As with her blog, Maria Popova proves once again that she is a brainy and brilliant synthesiser, churning up valuable texts to skim the buttercream off the top for her readership.

Her book in not a biography – and it is a pity that it has been judged here, rather harshly, against the conventions of established genres – but a cultural archaeology of unorthodox, unthinkable and impossibly brave ideas showing how these were born out of complicated personal biographies, and how their expansion has be
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was excited for this book for so long because I love the authors blog. I really wanted to like this book, but I just gave up about 30 percent of the way in. It is extremely hard to follow and quite a chore to read because there are too many people introduced in seemingly disparate threads. I would often end a chapter bewildered and out of energy.

I am giving this 2 stars instead of 1 because the research that went into this book is inspiring by itself.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting pieces that didn’t quite come together as a whole for me.
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
I don’t really like to read biographies. Even at that, this book was not strictly a biography, but at its core it was three not very original biographies of three different women, Margret Fuller, Emily Dickerson, and Rachel Carson. I just can’t help but think that real biographers have covered those three people in more original depth in other sources than this author did.

The author quoted Virginia Woolf to the effect that we should be more focused on the poetry than the poet. I tend to agree w
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Popova uses a seemingly tenuous thread to connect the biographies of several luminaries. When the last page was read I was in awe of what the author accomplished. I am definitely going to reread this.
Grace Sanchez
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
This book takes a deep dive into the lives (both of hearts and minds) of many female and male scientists, artists and writers making connections across time. If you approach it with an open mind and no need to rush it is both fascinating and inspiring. If you think you can speed read this book you will miss its many gifts. This is a book to be savored.
Ric Dragon
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow, and, just wow.

This was such a spectacular book: Popova’s prose is so well crafted and considered - but moreso the overarching theme, her poking away at the synchronicities, and the sheer underlying celebration.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine standing inside of one of Gaudi's gravity models. You're eye-height with the small weights and fine lines that connect everything in small swoops of thin rope. There is a mystery as to what final shapes are intended and the strong sense of time: both the time it clearly took to create and clearly takes to absorb. It's a bit like trying to see Cassiopeia while floating between Schedar and Caph. Wait for it.

This book gives a tour of the constellations of lives full of fervor and when you
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone looking for a good and honest Assessment of how women have been erased from literary and scientific history... Well, here it is.
Liv (Stories For Coffee)
DNF at 20%

I really wanted to like this novel highlighting underrated people in science, philosophy, writing, but the writing was too philosophical and lengthy to keep my attention. I wouldn’t say this is a necessarily bad read, but it wasn’t my cup of tea, sadly.
Taylor Ahlstrom
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maria Popova’s Figuring is a transcendent work of astronomy, history, biography, chemistry, poetry, ecology, literature, philosophy, and wonder.

From Kepler in the sixteenth century to Carson in the twentieth, Popova’s narrative attempts to seamlessly weave together the personal lives of a cast of characters who would indelibly change society with their work. Though thoroughly researched, and rich with excerpts, the book is far from academic. Meant to pay homage to the great women and men within
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I power-read this book by a favorite author, as once I started it, I had a hard time putting it down, eager to see who and how Popova was going to link to next in her big book of biographies. My head is spinning with the wonder of literature, biography, math, history, art, poetry, science, the Western culture, non-paternalism, and how it all intersects and connects into meaning. I am not the jealous sort but I am envious of Popova’s intellect and how she so seemingly easily holds all of the wisd ...more
Elisabeth Young
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is very affecting and beautiful writing and the author artfully weaves together many figures from the past, predominantly women. The way she speaks of their relationships is very rare to find indeed. I will read this many times. I can see this offering something fresh on every read.
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an achingly beautiful book. I love Maria Popova's work at her site Brainpickings, and I love how her mind works, how she moves from physics to philosophy to poetry. I love how she weaves together such beautiful stories of love and discovery and tragedy and triumph, how she captures the restless spirit of visionaries and artists across time.

It is a book of beautiful truths, of phenomenal, timeless, love, and of some of the sublimest thoughts on love and life and nature and the interconnec
Reese Forbes
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book for everybody - focuses on women scientists and writers (and the men associated with them) from the 1800s to recent.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, literary
This book made my head spin, you can't help but be smarter after reading it. The writing is very, very, very beautiful.
Book Mark
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I get Maria Popova's brain pickings mailer and it is nicely done, to say the least. Having said that, the articles, largely to do with philosophy - works of literature and the humanities, can be sometimes overlong and the liberal use of hyperlinks - much like Wikipedia articles, leave the completetist in you feeling dissatisfied - cause you start reading one article and it spawns all these other tabs, and you can never do them all at one go, or at least I cannot! Ergo, I have been saving them in ...more
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Maria Popova is a Bulgarian-born writer, blogger, literary and cultural critic living in Brooklyn, New York. She is known for her speeches and her blog, which features her writing on culture, books, philosophy and eclectic subjects on and off the Internet.

Мария Попова е влиятелна американска блогърка от български произход, живееща в Бруклин и създателка на блога
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“Lives interweave with other lives, and out of the tapestry arise hints at answers to questions that raze to the bone of life: What are the building blocks of character, of contentment, of lasting achievement? How does a person come into self-possession and sovereignty of mind against the tide of convention and unreasoning collectivism? Does genius suffice for happiness, does distinction, does love?” 2 likes
“those who stand to gain from the manipulation of truth often prey on those bereft of critical thinking.” 2 likes
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