There is an art in writing a philosophy book that is not esoteric. Eric Weiner’s approach in The Socrates Express appears to be styling it as a travel guide, mixed with observations about the trains he rides from philosophical destination to destination.
It is a quite effective book. Weiner covers the most important writings from figures such as Marcus Aurelius and Henry David Thoreau to Confucius to Nietzsche. And I think I have learned a fair bit from his portraits of these figures' lives.
But as is the problem with most mass-audience books on philosophy, I fear I have learned more about what to bring up at the dinner table than I have about how to live, despite what the book promises in the first chapter. I guess that is a good place to start. The authors makes a good case that there is some utility in philosophizing. That is fine. After all, this book is an introduction to the subject of living — a express tour of the field, as the title states.
That is all well enough, in my opinion. Weiner writes beautifully and his book was quite engaging. A good read, with several quite profound verses, and other entertaining anecdotes sprinkled in. What more could you want?