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review 2018-10-23 06:04
Plagues and Peoples by William Hardy McNeill
Plagues and Peoples - William Hardy McNeill

TITLE:  Plagues and Peoples

 

AUTHOR:  William Hardy McNeill

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1998, first published 1976

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780307773661

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DESCRIPTION:

"Upon its original publication, Plagues and Peoples was an immediate critical and popular success, offering a radically new interpretation of world history as seen through the extraordinary impact--political, demographic, ecological, and psychological--of disease on cultures. From the conquest of Mexico by smallpox as much as by the Spanish, to the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe, the history of disease is the history of humankind. With the identification of AIDS in the early 1980s, another chapter has been added to this chronicle of events, which William McNeill explores in his new introduction to this updated editon.

Thought-provoking, well-researched, and compulsively readable, Plagues and Peoples is that rare book that is as fascinating as it is scholarly, as intriguing as it is enlightening. "A brilliantly conceptualized and challenging achievement" (Kirkus Reviews), it is essential reading, offering a new perspective on human history.
"

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This is an interesting and somewhat scholarly look at how people and diseases have interacted and evolved together over time, from "man the hunter" to "the ecological impact of medical science and organization since 1700".  McNeil examines macroparisitic and microparisitic effects on the growth of civilizations, focusing primarily on diseases and how epidemics have effected world history, the course of civilization and human evolution.

I found the sections where the author discusses the "living conditions" of diseases particularly interesting:  how a specific disease inhabited a certain enviornment, how it arrived and survived in that environment, and how those environments may have been altered by human impacts such as agricultural activities, population growth (or lack thereof), how the disease spread to other areas etc.  McNeill's comparison between human micro-parasites (bacteria, worms, viruses) and our macro-parasites (governments, armies ,raiders, plunderers) was a particularly thought-provoking and novel (to me) aspect of the book.

The book was originally published in 1976, so some details are a bit dated, but this doesn't detract from the overall thesis.  The writing style is also a bit "old-fashioned" if that sort of thing bothers you.  The author does, however, make use of historical sources that include as much of the globe as possible, so the spread between and effects of epidemics on Europe as well as of China, India, the Middle-East, the America's and Africa are discussed where possible (allowing for existing source material on these regions).

This is an interesting, fundamental and thought-provoking book about the interactions of humans and diseases and the course of human history.

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-22 05:47
The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization by John Gaudet
The Pharaoh`s Treasure - The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization - John Gaudet

TITLE:  The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization

 

AUTHOR:  John Gaudet

 

DATE PUBLISHED: October 2018

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781681778532

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DESCRIPTION:

"For our entire history, humans have always searched for new ways to share information. This innate compulsion led to the origin of writing on the rock walls of caves and coffin lids or carving on tablets. But it was with the advent of papyrus paper when the ability to record and transmit information exploded, allowing for an exchanging of ideas from the banks of the Nile throughout the Mediterranean—and the civilized world—for the first time in human history.  

In The Pharaoh’s Treasure, John Gaudet looks at this pivotal transition to papyrus paper, which would become the most commonly used information medium in the world for more than 4,000 years. Far from fragile, papyrus paper is an especially durable writing surface; papyrus books and documents in ancient and medieval times had a usable life of hundreds of years, and this durability has allowed items like the famous Nag Hammadi codices from the third and fourth century to survive. 

The story of this material that was prized by both scholars and kings reveals how papyrus paper is more than a relic of our ancient past, but a key to understanding how ideas and information shaped humanity in the ancient and early modern world.
"

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Gaudet has written a delightfully interesting and informative book that covers everything papyrus in terms of paper.  He covers topics such as the ancient locations of papyrus; it's various uses; the invention and evolution of papyrus paper; the business of manufacture and distribution of papyrus sheets from Egypt, across the Mediterranean region and beyond; and it's eventual eclipse by rag paper.   The numerous historical stories about archaeological discoveries, daring "rescue" attempts and some horror stories are well told and make this book something other than a dry rendition of the evolution of the papyrus scroll.  Of course, you can't have a book about papyrus paper and not mention the numerous ancient (and not so ancient) libraries that stored them.  This book compliments the author's previous book [Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars] which deals more specifically with the papyrus plant; as well as Keith Houston's book [The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time] which deals with paper and the evolution of the book, but doesn't not spend too much time on papyrus paper specifically.

 

 

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text 2018-10-21 17:25
Reading progress update: I've read 183 out of 289 pages.
The Secret History of Moscow (Mass Market) - Ekaterina Sedia

it’s that “gentle” type of Fantasy novel, not premised on Action or battles (to this point), which means the magic, and the characters, and the strange realm all need to be amazing...and in this book, they are. very happy with this.

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review 2018-10-21 06:10
Surprised me
The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare

I was not expecting to find such a flawed, three-dimensional cast and a sad grim tone in a short, children's book. I don't know why, really, since I've come across both of those separately often enough in them (Dark Materials, Little Princess) paired with the big questions too. Specially given the fact that I've been a heavy reader since my tweens, and a firm believer in that Cabal's quote "when I want to write something that I think adults will have trouble understanding, I write children books" (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have that good a memory, and she likely borrowed too).

 

Here is the deal: this was way dramatic than I expected. And when I say dramatic, I mean angst, grief, homesickness, the loneliness of being an outsider. Really sad. Also maddening.

 

It is maddening because human nature is maddening. And because everyone, MC included, are flawed people with some good qualities and reasonable ideals and opinions and stances, and some appallingly wrong mixed in, so even with the best intentions they rub the wrong way and clash, misunderstand, work at cross-purpose. And there is always a little bitch witch shit ready to hate.

 

It was an interesting read even before the context of publishing-time kicks in (though I suspect there were some interesting witch-hunt related things coming out then... wasn't The Crucible a contemporary of McCarthyism too?)

 

At any rate, it was a really good book (totally deserves those awards), and it ended all sweet, happy and neat.

 

Hey! I keep missing my read for making another bingo. At this point, I'm not even pretending to curve my mood-reading. (There is also the bit where there is no magic here, but I'll let the title excuse my being misled)

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text 2018-10-20 21:16
Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 289 pages.
The Secret History of Moscow (Mass Market) - Ekaterina Sedia

50 Women Novelists in a Row: Book 13!

 

captivating, so far - seems like a fast-moving and inventive Fantasy novel, which I hope I love. the strange, magical things that have happened already hint at deliciouser and deliciouser delights.

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