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review 2020-05-27 09:36
In Search of the Trojan War by Michael Wood
In Search of the Trojan War - Michael Wood

TITLE:  In Search of the Trojan War


AUTHOR:  Michael Wood


DATE PUBLISHED:  2005 (updated edition)


FORMAT:  paperback


ISBN-13:  9780563522652



 "For thousands of years we have been enthralled by tales of Troy and its heroes. Achilles and Hector, Paris and the famed beauty Helen remain some of the most enduring figures in art and literature. But did these titanic characters really walk the earth? Was there ever an actual siege of Troy? In this extensively revised edition, historian Michael Wood takes account of the latest dramatic developments in the search for Troy. His wide-ranging study of the complex archaeological, literary and historical records has been brought up-to-date. Detailing the rediscovery in Moscow of the so-called jewels of Helen and the re-excavation of the site of Troy begun in 1988, which continues to yield new evidence about the historical city, In Search of the Trojan War takes a fresh look at some of the most excited discoveries in archaeology. A dazzling and exhaustive analysis. Washington Post This beautifully illustrated book vividly evokes themes that are central to our civilizations quest for its past. "




An entertaining and fascinating detective history book that aims to determine if the Trojan War could have happened as described in Homer's Iliad.  Wood takes a look at archaeology (ancient texts and ground work), as well as literature, to determine what was going on in and around the ancient Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age.  The updated edition includes an additional chapter that reveals new finds made since the 1980s.  A few more illustrations (especially one that displays all the Troy levels) would have been useful.

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review 2020-04-26 16:39
The History of the World in Six Glasses
A History of the World in 6 Glasses - Tom Standage

by Tom Standage




This is a fascinating book that covers the effects that six significant beverages have had on the shaping of history; beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola.


I had already known about the ancient origins of beer, but learning that wine was originally distilled by the Arabs was both enlightening and ironic. The connections to Alchemy were interesting as well.


The convolutions of how the discovery of spirits tied in with international trade in slaves, sugar and tobacco filled in some blanks in history for me as well as clarifying the origins of rum and the connection to lime juice that saved the British fleet.


The book is written in an engaging and interesting style that keeps attention and brought a few exclamations of surprise out of me at various salient points. This is the sort of history books they should have given me in school!


I had no idea that England had a culture of coffee houses in the seventeenth century. One thinks of tea in relation to England usually, so the extent to which coffee helped to shape political events was very enlightening. My one complaint is that the chapters on coffee didn't include more recent history about coffee houses in the 1950's.


I was pretty familiar with the history of the tea trade, but still the book held my attention and might have filled in some extra details.


It isn't often that I give out 5 stars, especially for non-fiction, but this is one of those rare cases where it is richly deserved.

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text 2020-03-06 00:06
Coping with OPS: Option Paralysis Syndrome
Sleeping Beauty - Ross Macdonald
Sense & Sensibility - Joanna Trollope
The New World: A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Volume I 1939-1946 - Richard G. Hewlett
British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 (Rle First World War) - David French
The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Volume I: Contradictions Among the People, 1956-1957 - Roderick MacFarquhar

Today I began addressing my usual pre-travel problem of what to take to read. It's one that I've been facing for a few days now, but with my commitments for the week out of the way I can give it the focus it needs.


As usual, I have plenty of books from which to choose -- so much so that it poses the perennial problem of option paralysis. And also as usual, books that seemed ideal at first became less appealing upon further consideration. But I think I'm narrowing it down successfully.


The first book that I'm planning to take is a Ross Macdonald novel. They're as close to a sure thing as I can get in terms of reading enjoyment, and I have a paperback of one of his books that I haven't read yet, so it will be perfect for the trip. The only problem is that I enjoy them a little too much, so I can't count on that occupting me for more than a day or two.


The second book will probably be Joanna Trollope's book in the Austen Project. I enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld's contribution to it so much that I decided to give another of the volumes a try. We have the updates of Sense and Sensibility and Emma, but for some reason the latter has little appeal for me (Amy Heckerling may have ruined me in terms of Emma updates) so I'll try Trollope's volume instead. I may supplement it with another novel, probably one of my sci-fi paperbacks, but I haven't decided on that yet.


That leaves my big choice -- and I mean that in more ways than one. I'm hoping to take one of my larger nonfiction books with me as my primary read, in part because I realized why I have some many of them waiting to be read on my shelves. I do a good amount of my reading when I work out, which usually favors books that I can hold while I'm pedaling on a recumbent bike or a treadmill. This precludes bringing my whoppers, as they're a little much to handle. That's not a problem at the farm, though, as I end up spending hours stretched out on a sofa, which is an ideal way to read a nice, thick tome. Currently I'm leaning towards a history of the Manhattan Project, but I may select something on the First World War or even take a second crack at the first volume of MacFarquhar's Origins of the Cultural Revolution. It's a major decision, but by giving myself a day and a half to make it I'm pretty sure I'll be able to select something that will make the next week especially enjoyable.

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review 2020-02-24 07:29
Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux
Ancient Iraq - Georges Roux

TITLE:   Ancient Iraq


AUTHOR:  Georges Roux


DATE PUBLISHED:  1992 [Third, updated and revised edition]


FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780140125238



"Newly revised and containing information from recent excavations and discovered artifacts, Ancient Iraq covers the political, cultural, and socio-economic history from Mesopotamia days of prehistory to the Christian era."



Easy to read overview of the history of ancient Mesopotamia (i.e. the land between the Tigris and Euphrates + their extended territories), but probably vastly outdated by now. Includes a map, illustrations and chronology tables, but the vast number of peculiar, multi-syllable names got confusing.



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review 2020-02-17 03:45
Mummies Of Urumchi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Mummies Of Urumchi - Elizabeth Wayland Barber

TITLE:  Mummies Of Urumchi


AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Wayland Barber




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780333730249



"In the museums of Ürümchi, the windswept regional capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as Chinese Turkestan), a collection of ancient mummies lies at the center of an enormous mystery.


Some of Ürümchi's mummies date back as far as 4,000 years―contemporary with the famous Egyptian mummies but even more beautifully preserved. Surprisingly, these prehistoric people are not Asian but Caucasoid―tall, large-nosed and blond with thick beards and round eyes. What were these blond Caucasians doing in the heart of Asia? What language did they speak? Might they be related to a "lost tribe" known from later inscriptions? Few clues are offered by their pottery or tools, but their clothes―woolens that rarely survive more than a few centuries―have been preserved as brightly hued as the day they were woven. Elizabeth Wayland Barber describes these remarkable mummies and their clothing, and deduces their path to this remote, forbidding place. The result is a book like no other―a fascinating unveiling of an ancient, exotic, nearly forgotten world. A finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Illustrated"




Barber describes the mummies found at Urumchi, Loulan and Cherche, located in the Tarim Basin, Central Asia.  She focuses on the textiles found on these mummies and compares them with the tartan found on mummies found in ancient salt mines near Salzburg, Austria.  The types of materials, weaves, types of looms, as well as the origin and spread of weaving technology is examined, and compared with neighbouring cultures.  The world these ancient people inhabited is examined in an attempt to piece together their history and peculiar Western connections, both from what Barber personally observed and from the testimony of others who explored the Silk Road centuries earlier.  Linguistic clues are also examined, as well as (then) newly discovered scripts and thus languages dubbed Tokharian.  The historical movement of various groups of people are examined, taking into account the physical geography and changing climate of the area.  Barber provides a riveting historical adventure during which an exotic and relatively unknown world is gradually revealed.  The book contains numerous maps and many colour photographs. 


This is an informative and interesting book that examines where various people making their home in the Tarim Basin came from, how they lived, their movements, their associations to the East (China) and West (Europe, Near East), and what eventually happened to them.  Barber has an easy-going writing style that manages to remain professional but not dull or boring.




The Tarim Mummies:  Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair





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