This started off super-slow for me for the same reason any overview of history does: it starts with ancient history. I know it's important. I know it influences just about everything today, but it's, forgive me, a bit dull.
Once we got through The Classical World and the Middle Ages though, things picked up. For each age, Tearle selects a few texts that can, or should, be considered significant. Some of them are the no-brainers we've all heard of (Shakespeare) and some are names or titles that have unjustly fallen into oblivion (Mary Elizabeth Braddon, whom he argues might be the author of the first English detective novel. Trail of the Serpent). Whether widely known or not, Tearle tries to focus on thoughts, ideas, or facts that aren't widely known so that there's something new here for likely anyone, no matter how well read.
Informative, readable, and once past the Middle ages, very enjoyable.
I will never understand quite a few things, but today, ( or lately), the main one on my mind is the cult mentality. This doesn't only apply to organized cults, but to some churches and/or religions as well.
The church cult of Scientology, for instance, has fascinated me for a long while. Same thing with Charles Manson, and now: Jim Jones. Is it the charisma of their leaders? Did they start out "good", (for lack of a better descriptor), and then turn "bad", or were they bad deep down at the core to start with?
My interest doesn't just stop with these "leaders", but also the people attracted to them. What draws people in? Many of these folks are not stupid, in fact some, if not many of them, are well educated. Are they missing something in their lives? Are they missing something in themselves?
I watch/listen/read to/or about people drawn into these types of things, but I still can't figure it out. Why can't they see when things start to go wrong, or when things don't make sense? Why don't they rebel when asked to kill someone, or asked to commit suicide?
I guess the answers to these questions would be quite valuable if we could answer them, wouldn't they?