reviews

The Nile

June 22, 2014

In The Nile:A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present, popular Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson leads the reader on a historical travelogue that moves from Aswan, home of the river’s First Cataract, to Cairo’s Gezira Island, from Paleolithic rock drawings to the Arab Spring. The voyage that shapes The Nile is not simply metaphorical. Wilkinson floats […]

Read the full article →

History of the World in 12 Maps

January 14, 2014

This post is about a book, a book review, and the discussion that the review sparked. As I’ve mentioned before, I review books for Shelf Awareness for Readers. Mostly history, a little reference–and the occasional cookbook because writer does not live by history alone. Some of the books I receive for review are on subjects […]

Read the full article →

On Paper

November 5, 2013

Self-confessed bibliophiliac Nicholas Basbanes is the author of several volumes on book collecting and book mania. In On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand Year History, he moves beyond the world of books to consider the material from which they are made. On Paper is not another history of the discovery and spread of the […]

Read the full article →

A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps

October 29, 2013

I love Big Fat History Books, full of footnotes (no endnotes, please) and academic caution.  But I also love small, idiosyncratic books about history: books that look at the past through one person’s obsessions and interest. Chris West combined an uncle’s Edwardian stamp collection with his own interest in history to create a quirky and […]

Read the full article →

The Riddle of the Labyrinth

June 6, 2013

In The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest To Crack An Ancient Code, Margalit Fox adds a new layer to the story of how the ancient script known as Linear B was deciphered. In 1900, archaeologist Arthur Evans uncovered a cache of clay tablets in an unknown script on Crete. For fifty years, scholars across […]

Read the full article →

Children of the Days: a Calendar of Human History

May 21, 2013

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who reached a wide American audience in 2009 with Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, has built his career on a genre-defying blend of history, fiction and political analysis that he describes as “obsessed with remembering”. In Children of the Days: A Calendar of […]

Read the full article →

The Year Without Summer: “Eighteen hundred and froze to death”

March 11, 2013

Historian William K. Klingaman and meteorologist Nicholas P. Klingaman combine forces in The Year Without Summer: 1816 And The Volcano That Darkened The World And Changed History. Working in a vein similar to Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map, the Klingamans weave together modern scientific explanations, nineteenth-century scientific (and religious) speculations, and historical events into a […]

Read the full article →

The Birth of the West

March 5, 2013

Several weeks ago I mentioned a Big Fat History Book that had me gasping at my own ignorance. I left you dangling, but now that the review has appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, I can share the details with you. The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in […]

Read the full article →

The Making of the First World War: A Pivotal History

January 24, 2013

  Despite its title, The Making of the First World War: A Pivotal History by historian Ian F. W. Beckett is not another account of the events leading up to World War One.  Instead Beckett is concerned with what he describes as “pivot points”: decisive moments that affected not only the course of the war […]

Read the full article →

On The Map

January 15, 2013

Speaking of maps, as I believe we were, I recently spent several happy days with a book that straddles the intersection between cartography and history. Simon Garfield, author of the bestselling Just My Type, once again takes a subject that seems the province of a small group of enthusiasts and opens it for a larger […]

Read the full article →