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Books - History - Historical Study - Books I read in 1995

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    The Americans: The Colonial Experience (A Caravelle Edition)
    by DANIEL J. BOORSTIN
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 March, 1964)
    list price: $15.00 -- our price: $10.20
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    The first book in a trilogy--and in many respects the best of the bunch--The Colonial Experience is an essential interpretation of how the habits of people who lived more than two centuries ago shaped the lives of modern Americans. Boorstin shows how an undiscovered continent shattered long-standing traditions and utopian fantasies with the hard demands of everyday life far from the sophisticated centers of European civilization: "Old categories were shaken up, and new situations revealed unsuspected uses for old knowledge," writes Boorstin. He starts with a series of penetrating essays on the Puritans of Massachusetts, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the philanthropists of Georgia, and the planters of Virginia, then tackles a set of diffuse topics that range from astronomy to language to medicine in fascinating vignettes.

    The Colonial Experience is must reading for anybody interested in the development of the American character. --John J. Miller ... Read more

    Reviews (14)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Americans Before America
    When Boorstin named his epic trilogy The Americans rather than American History or History of the American People, he greeted the reader with a different approach to history. He arranged his brief chapters thematically rather than chronologically, while maintaining a high level of detail, and thus created a masterwork of compression, a talent Boorstin repeated later in The Creators and The Discoverers.

    Volume One covers the American experience from the New England colonies through the War for Independence. The thematic approach might suggest that the question, "What is an American?" can be answered by a grocery list of ideas. Yet if there is one truth about Americans it is that they reveal themselves more in doing than in philosophizing. Unburdened by the systematizing of the European ideologue, they demonstrate repeatedly that they are among the most tolerant people who have inhabited the earth.

    For Massachusetts Puritans, orthodoxy and tradition had solved most theoretical questions, freeing them from the theological debates of their European counterparts. The Virginia aristocrats, a remarkable pool of talent, applied the practical skills of running a plantation to running a colony, creating a haven of toleration and rapid growth. By contrast, the fanaticism, utopianism, and pacifism of the Quakers failed to protect Pennsylvania from Indian attacks and drove the Quakers from power. Good intentions did nothing to fix the failed humanitarianism of the Georgia colony.

    Americans were great naturalists, learning by experience, experiment, and the evidence of the senses. Where books existed at all, they were more likely to be farming almanacs or medical manuals than heavy tomes in literature or metaphysics.

    Americans were least likely to wage war over sacred land or a Bible verse. Moreover, their habits were intensely local and their allegiance was to family, community, and colony, in that order. Militias had to be formed by the command of the British government a thousand miles way. Although citizen soldiers traded their pitchforks for rifles when so ordered, they were quick to return to farming, whether the battle was finished or not. The lack of a standing, professional army drove General Washington to distraction. Here are the roots of civilian control of the military which has haunted us to this day.

    Boorstin provides numerous examples to prove, not merely assert, that American character and institutions grew from the facts of American life, not from theory, not from the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers or any age's philosophers. I expected the appearance of certain undeniably significant men-Washington, Adams, Jefferson-but I was surprised to see the amount of time given to the influence of William Penn, William Byrd, Cotton Mather, John Winthrop, and, most notable of all, Ben Franklin, who truly deserved the title of renaissance man. Here are people I can admire. Their example makes volume one the most inspiring of the trilogy.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Boorstin's take on the American perspective
    In writing The Colonial Experience, the first part of his series The Americans, Daniel Boorstin has essentially set down to paper a series of connected events that illustrate what he thinks is the quintessential American experience. Largely positive in tone, Boorstin's assertion is that in early America there was a truly new society formed, and whatever similarities must necessarily continue from Europe, the North American colonies soon developed their own lifestyles, perspectives, beliefs, and cultures.

    On the nuts and bolts level, this is a series of topical descriptions. It is not, by any means, a survey history. It will really help if the reader knows something about American history to start out with. That said, a good recollection of middle school lessons would be sufficient, but more would be better. This allows Boorstin to examine in more depth the topics he wishes to cover, without worrying about filling in the gaps everywhere. He starts with a look at the "social character" - for lack of a better term - of settlers in four colonies; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Virginia. But even here he still keeps the focus on certain aspects of those colonies.

    Massachusetts, we all know, what founded by the Puritans, fleeing lack of religious freedom in England and too much of it in Holland. What is it, Boorstin asks, that Puritanism brought to America that gave distinctions to the outlook of those colonists? And how did Puritanism itself change in America? It certainly diverged from English Puritanism. Likewise for the Quakers of Pennsylvania. What was unique and distinctive about Quakerism, and how did it change? What effects did religion have on the running of colonial governments? In Georgia, the foundations were not religious, but philanthropic. The founders wanted to create an American utopia of silkworm farmers in carefully constructed perfect townships with no social injustice or problems of any sort. Boorstin is clearly not sympathetic to this viewpoint, nor do I blame him, but he shows how this distinct viewpoint led to that colony's founding and how it was modified (failed utterly is a better description). And finally, in Virginia, there was no other founding philosophy other than to thrive and profit as each man saw fit. Rather than forming towns, they formed plantations (there were towns, but they were small). The obligation of successful men was only to take part in governing the colony.

    Later sections cover other topics, including education, philosophy, science, culture, and others. But the method is the same as the first section. We get a close look at some aspect of life about which Boorstin asks "How did this make America? How did America change this in return?" A number of reviewers have expressed opinions on the specifics of Boorstin's final conclusions. I think he was for the most part sound minded, though he certainly skipped a lot. Many of his ideas sound reminiscent of de Tocqueville, though in how much detail I don't know. There seems to be a bit of a conservative streak in the writing, but it's probably more accurate to call it optimistic - an option available to him by focusing on only certain subjects. In fairness, I do think he hit upon many of the major themes that made America special and unique. So based on his historian's eye for a good story, and generally strong writing overall, I'd say The Colonial Experience is well worth the read whether you happen to agree with everything or not.

    5-0 out of 5 stars History at it Best
    This is a young work of Boorstin and even years later it still lives up to its greatness.The first book of a trilogy, it sets the tone for the two to follow.We are not given a dry reading of dates and places and wars and settlements.Instead it is a readable story of movements, nations but most the individuals- both known and unknown - whose influence continues with us to this day.

    This mix of biographies and historical happenings makes for an enjoyable, entertaining and enlightening work. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0394705130
    Subjects:  1. Civilization    2. History - General History    3. History: American    4. National characteristics, Amer    5. National characteristics, American    6. To 1783    7. U.S    8. United States    9. United States - Colonial Period    10. American history: c 1500 to c 1900    11. History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)    12. USA   


    $10.20

    Cartoon History of the Universe 1 (Cartoon History of the Universe)
    by LARRY GONICK
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (10 September, 1997)
    list price: $21.95 -- our price: $14.93
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    One of the beautiful things about comics is that it is possibly the best medium for combining education and entertainment. No one knows this better than Larry Gonick, whose Cartoon History series spans many subjects.Whether you are a fan of history, comics, or Gonick's books, The Cartoon History of the Universe I is a great place to start. Part I contains volumes 1 to 7, from the Big Bang to Alexander the Great. ... Read more

    Reviews (43)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A great History Book
    I use this book and the others of the series with my real hard heads in my classroom, who don't think history isn't interesting or useful. So far I am batting in the 700's.
    I am so grateful that Mr Gonick produced such a wonderful book and hope that he keeps up the grand work!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Fun and accessible but also packs a of lot of real history.
    I had originally bought this book for use in my waiting room. However, some of the sexual humor and the irreverant approach to religious figures meant that it was a "stay at home" book. (Don't tell the IRS)

    Now that the book is in its proper place, I should add that I enjoyed it immensely and went on to buy Volumes 2 and 3. (not on my office account though)The book starts with evolution of the earth and its creatures. The pictures were well done and the humor makes the factual material easier to remember.

    The bulk of the book deals with the history of the human race. The author does not confine himself to European civilization. Two of my children read all three volumes, and I did not have to hassle them to do it. How often does this happen with other history texts? I am hoping to use their interest in some of the historical topics to encourage them to read other books. Each section of the Cartoon History contains a reference section for those who desire further reading.

    Ideally this book should be a companion to serious textbooks on history. However, there are a lot of people who are unwilling and unable to absorb material from textbooks or lectures. People who are visual learners may be able to remember the pictures and the humor when they have trouble remembering college lecutres or long passages of text. I have recommended this and some other of the author's books to individuals who were having trouble with basic college classes.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Laugh-out-loud history with social commentary
    You have to love this cartoon history with a decidedly feminist perspective and a thorough treatment of the Bible--about as warped as Monty Python but still accurate.This is where I got the genesis of my screenplay "Pericles," from the pages on Aspasia and Pericles: "What could an ambitious woman do in those days?She could associate with powerful men...Aspasia met Pericles...BWOWM" (schwing) ... Read more

    Isbn: 0385265204
    Subjects:  1. Caricatures and cartoons    2. Cartoons and caricatures    3. Comics & Cartoons    4. Graphic Satire And Humor    5. History - General History    6. History: World    7. Reference    8. World history    9. Humor / Cartoons   


    $14.93

    Cartoon History of the Universe 2
    by LARRY GONICK
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (18 September, 1994)
    list price: $21.95 -- our price: $14.93
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Continuing right where the first book left off, The Cartoon History of the Universe II once again combines Gonick's superb cartooning with the lessons of history. Find out what Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better of Worse, calls "a gift to those of us who love to laugh and who love to learn." Part II contains volumes 8 to 13, from the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome (and India, too!). ... Read more

    Reviews (29)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Thorough research and humor - who could ask for more?
    The Cartoon History of the Universe is an excellent series.Volume two covers history from the death of Alexander the Great through the fall of Rome and includes Chinese history up through around 0 AD.

    One thing that I really like about this series is the good research that went into it.Although sources are not given in footnotes or interspersed in the text, there is a bibliography, and Gonick includes enough detail to make it possible to verify the facts he states.So basically it is well written and doesn't use being a comic book as an excuse to be sloppy.I wouldn't feel odd about citing it as a reference on a term paper, and I actually did cite this one.Another nice feature is that humor is usually in the form of little anecdotes that actually happened and not slapstick.History is full of colorful characters (Nero anyone?) and so it can be presented interestingly with a bit of effort and research.Gonick does that here.

    I recommend The Cartoon History of the Universe to everybody.The humor and visuals are nice to apply to a subject which can seem like a dull stream of names and dates at times.It is a good supplement to a history class, because it covers in depth some things that tend to only be included in history classes for the sake of political correctness.For example, Gonick's history of China is in depth and covered with the same research and humor as the European history.In most history books the sections on China are very stiff and PC.To me this book is valuable if only for the section on Chinese history.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The bloody history of early China and early Europe
    Even though this is a collection of cartoons and the text in the dialog balloons is generally meant to be frivolous, it is possible to learn a lot of history from the book. Unlike so many history books that concentrate on Western Europe and derivatives, this one deals extensively with India and China. Volume 8 deals with the early history of India and how the great religions that we associate with India arose. From it, you also learn the origins of the great early works of Indian civilization such as Bhagavad Gita.
    The origins of the ancient Chinese civilization are covered in volumes 9 and 10. Most of the points deal with the battles for supremacy and feature court intrigue, deception and a lot of killing. We tend to think of massive deaths in war as being a modern invention, but that is a misconception. Well before the year 0, the army of Chin was ambushed and massacred, over 200,000 men were killed in one day.
    Chapter 11 begins with the last days of Alexander the Great. It correctly points out that while Alexander was married to a Persian, that union was largely political. The great love of Alexander's life was Hephaestion, his male grand vizier. When Hephaestion died, Alexander grieved over the body for two days. The next sections chronicle the origin and rise of Rome as a great power. Once again, it is largely a tale of murder, intrigue and war. As the power of Rome grew, it was no longer possible to maintain the republican form of government. At first the supreme position was called the consulship, where the holder was powerful, but not yet a dictator. All this changed when Julius Caesar marched off to conquer Gaul and then returned to march on Rome. This began several decades of near constant warfare in the Empire, some of which was civil.
    The numbers of people that were killed in these wars are amazing to consider. Some history books estimate that Julius Caesar killed over a million while in Gaul. Descriptions of Western history describe the carnage of World Wars I and II as unprecedented in human history. In fact, the concept of total war with deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands or millions is an old theme of history. The wars that took place between the Europeans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were comparatively limited in consequence.
    After a few pages, the discerning reader will understand that the text in the captions is generally designed to impart the history while the balloon dialog is reserved for the humor. I enjoyed this book immensely, learning many things about Chinese history. I also learned some additional details about western history. If there is a theme to the history presented here, it is how many people were killed in acts of the powerful fighting for control. We tend to think of the twentieth century as being the bloodiest on record. That is probably not the case. Given the carnage that occurred in China and the Mediterranean even before the birth of Christ, there might be centuries before the A. D. label that were bloodier. That fact is disturbing, whether learned by text or by cartoon.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Religion, politics, sex and humour
    As with Larry Gonick's other guides he manages to pull off the trick of being both amusing and edifying. He also has the artistic flare for painting history in broad yet revealing brush strokes.
    The second instalment of his history of the Universe covers ancient India, China's early years and Rome from its mythical founding to its very real collapse.
    Gonick is not afraid to offend. His depictions of Jesus, Krisna, Buddha and Confucius are all less than entirely flattering. While he is not the sort to be disrespectful through ignorance, Gonick will not fail to pick out the more obvious weaknesses of any institution or historical figure he comes across. He even takes a swipe at one of Afrocentrisms unjustified claims. Although in the end he pays due recognition to the achievements of each of these figures it is possibly best to avoid this book if you are the sort to yell "Blasphemy!".
    Anybody else who has a sense of humour and an interest in history should get their hands on this book immediately. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0385420935
    Subjects:  1. Caricatures and cartoons    2. Cartoons and caricatures    3. Comics & Cartoons    4. History - General History    5. History: American    6. Reference    7. World - General    8. World history    9. Humor / Cartoons   


    $14.93

    Invisible Man
    by Ralph Ellison
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (14 March, 1995)
    list price: $13.95 -- our price: $11.16
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    Editorial Review

    We rely, in this world, on the visual aspects of humanity as ameans oflearning who we are. This, Ralph Ellison argues convincingly, is adangerous habit. A classic from the moment it first appeared in 1952,Invisible Man chronicles the travels of its narrator, a young, namelessblack man, as he moves through the hellish levels of Americanintoleranceand cultural blindness. Searching for a context in which to knowhimself,he exists in a very peculiar state. "I am an invisible man," he says inhis prologue. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings,themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything andanything except me." But this is hard-won self-knowledge, earnedover the course of many years.

    As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his SouthernNegro collegefor inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life inthe south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. Thecollege director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard inthe cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is totellhim a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth,at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns thathis former headmaster's recommendation letters are, infact, letters of condemnation.

    What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to besupremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-racebandof social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he isfightingfor equality. Once again, he realizes he's been dupedinto believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is onlyanother variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of theirvoices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves....HereI thought they accepted me because they felt that color made nodifference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn'tseeeither color or men."

    Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, andsadly enough, few ofthe problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison'sfirst novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the humanrace stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful tovarying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyondourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place,andno one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us withthesechilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Whoknows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak ... Read more

    Reviews (245)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Book review: Invisible Man
    In my opinion, as a part of a minority group, the book was great. It allowed me to understand the structure of society as well as the lifestyle of African Americans in the 1930's. There were many insightful quotes such as "I'm in New York, but New York ain't in me" indicating that where you live does not distinguish your personalities and "The truth is the light and light is the truth."(Ellison 7) This book also helped me to understand that life is a very complicated journey and sometimes you don't get to choose your destiny.


    I like the writing style of the book. The book's writing can be described in two words: simple and explicit. It was very easy to understand, most of the time, what the author was saying. Although it was written in simple text, it doesn't mean that its meaning is not profound. The book had many complex themes and abstract symbols that appear throughout the book. For instance, in page 299, the building of the Brotherhood was called Chthonian, which is the underworld in Greek mythology. This hints to the reader that Brotherhood is perhaps a corrupt organization.


    I also like the abstract writing styles. "My hole is warm and full of light...I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, an I don not exclude Broadway... those two spots are among the darkest of our whole civilization."(Ellison 6) In this short phrase the author uses a double meaning on the word light. This kind of writing style helped me to enjoy the novel better and to learn how to write better.


    Although, overall, the novel was very compelling, in my opinion the ending was a bit disappointing because it simply ends without conclusion. It seems like a waste to read 580 pages just to find out that the book does not conclude anything. However, this type of ending I would guess is post modernism.


    Other than that, the book was very insightful and inspiring. It helped me to think about my future and how I should beware of the hardships that might appear as it did in the narrator's life. I strongly recommend this book.



    5-0 out of 5 stars Deep!
    Invisible Man is a truth-seeking explanation of a young man in search of identity.After trying most of his life to be seen, he finds that people only use him and take advantage of him. No matter how well he thinks he is getting along and how far he believes he is moving up, someone cuts him back down. Thus, in order to preserve his individuality, he chooses to become invisible. Through his experiences, he finds that it is impossible to become visible and still be an individual.

    In a world that claims to have eradicated the problem of racism, we cannot help but be dragged back to reality once we find ourselves reading Ellison's classic novel. We see that in this story, Ellison has created a character that can still speak to us today about the experiences that minorities encounter every day of there lives. Follow the invisible man as he goes to college, finds an apartment to live in, and encounter the many ways in which he is challenged throughout the days of his life. A scary, touching, realistic, and always challenging novel that still has as much relevance today as it did over fifty years ago when if first appeared in the bookstore.

    I know that by reviewing this particular work, I am reiterating what has already been said in its praise, but THIS BOOK IS HIGH ART. Everyone should read it. Its message is universal and accessible!!!!It left me in thought for days.

    Rolanda,
    Nothing BUT Page Turners Book Club

    5-0 out of 5 stars "Literary Jazz"
    I have no excuse for not reading INVISIBLE MAN before my final quarter of college.Ralph Ellison's story of racial injustice in America during the 1950s has widely been hailed as a masterpiece of American literature, a book well-received both for its treatment of controversial subject matter and for its brilliant, almost lyrical prose.Critics have called Ellison's writing a form of "literary jazz," a style of writing that is constantly changing and improvising, one minute slow and steady, the next fast-paced, shifting, and distorted.Ellison makes no effort to hide his inspiration, and comparisons between Invisible Man and Dostoevsky's Underground Man, though obvious, are treated with grace and simplicity. INVISIBLE MAN, on all levels, is a relevant, important text.

    Published in 1952, at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the South, INVISIBLE MAN chronicles the story of a nameless narrator, struggling to find the truth in a world largely built on deception.The narrator introduces himself merely as "an invisible man" who is invisible "simply because people refuse to see me."At the beginning of the novel, Invisible Man is living underground on the outskirts of Harlem, stealing free electricity from a monopolizing power company...symbolically, of course, the only "power" he can take from the white man.

    In the novel, Invisible Man narrates his journey from the segregated South to the cruelly beautiful North as he searches for an identity, a sense of self which he at first attempts to formulate based upon others' opinions of him.Armed with a lesson from his dying grandfather he doesn't yet fully understand and his own perceptions of the roles of blacks and whites, Invisible Man is thrust into the bustling, harsh world of Harlem, a reality far from the Southern college (based on the Tuskegee Institute) from which he came.Throughout his journey, Invisible Man must confront difficult questions about himself, dealing with both racial and self-identity.Although his journey is one of hard-learned lessons about the role of African Americans in society, his story is ultimately one of self-discovery.

    With beautiful prose, simplistic brilliance, and images that are hard to read and will break your heart (for me, the Battle Royal scene especially), Ellison has written a masterpiece of fiction that unites all readers--black and white--with a story of the journey to self-discovery, something everyone must go through.Filled with stunning imagery, subtle cultural references, and searing indictments of the racial divide, INVISIBLE MAN is an important text that begs to be interpreted.Readers looking for an exciting read may want to skip this one--much of the novel chronicles everyday, anticlimactic events--but readers searching for a message with relevance that still resounds in today's society will be stunned when they reach INVISIBLE MAN's breathtaking final words. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0679732764
    Subjects:  1. African American men    2. Classics    3. Ellison, Ralph - Prose & Criticism    4. Fiction    5. Literature - Classics / Criticism    6. Men's Adventure    7. Fiction / Classics    8. Reading Group Guide   


    $11.16

    The Americans: The National Experience
    by DANIEL J. BOORSTIN
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 February, 1967)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $10.88
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Daniel J. Boorstin, one of America's great historians, focuses on American ingenuity and emergent nationalism in this middle book of the Americans trilogy, dealing with a period extending roughly from the Revolution to the Civil War. Like its two companion volumes, The National Experience is a sometimes quirky look at how certain patterns of living helped shape the character of the United States. The book simply overflows with ideas, all of them introduced in entertaining chapters on subjects such as the New England ice industry and the boomtowns of the Midwest.

    Boorstin is a delight to read, a genuine polymath whose wide-ranging interests and love of learning show up on every page. --John J. Miller ... Read more

    Reviews (5)

    3-0 out of 5 stars incoherent, but fun
    As I said in my review of the Colonial Experience volume, this is not a history that is cogently and logically argued.Instead, it is a disjointed series of well researched stories and anecdotes - there is no attempt at analysis or to relate them to trends that contributed to the present state of America.Absolutely none, when the stories beg for them and could have been analysed with a little more effort.

    Moreover, I read the book on travel and while I enjoyed it on a long train ride, I remember virtually nothing now - that is a sure mark for me of the fact that this is more fluff than real historical writing.This is one of my tests for meatiness:if I remember a lot and feel like I need to learn much more, I feel the book is a success.Well, this one fails on both counts.

    Recommended as throwaway entertainment.If you want real history, look elsewhere.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Quest for Community
    Volume Two of The Americans trilogy covers the period between the Revolution and the Civil War when America was shaping a national identity with boundless faith in the future. Like the young Mark Twain in Roughing It, many Americans felt that westward movement alone would give thempurpose and that the future would somehow take care of itself.

    History books which have bored me have relied excessively on the indiscriminate accumulation of detail. While this obsessive desire to be thorough might be necessary for the education of students, quantity of detail alone fails to give the complete, balanced view of reality that I look for in all kinds of reading. One reason I like Boorstin is that he writes narrative history, favoring theme over chronology, thus allowing the continuities and significance of history to emerge. His American story comprises many smaller stories. What I thought were signs of the times often turned out to be peculiarly American characteristics.

    Boorstin writes, for example, that government paid for railroads and colleges in order to serve the growing community. Spencer's dichotomy of "The Man Versus the State" in 19th century Europe was meaningless in 19th Century America because distinctions such as public and private were often blurred. It is fitting that Boorstin divided his book into "Community" and "Nationality" because community preceded government. Contrary to the myth of the rugged individual explorer, Americans traveled in groups. Settlers who headed west, regardless of motive, wrote their own Mayflower Compact before loading the wagons. Venturing into lawless areas, they formed laws for their protection. Even vigilantism was a way of maintaining order rather than flaunting it.

    The second half of the book examines vagueness as a source of strength. The country grew and prospered before its geographical boundaries had been explored. Here are also passages on American ways of talking, the creation of myths and legends, the establishment of the national holiday, and the importance of political parties.

    Nearly every page of Boorstin's history contains some nugget of Americana which in isolation appears to be trivial but in historical context emerges to reveal something profound about American life.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and enjoyable history
    Both this book and its counterpart, The Democratic Experience, offer an anecdotal and entertaining approach to American history. In The National Experience, Boorstin focuses on the development of a national character and national customs. Rather than trying to force history to fit into a deterministic and logical mold, Boorstin shows just how the disconnectedness of American history has contributed to American development.

    I find Boorstin's works very readable, and the style enjoyable. My only concern is that sometimes it seems that some complexities are ignored in favor of developing an overall theme. However, this remains one of very few histories I pick up for fun to read a few chapters. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0394703588
    Subjects:  1. 1783-1865    2. Civilization    3. History - General History    4. History: American    5. National characteristics, Amer    6. National characteristics, American    7. U.S    8. United States    9. United States - General    10. History / United States / General   


    $10.88

    I, Claudius : From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International)
    by ROBERT GRAVES
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (23 October, 1989)
    list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Having never seen the famous 1970s television series based on Graves' historical novel of ancient Rome and being generally uneducated about matters both ancient and Roman, I wasn't prepared for such an engaging book.But it's a ripping good read, this fictional autobiography set in the Roman Empire's days of glory and decadence. As a history lesson, it's fabulous; as a novel it's also wonderful. Best is Claudius himself, the stutterer who let everyone think he was an idiot (to avoid getting poisoned) but who reveals himself in the narrative to be a wry and likable observer. His story continues in Claudius the God. ... Read more

    Reviews (133)

    3-0 out of 5 stars A gossipy narrative about palace intrigue
    Robert Graves has earned the right to be Mary Renault's cup-bearer on Mt. Olympus. His opinions, expressed through Claudius, as to the causes of Rome's decline are probably correct. He persuades us that the evil Emperors (and Livia) who seized the Republic from the Senate were to blame.

    The tone of this 1934 novel reflects the author's dismay at the rise of fascism in Europe, particularly Germany for which the author reserves special venom. For today's readers, there is an easy comparison to be made between the military adventures of Caligula and Bush. Republicans can take heart that Bush looks better by comparison with the vastly more corrupt and even insane Roman Emperors. Americans can take solace that there were indeed worse rulers in Roman history, yet Rome somehow managed to survive their inept and corrupt rule. It can be hoped our own Republic, also, will survive the present misadministration.

    Excessive narration stands out as a glaring fault, though when Graves rises to proper dialogue and action, he performs quite well. His editor was to blame. This represents a good third draft, but needs heavy revision. The only living writer I can think of that might be up to the task--for Graves died in 1986-- would be Maria McCann, author of the historical novel, "As Meat Loves Salt".

    The novel reaks of mere gossip. Prepare yourself for the ironically boring narration of serial poisonings and serial treason trials by paranoid rulers. The pages are drenched in blood, and stink of cruelty, sadism, and depravity carefully censored of any sexual, but not violent, content. Graves was of the school, numerous in his time and even today to a lesser extent, that thought, "Heaven forbid an orgasm, but a murder is perfectly acceptable."

    After a while all the gore just becomes too much. The Emperor Augustus is followed by Tiberius, who is followed by Caligula; each worse than his predecessor. A downward spiral, representing the Roman Republic going down the toliet.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Who wants to be a Roman Caesar?
    Who wants to be a Roman Caesar? We do. At least, we would if we were interested in having sex with family members, and enjoyed the adrenalin rush one gets wondering if, this time, the food really is poisoned.

    Enter Claudius, reluctant contender for Caesar. Dribbling, lurching, but highly intelligent and misunderstood, Claudius is the focal point of the fictionalised autobiography written in 1934, by Robert Graves. Sure, it's an old book. You should read it anyway.

    For the uninitiated, it is palatable introduction to the world of the Roman Emperor, the politics, treachery and instability of men who believed themselves more than merely mortal. Take, for example, the tale of Tiberius and the fisherman.

    As the story goes, Tiberius landed on a small island to be greeted by a local fisherman, who, recognising the emperor, offered him a fish as a gift. Tiberius was intensely (and justifiably) paranoid, and believed the man was offering him an omen of death, so he ordered his guards to hold the man down and scrub his face with the fish. When the fisherman later quipped "I'm glad I didn't offer him a crab," Tiberius ordered that he be similarly scrubbed with a crab. He went on to collect the most extensive encyclopaedia of pornography in the known world, owned a giant iguana, held orgies with his sister and died in exile at the hand of one of his soldiers, watched by future screwed-up emperor Caligula.Such anecdotes that reveal personality provide Graves fodder for conjecture: they form the bones around which Graves weaves this fascinating tale. And he is a master of the craft.

    Stylistically this is a superb novel, seamlessly moving through the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and Graves' deep understanding of the complexities of the Roman political system adds credibility to what can, at times, seem like an impossible tale. His treatment of the psychology of senator and caesar, the fear of power absolute, and the motives behind the plots and counter-plots of assassination are skilfully handled.

    Interestingly, Graves also explores the role of women in the history of the empire. Exhibit A: Livia. Wife of Augustus and matriarch of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Livia was some piece of work. Self-serving, power hungry, frustrated by her status as a woman, she plotted, murdered and deified herself and her husband with a ruthless single-mindedness that made Gladiator's Commodus look like a boy scout.

    It is a bold for an author to masquerade as Roman royalty, and yet Graves adroitly manoeuvres through the narrative in the first person, in the guise of Claudius, who, unseen or ignored because of his disabilities, is privy to confidences denied other member of the royal household. So the plot unfolds for us, as it unfolded for him, intricate, outrageous but always moving to its inevitable conclusion -- Claudius himself becomes emperor.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on an interesting topic.
    All fans af historical fiction need look no further for an intersesting read. The book chronicles the reigns of the Roman Emperors Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula as seen through the eyes of Tiberius Claudius. The book reads in true roman fashion, with characters droping like flies from the very start. The odd thing is how the book makes you not cry but chuckle. The combination of ridiculusly evil characters and humerously unfourtunate events make for a story so tragic you just have to laugh. This is only added to by the way that Claudius records things like murder,war,assasination,divorce and mass executions in a trivial way. Claudius, who is considerd as an idiot due to his stutter and limp, plays up his stupidity in order to stay out of the constant political intrigues, while in fact he is one of the smartest romans of the lot and in the end, I couldn't help but feeling somewhat attached to Claudius.

    This book is truley marvelous and succeeds perfectly in retellingan ancient tale. And as a plus, I am now extremly knowledgeable on this time of history after reading this book. ... Read more

    Isbn: 067972477X
    Subjects:  1. 10 B.C.-54 A.D    2. 10 B.C.-54 A.D.    3. Classics    4. Claudius,    5. Claudius, 41-54    6. Emperor of Rome,    7. Emperors    8. Fiction    9. Graves, Robert - Prose & Criticism    10. History    11. Literary    12. Literature - Classics / Criticism    13. Rome    14. Claudius    15. Fiction / Literary   


    $10.17

    Claudius the God : And His Wife Messalina (Vintage International)
    by ROBERT GRAVES
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (23 October, 1989)
    list price: $15.95 -- our price: $10.85
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    Editorial Review

    Picking up where the extraordinarily interesting I, Claudius ends, Claudius the God tells the tale of Claudius' 13-year reign as Emperor of Rome. Naturally, it ends when Claudius is murdered--believe me, it's not giving anything away to say this; the surprise is when someone doesn't get poisoned. While Claudius spends most of his time before becoming emperor tending to his books and his writings and trying to stay out of the general line of corruption and killings, his life on the throne puts him into the center of the political maelstrom. ... Read more

    Reviews (31)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Well-Written, if Depressing
    Claudius the God, sequel to I, Claudius, can't be as well-received as the former due to its very premise. I, Claudius, though filled with tragic events and villains triumphant, walks a lightened path because one knows that the narrator-a good man and devoted republican-is destined to survive, and become Emperor. By that same token, however, Claudius the God is headed into dark woods. We know that Claudius will be assassinated, that the evil Nero will succeed him, and that the Republic will never be restored. So, whatever small joys we might take in the events of the novel, a shadow is always cast by the knowledge of future events. Also, and to explain the turn of events, the narrator must transform and become increasingly unreliable and unsympathetic, though we are always rooting for him and his doomed ambitions.

    Beyond this, the work really is a direct continuation of the first in all ways. It is brilliant, and if you loved the first book and want more resolution than it provides (such as what becomes of Caligula's assassins, or whether his marriage with Messalina proves happy) then you'll likely want to continue on. You won't be disappointed with the presentation, only possibly with the answers. I'm happy I read this book, and feel it has all of the strengths of the first, but I can also understand why it hasn't received the same attention. It doesn't have the usual Hollywood ending and may leave the reader a little cold.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Historical Narrative
    The second volume to Robert Grave's best known and acclaimed fictional work. A convincing portrayal of what life was like at the core of the early Roman empire. While the first novel dealt with Claudius' childhood through the reign of Caligula, the sequel starts during his own reign until his death.

    Graves masterfully develops the character of Claudius as he ponders his life and impresses his thoughts on to his "autobiography." The reader is then taken through the ambitions and palatial intrigues of his reign. Claudius reflects on the persons and events under his rule. He finds himself with a dwindling circle of friends and in the company of a devious young wife, Messalina. Claudius ponders his life with wit and humor. With this insight, Claudius is soon appreciated by the reader as having a keen intellect as opposed to being dull and slow of wit. His desire for truth and his loathing of the imperial struggle gives his story clarity and impartiality. All of the characters are well developed; their actions and motivations all come to light in the course of the story.

    Along with Gore Vidal's "Julian" this is one of the greatest works in historical fiction in this genre or any genre. A must read for anyone who enjoys history or just a good story full of intrigue and suspense.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A masterful political historic novel with wit and humor
    Whereas Claudius the God is not quite as fast moving and dramatic as I, Claudius; the sequel is a worthy masterpiece equal to the first volume. Whereas I, Claudius was about survival without power; Claudius the God is about survival with power. This point is very well made as the parallel careers and lives of Claudius and Herod Agrippa are intertwined. Herod Agrippa and Cladius were close friends. Herod had been raised in the household of Octavia Caesar, Claudius' mother and sister to the Emporer Caesar Augustus. Claudius eventually realizes that the clever, witty, charming, light-hearted persona that Herod Agrippa presented to the royal court of the Julio-Claudians was in fact his shield and mask that hide his ambitions and aspirations. Claudius hide his intellect, wit,and insight behind his stutter and limp but because of his friendship with Herod, he learns late that Herod also had a mask. Yet, even though the rebellion of Herod, as king of the Jews, hurt Claudius because of their years of friendship; it was Herod who never betrayed Claudius at court, never revealed that Claudius was brighter than generally percieved, and gave him the best advice possible "Trust no one".

    There is no other wasy to describe Claudius' marriage to Mesalina except to say it was very messy. Love is certainly blind and Claudius almost loses his life to the manipulative and treacherous young wife with her thousand lovers. Mesalina was a mess.

    Graves documents that he used multiple sources other than Suetonius' Live of the Twelve Caesars. Suetonius wrote a hundred years after the reign of Claudius and thus had a republican axe to grind against all the Julio-Claudian family. Graves is far more sympathetic and balanced in his telling of the life of Claudius.

    I enjoyed I, Claudius in a different way from Claudius the God. Graves was able to capture Claudius the survivor in a treacherous family in I,Claudius.In Claudius the God, there is more maturity and sad reality about the limitations of human life and aspirations.

    They both are superb and must be considered two of the finest historic novels in the English language. Graves' use of the English language is perfectly beautiful and I found I quickly read through both novels, thorougly entertained by every page. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0679725733
    Subjects:  1. 10 B.C.-54 A.D    2. 15-59    3. Agrippina,    4. Claudius,    5. Emperor of Rome,    6. Emperors    7. Empresses    8. Fiction    9. Graves, Robert - Prose & Criticism    10. Literary    11. Literature - Classics / Criticism    12. Minor,    13. Rome    14. Claudius    15. Fiction / Literary    16. Messalina, Valeria   


    $10.85

    The Two Cultures (Canto)
    by C. P. Snow, Stefan Collini
    Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (30 July, 1993)
    list price: $15.99 -- our price: $10.87
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    Reviews (13)

    3-0 out of 5 stars The essay that started it all
    In his Two Cultures lecture in 1959, C.P Snow might have only explicitly concerned himself with the prevailing academic culture of the United Kingdom, but he certainly touched off a controversy with a far wider scope.Snow argued that the crumbling of intellectual connections between scientists and humanists (the title's "two cultures") prevented society from dealing with its most intractable problems.He also disparages the British educational system and makes some vague suggestions on how it might improve.Contemporary readers will likely find it hard to believe that Snow's lecture caused such an uproar at the time.As Snow himself points out in his second look, he never said anything particularly original.His lecture merely crystallized several already-existing beliefs about the wide gulf separating the sciences from the humanities.

    Nevertheless, no one remotely associated with academia should go through life without reading The Two Cultures, if only to see what everyone became so upset over.Even in the current academic landscape, we find scientists and humanists spewing vitriol in each other's general direction.Fundamental questions about whether or not scientific knowledge enjoys a unique epistemological status always give way to name-calling and straw men.Does the fault lie with the hateful invective of someone like Sandra Harding, who in The Racial Economy of Science characterized Newton's Principia as a "rape manual"?Or should we instead blame someone like Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist who incessantly riles humanists with his explanations of art and religion grounded in evolutionary theory?I don't know the answer, but I do know that such polarization imperils fruitful communication among different disciplines and forces everyone in academia into one camp or another.Either you're a scientist or a humanist, a particle physicist or a poet.This leaves no room for people in the middle -- sociologists or historians of science, for example, not to mention almost all American undergraduates.Nor does it prove particularly accommodating to the public that pays everyone's bills.So while Snow's arguments might seem dated now, The Two Cultures did get the debate going, making it the essential starting point for anyone hoping to observe, participate, or even mediate.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Arguments about taking social responsibility
    In this book, Sir Charles P. Snow examines what he sees as a splitting of the intelligentsia into two subcultures, the literary and the scientific. He cites anecdotal evidence of how ignorant literary figures are concerning fundamental scientific principles and how few works of literature have been read by the typical scientist. Snow is certainly qualified to see both sides of this issue. During World War II, he was in charge of the British program of scientific recruitment and is a first-class novelist. He also notes conservative/liberal tendencies among various groups within the scientific community.
    He is of course correct, but the splitting is an inevitable consequence of the advance of science. As the amount of knowledge about a field of science grows, it takes more time and effort to succeed in the field. With the increase in commitment, there is less time for the individual to pursue other interests. However, that is not a wholly satisfactory excuse. Scientists are also part of the human condition and are almost always members of the advantaged class. Snow argues that they should be cognizant of the plight of the poor around the world and understand their moral obligation to try to alleviate poverty.
    Scientists are often and justifiably considered to possess an intellectually narrow focus. Snow is very articulate in pointing out that society is damaged when some of the best and brightest remove themselves from the search for solutions to the current problems. Even though great advances have taken place in science in the forty years since Snow put forward these observations, they are just as valid as they were then. There is a lot of common ground between the literary and scientific communities, and Snow explains why it is critical that both sides occupy as much of it as possible. All people who are concerned with the problems of modern society should read this book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars historic document, with intro essay
    The Two Cultures is probably more famous as an idea which ignited discussion than as the lecture it is.This edition of C.P. Snow's classic includes a brilliant introduction by Stefan Collini.I'm surprised that none of the other reviewers mention this portion of the edition, a substantial 64 pages, because for me it was the most interesting read.That is, only after having read The Two Cultures and a follow-up essay by Snow and pondered what may still apply today in his argument I went back and read the Collini.His introduction put Snow's work in its proper historical contexts (those of post-war Britain as well as Snow's own life) and updates us with some of the major points of the historical discourse that followed.I recommend that Collini's essay is read after Snow's, and together they make a very fine read. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0521457300
    Sales Rank: 47724
    Subjects:  1. General    2. History - General History    3. Humanities    4. Questions & Answers    5. Reference    6. Science And Civilization    7. Science and the humanities    8. Sociology - General    9. Philosophy    10. Philosophy / General    11. Philosophy of science   


    $10.87

    Why I Am Not a Christian : And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
    by Bertrand Russell
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (30 October, 1967)
    list price: $14.00 -- our price: $10.50
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    Reviews (129)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Missing Essay
    Here is an excellent set of essays indeed. However, I was disappointed to find that one essay 'What I Believe' (about 30 pages) was left out of this publication. I bought the book because the pages are falling out of my much older copy (Allen & Unwin, 1967) and I was particularly interested in this essay. Although the book purports to be a full reprint of a valuable modern classic, there is no mention of the omission. Perhaps if I buy another book from this publisher (Routledge) I will find the essay. Other recent publications include the essay. Look around before you buy.

    4-0 out of 5 stars It made me think
    This book catalyzed a need for personal inquiry in my life. It was not because of the essays themselves, but because of the things I read, studied, and inquired about *after* I read the essays that led to me no longer believing what I used to believe. This is a book to kick start the reasoning process, not a book guaranteed to convince theists to become atheists and agnostic atheists. Plenty of readers I'm sure continue to believe, but it is more important that the reader allows herself or himself to think.

    It is also worth mentioning that this book was published in the 20s, so some of what Russell has to say does not apply to now.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Simple Thought...
    I endeavored to buy this book AND C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity", simply to see what is talked about that is similar.My simple thought is this:as an atheist, I read Russell's book first, and mostly agreed on many of his points.I then read Mere Christianity, and after that, re-read "Why I am Not a Christian".It became clear to me that the things Lewis says emphasizes a much different point than most of Russell's book.Lewis's book delves deeply into why being Christian makes sense; Russell's book is relatively miniscule in discussing truly deep reasons why NOT being a Christian makes sense.My suggestion?Read "Why I am Not a Christian" online--if you like it and you want more essays to read, get this book.Otherwise, this book simply fails to concentrate on what the title implicates the book is going to be about. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0671203231
    Sales Rank: 6596
    Subjects:  1. Agnosticism    2. Free thought    3. History & Surveys - Modern    4. Philosophy    5. Religion    6. Religion / General   


    $10.50

    Niels Bohr's Times: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity
    by Abraham Pais
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 December, 1991)
    list price: $35.00
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    Reviews (7)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Elementary
    This man nos nuttiing bout scince i tink he shdntld rlease ne mre boks in da futr

    5-0 out of 5 stars Captivating!
    Captivating biography! One of the best. In a class by itself!
    Written before the popular Broadway play, "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn, Pais' book covers the Heisenberg-Bohr meeting in 1941[the real one],--- and there is a lot more! We are fortunate that Pais has given us this, and several other wonderful biographies;-- the one about Albert Einstein stands out! It is especially fortunate that he has chosen to write for the general public. I can't think of anyone who did, or possibly could have done it better. His writing is captivating, and unique in its recreation of the times, and the social context of the scientific events. Pais further succeeds magnificently in bringing to life the many colorful personalities. This includes the young physicists born in Europe around 1900 who arrived in Copenhagen in the 1920ties to work with Bohr, some later to win the Nobel Prize,-- how he became a father figure to some of them,- Heisenberg, for example. And there are the other players,

    Albert Einstein early on, and Pais himself later, in the drama of quantum physics of the Twentieth Century. Even if you might perhaps not be scientifically inclined, and if you choose to skip the physics sections, I don't think you will be disappointed.

    5-0 out of 5 stars QM a la Bohr
    Historical description of the development of nuclear and quantum physics, especially from the viewpoint of Bohr and colleagues, many who Pais worked with. Provides a non-technical description of many of the principles of modern physics. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0198520492
    Sales Rank: 509468
    Subjects:  1. 1885-1962    2. Biography / Autobiography    3. Bohr, Niels Henrik David,    4. General    5. History    6. Nuclear Physics    7. Science/Mathematics    8. Atomic & molecular physics    9. Biography: general    10. Bohr, Niels Henrik David    11. History of ideas, intellectual history    12. History of science    13. Philosophy of mathematics   


    Bridge of Birds : A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was
    by BARRY HUGHART
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (12 April, 1985)
    list price: $6.99 -- our price: $6.99
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    Editorial Review

    Bridge of Birds is a lyrical fantasy novel. Set in "an AncientChina that never was", it stands with The Princess Bride and The Last Unicorn as a fairytale for all ages, by turns incredibly funny and deeply touching. It won theWorld Fantasy Award in 1985, and Hughart produced two sequels: The Story of the Stone, andEight Skilled Gentlemen.All present the adventures of Master Kao Li, a scholar with "a slight flaw in[his] character", and Lu Yu, usually called Number Ten Ox, his sidekick and thestory's narrator. Number Ten Ox is strong, trusting, and pure of heart; MasterLi once sold an emperor shares in a mustard mine, because "I was trying to win abet concerning the intelligence of emperors."

    Number Ten Ox comes from a village in which the children have been struck by amysterious illness. He recruits Master Li to find the cure and comes along toprovide muscle. They seek a mysterious Great Root of Power, which may be a formof ginseng. Of course, nothing turns out to be as simple as it seems; greatwrongs must be avenged and lovers separated must be reunited, from the mosthumble to the highest. And even in the midst of cosmic glory, Pawnbroker Fangand Ma the Grub are picking the pockets of their own lynch mob, who are frozenin awe and wonder. --Nona Vero ... Read more

    Reviews (149)

    5-0 out of 5 stars You'd need the world's best microscope to find any flaws
    Purely wonderful Enchanting, whimsiical, entertaining. To be read over and over and over again.

    So, normally, if you've read any of my other reviews, you know this is the part where all that criticism comes, right? There's nothing wrong with it though. Everything is just so perfect. So unique. Never a book like it in history.

    It's based on the systems of China...the culture of China, but with a unique creative twist that doesn't leave you bored or uninterested.It reads quick...all the better to read it several more times in a row! You'd be hard pressed to find anything you didn't like about this book. The only way you wouldn't like it is...is...is...if you absolutely despise fiction and fantasy. People who read cookbooks for fun woulcn't like this novel...but then again, they might...

    This is not a book for young children. I'll repeat that. NOT FOR YOUNG KIDS, or anyone below the age of 11. As I said before, I'm hard pressed to find anything I don't like about this, and honestly, just trying to is an insult. And I'm not lying.

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the three best books I've ever read.
    I re-read Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds today. I had remembered it being good. I had not remembered it being one of the greatest fantasy novels I've ever read.

    I rarely laugh or cry when reading books. Most of them simply don't move me that strongly. As I re-read the book, I laughed aloud three times and I wept three times. Once, I laughed when the heroes flew in a bamboo dragonfly, and once, I wept during the tragic prayer for Ah Chen. The other four instances of laughter and tears I will leave as an exercise for the reader to find. It's cruel, I know, but then...I have a slight flaw in my character.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I've Ever Read
    What can I say about this wonderful book that others haven't already said? I laughed so loud while reading this that people on the bus edged away from me. I forced by spouse to listen while I read pages aloud. In places, I had to put the book down I was so overcome by tears. I read until 3:00 a.m. because the quest was so exciting I couldn't fall asleep until I knew what happened. I leant my first copy to a friend who never returned it. I bought another copy, and then leant it to another friend (who also never returned it). I then bought two more copies, one to keep and one to lend out. I've given it to people for gifts. In the last 15 years, I must have read this book 10 times. After we moved, I had a yearning to read about Master Li and Number Ten Ox again, and was heartbroken when, once again, I found I had leant my last copy. For my birthday, my husband just gave me a very nice hardback edition, with instructions to purchase 10 used paperback copies to "lend" out to friends. The best book I've ever read. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0345321383
    Subjects:  1. China    2. Fantasy    3. Fantasy - General    4. Fiction    5. Fiction - Fantasy    6. History    7. Science Fiction - General    8. Fiction / Fantasy / General   


    $6.99

    Orlando: A Biography
    by Virginia Woolf
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 May, 1993)
    list price: $13.00 -- our price: $10.40
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    Editorial Review

    In 1928, way before everyone else was talking about gender-bending and way, way before the terrific movie with Tilda Swinton, Virginia Woolf wrote her comic masterpiece, a fantastic, fanciful love letter disguised as a biography, to Vita Sackville-West. Orlando enters the book as an Elizabethan nobleman and leaves the book three centuries and one change of gender later as a liberated woman of the 1920s. Along the way this most rambunctious of Woolf's characters engages in sword fights, trades barbs with 18th century wits, has a baby, and drives a car. This is a deliriously written, breathless-making book and a classic both of lesbian literature and the Western canon. ... Read more

    Reviews (31)

    4-0 out of 5 stars There was something in the air
    This is a comic "biography" about Orlando, who starts off the book as a 16 year old boy in the Elizabethan era, and ends the books as a 36 year old woman in 1928.Oddly, Orlando's long lifespan doesn't seem to stike other characters in the book as unusual, although his/her sex change does come into question (although most people just matter of factly accept it).This is an interesting book that allows Virginia Woolf to make witty observations about English society and the differences between men and women.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Person
    This novel stabs at society's defining roles of the sexes in a way that is humorous, yet thought provoking as Woolf entertains her readers in this biography of herself. The author begins with her birth in the sixteenth century, and ends in the twentieth century. She starts as a young man and ends up a woman at the end of the novel, she most definitely makes appoint of showing how women have been oppressed throughout the centuries which is not something no one knows, but a good reminder. Throughout the novel, Orlando rarely changes in appearance with an eerie androgynous look as she/he sees monarch's come and go, and changes along with every forthcoming style. Orlando is a fantasy like novel that is gutsy and a creative mockery of Woolf, as she characterizes in depth the roles of the sexes with a wit and humor. I highly recommend this book along with the movie.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Orlando
    Orlando begins life as a titled and gifted young man in sixteenth century England, but later acquires a much larger perspective through a series of intense and improbable events that take him across barriers of culture, time, and gender.

    After enduring a supernaturally cold winter in England and an affair with a Russian Princess that ends badly, Orlando decamps for the Orient, where he becomes a woman.Nonplussed, Orlando decides that it is"better to be quit of martial ambition, the love of power, and all other manly desires if so one can more fully enjoy the most exalted raptures known to the human spirit, which are . . . contemplation, solitude, love."

    There follows much discussion of gender and gender confusion.Woolf tells us that:

    "The difference between the sexes is, happily, one of great profundity.Clothes are but a symbol of something hid deep beneath.It was a change in Orlando herself that dictated her choice of a woman's dress and of a woman's sex.And perhaps in this she was only expressing rather more openly than usual - openness indeed was the soul of her nature - something that happens to most people without being thus plainly expressed.For here again, we come to a dilemma.Different though the sexes are, they intermix.In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above."

    There are many other themes in this imaginary biography which spans centuries.One is comical examination of English society and culture:

    "Thus, stealthily, and imperceptibly, none marking the exact day or hour of the change, the constitution of England was altered and nobody knew it. ...The muffin was invented and the crumpet.Coffee supplanted the after-dinner port, and., as coffee led to a drawing-room in which to drink it, and a drawing-room to glass cases, and glass cases to artificial flowers, and artificial flowers to mantelpieces to pianofortes, and pianofortes to drawing-room ballads, and drawing-room ballads (skipping a stage or two) to innumerable little dogs, mats, and antimacassars, the home - which had become extremely important - was completely altered."

    This "biography" is also metafiction, and there are several humorous references to the act of writing.In fact, Orlando herself writes prolifically throughout the novel (carrying with her a poem, "The Oak Tree," that must constantly be revised as she changes).and encounters many literary figures, among them the revered Alexander Pope who makes a big impression: " ... `How noble his brow is,' she thought (mistaking a hump on a cushion for Mr. Pope's forehead in the darkness)."

    Sometimes I don't get Virginia Woolf, but I was very entertained by this novel. ... Read more

    Isbn: 015670160X
    Subjects:  1. England    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - General    4. General    5. Nobility    6. Sex role    7. Transsexuals   


    $10.40

    Night's Sorceries (Flat Earth Series)
    by TanithLee
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (07 April, 1987)
    list price: $3.50
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    Reviews (1)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Why yes. It is a followup.
    Brought on by the success of the previous 4 books from Tanith Lee's flat earth.

    There is no central plot. No cataclysmic schemes or happenings. And by that very absence we are free to see the central theme runningthrough all the flat earth books (including this one). The reason they aremarvels.

    It is Ms. Lee's own version of "Nevertheless". (In myopinion much better that the original).

    So we are pawn on the chessboardof the gods. So they pull us high or low by whim and happenstance. So what?Do you not hear the singing of the lark! It is so wonderful to be alive. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0886771943
    Sales Rank: 785342
    Subjects:  1. American Science Fiction And Fantasy    2. Fantastic fiction    3. Fantasy    4. Fiction / General   


    Othello
    by William Shakespeare
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 July, 1993)
    list price: $3.99
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    Reviews (57)

    4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent edition of one of Shakespeare's best tragedies.
    "Othello" is one of Shakespeare's most popular tragedies, and since most people, even those who have not read or seen the play before, probably already have a basic idea of the plot, I will keep my synopsis short. The military general Othello is a Moor, a black man, who has just married a Venetian woman, Desdemona. Theirs is a marriage of opposites in many respects - race, age, upbringing, etc. - and yet they have overcome all this and are happy with each other. But Iago, perhaps Shakespeare's most infamous villain, is determined to ruin Othello, who has promoted another man, Cassio, to the lieutenancy, a position Iago feels should have been given to himself. He therefore sets about poisoning Othello's mind against his chaste and loving wife, convincing the Moor that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with Cassio. The events that follow lay out one of the most masterful and heartbreaking examples of dramatic irony.

    While I am not usually one to go in for tragedies, I do thoroughly enjoy this particular play. The story is expertly woven, with each twist in the plot simultaneously wrenching the reader's / viewer's heart. We know exactly what is going on, even though the characters do not, and this is what makes "Othello" such a very tragic story. And yet, in the end we are left with a sense of resolution and justice, not merely empty sorrow, and perhaps this is what appeals to me about this play.

    Nevertheless, I do not think the play is perfect (though my 4-star rating here is in comparison with Shakespeare's other works, and not drama in general; against most other drama I would award it a 5-star rating). While I do think Iago is a brilliant character, I cannot help thinking that his hatred for Othello seems rather disproportionate to the wrongs he thinks have been done against him. He is upset over not being given the lieutenancy, but is this reason enough to bring about so many deaths? There is also the fact that Iago suspects his own wife, Emilia, has been unfaithful with the Moor, but Iago has no actual proof of this. However, this disproportionality is one I am willing to overlook for the sake of enjoyment of the play. What bothers me slightly more is that Othello, presumeably a very intelligent man, would allow a mere suspicion to grow into such an intense state of jealousy when he has no definite proof of his wife's infidelity. One would think he would do some investigation for himself, rather than being content to have Iago feed him all the "facts."

    I now wish to comment on the particular edition of this play that I read - the 1993 "New Folger Library" printing, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. I have read several of of the Folger versions of Shakespeare's plays, and have found them unbeatable as far as making Shakespeare's works accessible to the layman. The book is laid out with the text of the play appearing on the right-hand page of each two-page spread, while the left-hand page contains textual notes that are of tremendous help in understanding the play. Words and phrases that have become obsolete since Shakespeare's day are defined clearly, and any allusions that would not be obvious to a modern reader are also explained. The fact that one can access these notes without having to flip back and forth through the pages makes it much easier to maintain one's place and train of thought.

    Another thing I like about this particular edition is that it contains the entire play. Two versions of "Othello" were published in Shakespere's day - a Quarto, which was a small and slightly condensed version, appeared in 1622, and the longer Folio version was published in 1623. Each version is slightly different, containing bits and pieces not present in the other. This printing of the play contains the entirety of both versions combined into one, with brackets around those words that appear in only one or the other of the original printings.

    In addition to the play itself, this book contains an excellent introduction, with information about the play, the language of the time, drama in general, Shakespeare himself, theater in Shakespeare's day, a bit about his other works, and some editorial notes on this particular edition of "Othello." Thus, even the rankest newcomer to Shakespeare will not be at a loss here, though the book is equally suitable for those already familiar with Shakespeare and his works. At the end of the book is a brief but interesting and well-written essay entitled "Othello: A Modern Perspective" by Susan Snyder which offers further analysis of the play. I highly recommend the Folger editions of any of Shakespeare's plays to all readers. They are wonderful for use in the classroom, and also make it much easier to delve into Shakespeare on one's own.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A fine edition with many helps for the reader
    This edition is from the 3rd Arden Series and may have a more modern feel to readers than the previous series did.For example, modern scholars believe that Shakespeare's plays were performed without break between scene and act so this edition does away with the ACT I Scene 2 headings and instead merely inserts 1.2 in the text where the change occurs.

    There is a fine introductory essay that gives important cultural information to help the reader understand the moral climate in Venice in Shakespeare's time and the context of the play in the author's career and times.

    This edition has the many good notes one expects from Arden editions.The longer notes are moved to the back to avoid too great an interruption to the readability of the text.There is also music for the two songs in the play and an index.

    A fine edition that I am glad to own and refer to.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Othello is O good read O! Makes me think of Jell-o! Really.
    While I was reading Othello with my tubby custard in one hand and the book held at a 90 degree angel in the other I thought, I'm reading a play and eating a custard from and outlawed children's show how bizare. However, life is filled with such suprises. Kind of like the suprises in the Bard's play Othello.Othello is a man who should have had it all.He had friends, a loving wife, and an army at his command.The play follows Othello through a conspiracy of his villanous friend, Iago, not the parrot from Aladin, but Shakespeare's greatest villan.Iago was disgrunteled by the fact that he was passed up on a raise and there fore plots everyone's downfall. Making this a great read for the guy at the bottom of totum pole who is doing fries and wants to move up to salads. Iago in the openion of this reader is the true comic genius.He plays Othello and others like they have the mental capacity of tree stumps.He convinces Othello that Desdemona, his wife, is having an afair. Iago narrates most of the play and you here a lot of what he is thinking and planing to do.Which brings me to jello nobody cares what Bill Cosby is thinking or that he is still trying to salvage a carrier. This play is by far one of the best of Shakespeares in terms of great characters, surprises, and monologes. The readers are beautifully captivated by the play with the genius use of dramatic irony.Nobody knows what will happen and at anytime a surprise is waiting to happen. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0671722816
    Sales Rank: 299793
    Subjects:  1. Classics    2. Literature: Classics    3. Plays / Drama    4. Shakespeare    5. Fiction / Classics   


    A Tale of Two Cities
    by Charles Dickens
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Mass Market Paperback (01 May, 1997)
    list price: $4.95 -- our price: $4.95
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    Reviews (345)

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites ever!!
    I love this book, I have read it at least five times, but I have to accept that I read it in spanish, but I don't care I still think that it is great.
    The lead character is so complex and at the same time so obscure that when I read first I did not know that he was the leading man but I loved him anyway, he is the ultimate antiheroe.

    5-0 out of 5 stars 56 year old Joan of Arc fanticraves for Tale of Two Cities
    "It was the best of times.It was the worst of times."
    It was the worst of times because of the rampart evil in France.
    It was the best of times because it allowed the human spirit to overcome the oppression of a valley of tears and achieve self-sacrificing virtue to a heroic degree. Mr. Lorry goes to Paris at great risk to himself because he is loyal to his firm. Lucie is loyal to Charles Darnay.Charles renounces his great wealth because it is right to do so, and returns to Paris to try to save his old servant. Dr.Manette goes into the chaotic mobsof Paris streets to try to save Charles.But most of all,Sydney Carton, the depressed drunk from who we expect nothing,is the greatest hero of all.

    This book is about good and evil, and the human spirit's conquest of its own weakness. Sydney Carton's situation is that of every man. "I know this now.Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Some people believe in little or nothing, yet they give their lives to that little or nothing."--Joan of Arc.

    We give our lives to what we believe by the way we live it.It is not optional.We must give our lives to something.Sydney Carton redeemed himself by his sacrifice for a noble end.







    5-0 out of 5 stars wow!
    I read A Tale of Two Cities for school recently, and I have yet to regret it. This beautiful tale is writtin in a language that causes you to think and figure things out. As soon as you figure out how to understand it, it paints both a beautiful and terrible picture of the time of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities has everything that makes a good book: love, sacrifice, sadness, anger, revenge,suspense(sp?),and a great ending. I definitly intend on reading more books by Dickens. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0451526562
    Sales Rank: 1144
    Subjects:  1. 1789-1799, Revolution    2. Classics    3. Fiction    4. France    5. History    6. Literature - Classics / Criticism    7. Literature: Classics    8. Revolution, 1789-1799   


    $4.95

    The Handmaid's Tale : A Novel
    by Margaret Atwood
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (16 March, 1998)
    list price: $13.95 -- our price: $11.16
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    Reviews (428)

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Timely Reminder
    This book makes me grateful to be living here and now. It also makes me concerned about what could happen even in the United States under the right circumstances. Most people wouldn't worry about the United States actually turning into Gilead (where national security concerns prompoted religion to control the government and restrictions on education and information), but I do realize that it takes work to maintain the current level of freedom.

    My only issue with this novel is that the story ended unresolved. Perhaps that wouldn't bother you, but I wish I hadn't been left hanging.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A "1984" for America in the new millenium
    I wish this book could be dropped, like leaflets during wartime, on all of the 'red' states. I watched the excellent movie adaptation of this book a few years ago and finished reading the book for the first time this morning.
    All I can say is WOW! What's more amazing, and scary, is that this book was published 20 years ago! When Offred relates in a passage of how the President and half of Congress were killed and it was blamed on Islamic terrorists, my blood literally ran ice-cold.
    Many reviewers have cited similarities to the actions of the current Bush administration. My bigger fear is what will come next? With most of the media acting like lapdogs of the multi-national corporations that sign their paychecks, while they perform any trick that Karl Rove and company orders, the citizenry is being lulled into an increasingly deep complacency.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Religion and politics gone awry
    Offred, a sexual slave, writes a memoir of her experiences in the repressive male dominated future of the United States.The US experiences a serious drop in reproductive levels due to environmental degradation, birth control, abortion, etc...As a result, a religious militant cult forces these women to be breeding vehicles and restore reproductive levels to it's former levels.

    What's most interesting is the perverse use of religion to justify its cruelty toward women and ironically many of the enforcers of this nightmare are also women.It's an easily read book and a dire warning to fight the current illogicality in religion in today's age ... Read more

    Isbn: 038549081X
    Sales Rank: 1249
    Subjects:  1. Atwood, Margaret - Prose & Criticism    2. Fantasy fiction    3. Fiction    4. Fiction - General    5. Literary    6. Man-woman relationships    7. Misogyny    8. Women    9. Fiction / General    10. Reading Group Guide   


    $11.16

    Cartoon History of the United States
    by Larry Gonick
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (14 August, 1991)
    list price: $17.95 -- our price: $12.21
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    Reviews (17)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Where has the U.S gone?
    I have not read The Cartoon History of the United States.What I am writing about is my reaction to one of the reviews. "I know of two little girls (ages 8 and 9) who are reading through these in their spare time FOR FUN!".This took me by surprise. It sounds like somebody reading a book for fun was an urban legend.Born and living abroad, I always thought that the U.S shown in movies was fake.I now realize you really don't read anything, watch more T.V. than spend time outside, and think South Americans live in trees.One reviewer of this book wrote that he felt a little bit dirty after finishing it.That is how you should feel if your children don't read.And don't get me wrong, I was for the Iraq war and strong American foreign policy.I just hope our (for I am an American) future leaders can read more than just a cartoon history for fun and feel proud. Just one more thing.I think that every well meaning, Democratic American should read Emerson's Self Reliance.It might teach you something.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not a history
    Perhaps it is just too ambitious to squeeze 400 years of U.S. history into 380 pages of cartoons.

    Although I found Larry Gonick's "Cartoon Guide to Physics" both educational and entertaining, I was more than just a bit disappointed in this book.(Of course, I knew so little of physics that I'm not really sure how accurate he was.I do know a bit more about history, particularly U.S. history, and I am convinced he is both inaccurate and biased.)

    Gonick refers to himself as a historian in several places in the text, but shows many lapses in good, historical thinking.For one thing, he suffers from present-mindedness and parochialism of view.Good historians try to understand the thinking of whatever time and place they are writing.

    I'm a comics fan, and I know that the medium has to be tightly scripted.Pictures really do need to convey a thousand words, and text can be nowhere near that length.The creator chooses carefully what goes in and what gets left out.The point I'm trying to make is that while I was disappointed in what material was "in" the book, and particularly what was "left out," I realize that this work was a difficult task and there's no way any creator could please everybody.

    That said, there are still major shortcomings in this book as history, even as infotainment.

    Gonick makes no attempt to hide his biases, but bias is hardly commendable.While members of all political parties (including those historical parties that no longer exist) are ridiculed and caricatured (not all undeservedly), it is apparent that one modern political party is especially lambasted.Southerners, which are caricatured as a group--no individuals here--are made to look especially bad.

    The author grew up in the 1960s and still lives there.Every excess of that era is glamorized.Communism and socialism (throughout the scope of U.S. history) are glamorized.And just like the nightly news, the negative is given prominence over the positive.Multiculturalism is good; e pluribus unum, bad.

    Far from giving the reader a feeling of pride in his country, one finishes the book feeling a bit dirty.Of course, I wouldn't consider a book a good history just because it was filled with jingoistic patriotism and portrayed the U.S. as a utopian society where everyone lived happily ever after.Such a book would lack balance.This book lacks balance.

    I recommend that this book not be used in schools as children and teenagers lack the faculties to see its bias as most adults may do.

    1-0 out of 5 stars far below his standards.
    Mr Gonick set the bar very high with his 'Cartoon History of the Universe'.This book is terrible by comparison. The art work is primitive at best, and his biased perception of American history borders on the comical. Unfortunately, that is the funniest part of the book. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0062730983
    Sales Rank: 31505
    Subjects:  1. Cartoons and caricatures    2. Comic books, strips, etc    3. Comics & Cartoons    4. General    5. History    6. History - General History    7. History: American    8. Humor (Young Adult)    9. United States    10. United States - General    11. Study Aids / General   


    $12.21

    STORY OF CIVILIZATION, VOL IV: AGE OF FAITH : VOLUME IV (Story of Civilization)
    by Will Durant
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (25 December, 1980)
    list price: $40.00
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    Reviews (7)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Labor of Something.....
    Phew....this work (the whole 10 volumes) is simply exhausting, but one feels such a sense of accomplishment after reading a book like this. As I read this book and thought about its scope, I just had to wonder about the preparation, sourcing, editing and long hours (years, actually) that Mr. Durant must have spent to put it together. The breadth of it is amazing. Most of us have one or two specific areas of interest when going into a book like this. It could be politics, cultural, social, religious, etc. What is amazing is that Durant is able to not only show that he has mastered each of these areas, but that he can write in such a way that, at the end, we seem to all have been so glad to have read it (judging by the other reviews). It is completely unreasonable that the reader will remember 10% or more of what's in this book. But he will remember having read something about something and know where to go and get the information. It at once helps us understand the religious conflicts from the past and---unbeknownst to him---how they still affect the world 50 years after he wrote the book. Then you learn about the origins of some music and instruments, poetry, literature, universities, architecture, law, government, conquests. It will make travel that much more interesting for me when I return to some of these sites in Europe or visit others for the first time. Taking a breather before I approach "The Renaissance", hopefully before my next trip to Italy.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed
    This is a fabulous example scholarly work. Durant's detail does not bog the reader into a quagmire of facts and figures. It puts the reader into the homes, the churches and the palaces of this time period. Durant is very subtle with his humor, acknowledging at one point an Arab cure for insomnia was no doubt the reading of history books. A previous review stating the difficulty of writing about architecture was very accurate. I found the best companion to reading Durant is the Internet. Pulling up designs for the pointed arch or flying buttress is priceless in understanding the discussion. I also decided with page one of 'Our Oriental Heritage' to note concepts, words, quotes, etc of interest. After the first four volumes I'm now up to 40 pages. Incredibly fascinating.

    5-0 out of 5 stars You are reading the best!
    I'm not kidding, it took me almost a year read this book.It is at once, both intriguing and, how can I put this gently, boring.Before you zap me with a negative rating, let me explain.What Durant is attempting to do in writing the story of civilization is incredible.I just do not know of anyone who has come close to accomplishing what Durant (and his wife, Ariel) have done.But when one attempts to cover just a vast subject, it is difficult to communicate with clarity the sub-total of human achievement.

    For instance, his discussion of the rise of Islam was both interesting and difficult to read.Intriguing because we see that the conflict between Islam and the Christian west has antecedents that go back over a thousand years.I discovered that it was nip and tuck whether or not the West was going to be able to defend Europe from Moslem conquest.The current tension between radical Islam and the West is only the latest chapter in a long and bloody struggle; but our inability to grasp Arabic names, geography and history, makes this reading difficult.Another area of difficulty was his discussion on medieval architecture.Just how does one communicate form in words that does the form justice?Durant gets and A for effort, but, once again, I had to plow my way through sections like these.

    Is it worth the read?You bet.What we see here is the drama of human achievement.From the death and destruction that followed the fall of the Imperial Rome to the civilizing of a continent, Durant shows us the triumph of the human spirit.Durant also shows us the legacy of Roman law, language and civilization on the West.Rather than being a sharp demarcation between ancient Rome and the middle ages, we see the survival of Roman culture, law and institutions as they were morphed by medieval culture.Oh, by the way, the prose is magnificant.I found myself underlying sentence after sentence and reading them to my wife,friends or anybody else who would listen.

    So after almost a year and 1100 pages, I finally completed the book. Lets see, volume five is next, The Renaissance.Another 700 pages.Um. I think I'll take a break and read some light fiction first. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0671012002
    Sales Rank: 93847
    Subjects:  1. Civilization    2. Civilization, Islamic    3. Civilization, Medieval    4. History    5. History - General History    6. History: World    7. Jews    8. Medieval    9. World    10. World - General    11. History / General   


    Thomas the Rhymer: A Romance
    by Ellen Kushner
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 November, 1991)
    list price: $3.99
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    Reviews (16)

    2-0 out of 5 stars a wonderfully written bore
    it is no problem to admit that i heartily envy ms kushner writing skill: she is a wondrous writer, she handles her language with a subtlety unheard of and still she manages to avoid any overwriting, any mannerism.

    the story itself, though, is not great: some reviewers say it is true to the legend: should it be really so, then the problem might lie in the original plot.

    be it as it may, characterization is dull, except for the elderly couple, and elfland is lushiously boring, the queen being the worst of all.

    the verses included are enjoyable.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent fantasy story
    In this fascinating book, acclaimed author Ellen Kushner takes the old legends of Thomas of Erceldoune (a.k.a. True Thomas the seer and Thomas the Rhymer), and retells them in a fascinating, thoroughly modern style. This is the tale of a bard of no small talent who find himself the object of the Queen of Elfland's desire. Whisked off to the land of Fairy for seven years, he must unravel a mysterious riddle and save an immortal soul. And when he returns to the land of the living, will he be the same man he was, can he be?

    This is a fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyable story. The author does an excellent job of keeping the flavor and substance of the old stories, while at the same time updating them and making them a treat for the modern reader. Indeed, I was often struck by how much the story rang true to the old folktales I have studied throughout my life. So, if you are a fan of stories of Fairy and the Lords and Ladies, or simply enjoy a good (excellent) fantasy story, then I highly recommend this book to you. You won't be disappointed!

    3-0 out of 5 stars Not the usual fantasy fare
    This is not a book to read if you're seeking a stirring adventure.Thomas does go on a long, strange trip, but the focus is as much on how his life impacts the people important to him as it is on his experiences in Elfland.Kushner's decision to write only Thomas's Elfland experiences in his own voice, then, is a clever one.Also, seeing Thomas before and after his journey through the eyes of others reveals the extent of the change in him more thoroughly than if we remained in his head.

    Kushner does an excellent job of giving each of the four narrators a distinct perspective, a difficult thing to do.And because they see different things in each other and percieve their relationships with one another differently, there's the opportunity to ponder how it is we get along in the world when we all have disparate visions of reality.This is a marvelously subtle way to question whether True Thomas can ever wholly tell the truth.Is the truth absolute, or is it changeable depending on individual understanding?This question lingers long after the book is shut.

    So why did I give Thomas the Rhymer only three stars?Well, for all the lovely writing and thoughtful structure, it left me cold.For one, the Faery Queen who is the heart of all this trouble and change seemed to me little more than a blowup doll.She laid a couple of spells on Thomas, but mostly all they did was copulate, and I needed either for her to be more interesting or to feel more of why Thomas was infatuated with her.(Because of the distance I felt from her, also, the ending of the book was less moving for me than it should have been.)Apart from that, I felt Kushner passed over a great opportunity to explore what the effects of Thomas's truth-saying might be.There was some of that, certainly, in the final section of the book, but much was made of the gift of truth-telling in Faery (and whether it was a gift at all), and then very little was done with it.

    Reading this book is a gamble.It has its virtues, and if you think you'll enjoy piecing together a larger meaning based on the fragments of story and varying points of view, you'll probably enjoy it well enough.However, if you want a story that swallows you whole and spits you out at the end with no respite to sit back and intellectualize, this may not be for you. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0812514459
    Sales Rank: 1005228
    Subjects:  1. 1057-1603    2. 1220?-1297?,    3. Fantasy    4. Fiction    5. History    6. Scotland    7. Thomas,    8. in fiction, drama, poetry, etc    9. the Rhymer    10. the Rhymer,   


    The Scarlet Letter (Penguin Classics)
    by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nina Baym, Thomas Edmund Connolly
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 2003)
    list price: $6.00 -- our price: $6.00
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    Reviews (345)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Be true!
    This book is rightly a classic.

    Its in depth portraits of a courageous woman, who defies public morality, and of her opponent-lover the despicable Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are timeless.

    This book is also a frontal attack on the Pharisaism of Puritanism (and other religions?), symbolized by the Reverend, who 'clear as the mid-day sunshine on the scarlet letter, establish himself a false and sin-stained creature of the dust.'
    The comment on his death 'After exhausting life in his efforts for mankind's spiritual good' is the same as 'Do what I say, don't do what I do'.

    The Pharisaism sounds also clearly in the following sentence (shortened): 'Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne, the demon of offspring became the richest heiress of her day. Not improbably, this circumstance wrought a very material change in the public estimation and at marriageable period of life, might have mingled her wild blood with the lineage of the devoutest Puritan among them all.'

    In sharp contrast with Puritanism, the ultimate message of the author is crystal clear: 'Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred.'

    A magisterial human novel.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Scarlet Letter is great!
    THE SCARLET LETTER IS A GREAT BOOK. IT'S ALSO NONFICTION. IT EXPLAINS SIN WAY BACK IN THE PAST. THIS WOMAN, HESTER HAD AN AFFAIR AND GOT PREGNANT WHILE HER HUSBAND WAS AWAY. SHE WAS LOCKED AND LATER RELEASED TO ANSWER THE QUESTION EVERYBODY WANTED TO KNOW, wHO WAS THE FATHER OF THE CHILD? SHE WAS LOCKED UP AGAIN BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T TELL. HER HUSBAND RETURNED AND TOLD HER NOT TO TELL ANYONE HE WAS HER HUSBAND. HE WANTED REVENGE ON THE CHILD,PEARL, FATHER. LATER ON, EVERYONE FOUND OUT IT WAS THE REVEREND. THE ONE EVERYBODY ADORED AND LOVED. THIS BOOK WAS HARD FOR ME TO PUT DOWN. I EVEN READ IT MORE THAN ONE TIME. I'M NOT SURE ABOUT THE AUTHOR'S LAST NAME BUT HIS FIRST WAS NATHANIEL. HE PROBABLY HAS LOTS OF GOOD BOOKS PUBLISHED AND I THINK I'LL BE READING SOME MORE OF HIS WORK. THE BOOK IS NO LONGER THAN 400 PAGES. THATS LONG BUT IT'S WORTH IT ALSO. READ THE BOOK. I THINK EVERY BOOKSTORE HAS HIS BOOKS AVAILABLE.

    4-0 out of 5 stars It makes the reader think
    The book is set in Boston, Massachusetts, during colonial times.Hester Prynne, who is believed to be a widow (it's thought her husband died at sea on his way to Boston), gives birth to a little girl she names Pearl.Hester is convicted of adultery, and her punishment is to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest for the rest of her life.Since Hester refuses to name the father of the child, and he doesn't come forward on his own, he goes unpunished, while Hester and Pearl become outcast in the town.Roger Chillingworth is a doctor who is a newcomer to the town.He is actually Hester's husband, but no one knows that other than Hester.Chillingworth swears he will find out who Pearl's father is and get revenge.Meanwhile, the Reverend Dimmesdale, who is Pearl's father, is consumed with guilt about his sin and about the fact that he allowed Hester (and Pearl) to take all the punishment for it.

    I first read this book 20 years ago in high school and recently re-read it.I enjoyed it much more this time around.This is a very difficult book for a young adult to read.The pace is very slow, the vocabulary words are rather advanced, and the author is very wordy--he takes half a page to say something that could be said in one sentence.Those reasons are why I only gave the book 4 stars, instead of 5 :)Still, it's important to remember that the book was written over 150 years ago.

    Even with all those 'problems' the story itself is wonderful.It's a story of sin and the price that people pay for them, as well as the price that others are forced to pay for those sins.It's a story of guilt and the effect it has on you.It involves difficult decisions--do you admit your guilt and accept the punishment or do you hide it in an effort to still be in a position to do some good in the community?And do you forgive someone who hid his guilt while you accepted complete punishment?

    It is a book that makes the reader think about some very hard issues.And that's always a good thing.


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    Isbn: 0142437263
    Sales Rank: 312289
    Subjects:  1. Classics    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - General    4. General    5. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864    6. Literary    7. Literature: Classics    8. 19th century fiction    9. Classic fiction   


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