This week I’m reading …

My TBR book pile keeps on growing. Frankly, I don’t know when or if it will ever be reduced to a manageable stack. Sigh … it’s so hard to read several books at the same time. Anyway, right now, I am just so delighted that I’ve finally got my hands on the following after salivating over them for so long … in other words, after they languished in my wishlist for years, ha, ha …

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History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer

Teaching history to my kids has piqued my interest in knowing exactly what happened where and when. Textbooks share the same basic information: Sumer, Akkad, the Hittites, etc … rose in power then declined. But the human element remained missing despite such phrases such as so and so “conquered the city.” And I was always left bitin, wondering “How?” and “Why?”

Below: according to Bauer, Hoshea’s envoys most probably appealed to the “Delta king named Osorkon IV” prior to Shalmaneser V’s siege of Samaria.

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Not anymore. Bauer fleshes out the arc of history with her captivating narrative and by including maps, footnotes, diagrams, and “vivid attention to individual lives” in her page-turner of a book. In a sense, it’s just like Genevieve Foster’s books that present history horizontally to show how personalities from diverse lands intersected at certain points in history. Yet it’s so much more. To see what I mean, please look at the pages I have attached (no copyright violation intended, this is a review!)

Below, a map using the old names and a side-by-side king list to help one track the various leaders of the different nations that arose during ancient times

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Okay, I’ve yet to read all those history tomes put out by Oxford University Press (though I am sorely tempted to buy them all!) so I’ve no academic publication to compare Bauer’s book to … still, I feel like I’ve not wasted the money spent on it. Especially when you get a historian’s dry wit when Bauer opines about the transition from cuneiform to papyrus: “Thus, five thousand years ago, we have not only the first writing, but also the first technological advance to come back and bite mankind.

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Example of a footnote

They’re all here: the idiosyncratic twists and turns of humanity the consequences of which altered the course of history for better or for worse.

Verdict: Buy to have your own copy! *****

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – and How It Died by Philips Jenkins

I already own three books on the history of Christianity. But. They’re all geared towards the Western world. Thus, when I was introduced to Philip Jenkins work via a Christianity Today piece nine years ago (CT’s archives were still in the public domain then, now it’s open only to subscribers), I could not resist adding his book to my wishlist. And. What an enlightening read it has been. I believe that Christians of all denominations should read it if only to be warned that geography does not inoculate a people’s faith from being obliterated by force. As Jenkins himself says in one of the pages I have pasted below, “Our common mental maps of Christian history omit a thousands years of that story, and several million square miles of territory.

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Below are a few pages to show just how the churches of the East were active throughout much of the medieval period and how their history continues to be buried beneath a West-centric construct of ecclesiastic history by Western historians.

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Who was Timothy? Well, according to Jenkins, he was an overseer of 85 bishops and 19 metropolitans of the Church of the East during Charlemagne’s lifetime. By then, the church had spread to Arabia and Central Asia (see map below). As an aside, the ruins of a Nestorian church was excavated at Sir Bani Yas Island near our desert town.

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Frankly, the Palm Sunday explosion at two of Egypt’s Coptic churches drove me to consult Jenkins’ book. And since then, I’ve learned that the Copts’ current minority status was due to the centuries-long persecution of their kind. For being so informative, Jenkins is to be praised. However, as an Amazon reviewer said, he jumps around so much and – for me, at least – in the latter part analyzes too much. Well, all historians do it, I guess. Offer their opinion or interpretation of events.

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Verdict: Buy to have your own copy if you can’t borrow. ****

Hmm … it just occured to me that these two books deal with history. Does this mean I like history? Well, I’ve lately been having trouble getting into fiction. I mean – I have yet to dive into the Alexander McCall Smiths that have been sitting on my shelf for months. Like, fiction is so easy for me to put down. Like … they’re not real enough for me. But these two books stole big chunks of my homeschooling time. Maybe the past holds so much fascination because they actually happened whereas fiction resembles a fairy tale that could never happen in a thousand lifetimes? I. Seriously. Don’t know. 🙂

 

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