Friday, November 16, 2012

A Little History of the World

A Little History of the World
by E. H. Gombrich
translated by Caroline Mustill
Yale University Press (2008)
304 pages
ISBN:  030014332X
All Ages

When I want to learn something about a non-fiction field I have no knowledge of, I turn to juvenile books, as they tend to give me the information I want in an entertaining way.  Like E. H. Gomrich's A Little History of the World.  Gomrich wrote the book in 1935 when he was 26, and it was first published in Vienna.  But another seventy years would pass before this brilliant little book was translated into English, a task Gromrich undertook with his assistant Caroline Musthill, who completed the undertaking after Gomrich's death in 2001.  It quickly became a bestseller; the paperback and an illustrated version followed.

Through vivid imagery, engaging storytelling, and humor, Gromrich brings to life the history of our world from the Stone Age to the Atomic Age.  He uses mirrors to demonstrate the vastness of history:  "Have you ever tried standing between two mirrors?  You will see a great long line of shiny mirrors, each one smaller that the one before, stretching away into the distance, getting fainter and fainter, so that you never see the last.  But even when you can't see them any more, the mirrors still go on.  They are there, and you know it."  And so it is with grandparents.  Who had grandparents.  Who had grandparents.  And so on.  And you can never reach the beginning, because there's always another set of grandparents.

Among the topics Gomrich explores are the inventions by cavemen, in particular speech; life in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece; the Phoenicians' sound-based alphabet ,which we still use today; the growth of religion, beginning with Judaism, the first faith to worship one and only one God; the Middle Ages, which were not all dark but rather "like a starry night...showing them the way" and the Age of Chivalry; the discovery of the New World made possible by the invention of the compass; the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution; slavery in America and the secession of the southern states; and European Imperialism and the subsequent World Wars.  Gomrich spotlights some of history's most fascinating figures including Confucius, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Jesus Christ, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and Columbus.  Believe me, you'll be glad you picked up this book, and in the reading you'll learn some history you never knew you wanted to know.

To purchase from Amazon, click on links:

A Little History of the World
A Little History of the World: Illustrated Edition
The Band
Greatest Hits(The Band)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christmas Carols Pick Up Where Political Ads Leave Off

"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."--Willie Nelson

I heard last night on t.v. that 1,000,000 political ads aired this political season.  I know it.  Here in Ohio I saw every one of them.  The ads weren't just polluting the television airwaves; they were contaminating the radio airwaves, as well.  Finally, today, knowing I wouldn't have to put up with any more political ads, I turned on my favorite classic rock station, only to hear Brenda Lee singing "Jingle Bell Rock," followed immediately by Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby."  Oh no, they've started Christmas caroling already!  I can't bear it.  How can Christmas be as toxic as politics?  And how did Thanksgiving get crushed between Election Day and Christmas?  The only way to counter all the noise is to count your blessings, like Willie, and remember, in thought and deed, those less fortunate.  Here's a video of that traditional Thanksgiving hymn, "We Gather Together."