Friday, November 18, 2011

"The Story of Mankind" by Hendrik Willem van Loon

When I decided to read Newbery books, I wasn't ready for my first pick to come from the non-fiction section.  What, that can't be written for children, and it can't be fun to read!  I was never friends with a history book in all my life.  It's not a short children's story, either, with no less than 592 pages.  But the subtitle "The classic history of all ages, for all ages" made me tell myself I wouldn't like it but it wouldn't kill me.  And guess what.  It's a quick, easy read.  I didn't think covering the ancient history of civilization could be written pleasantly, but I was wrong.  Now, I won't go out there and say this is a book any child will enjoy reading.  It's still mature, and if you had no prior knowledge about some of these histories and civilizations it might be daunting. But I'm on page 44 about to learn about the Indo-Europeans.  I like van Loon's style and the quick-pace the book keeps with brief chapters.  And there are several fun, old-school-styled maps and illustrations.  There you have it...the first tastes of the book are favorable and I've already found myself wanting to stop whatever home activity I'm in the middle of and pick up my history book.

Updated 12/7/11:  I finished last night around 12:30.  I took like a three-hour bath to try to get it done!  The intereting aspect of this book is it evolves.  The first edition printed in 1922, but since then the author's grandson(s) have written addendums to make-up for the fact that history is always happening.  The last addendum was added in the mid-80's, when oil and computers and space exploration weighed heavy on the author's mind.  Some of his future preditions where spot-on, others made me laugh.  But considering the latest update was added when I was a small child, I would really hope they keep this process up.  I want to see someone else add to the perspectives of the Gulf War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, the Internet.  At least, those are the huge world-wide milestones in the simplest terms I can come up with from my 30 years of memories.  So, there thou hast it.  I finished a 600 page history book.  I'm pretty darned pleased with myself.

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