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Reads like a dictionary: informative, but flavorless and without nuance
on 4 June 2011
This book took me back to 7-10th grade, a period during which I developed an intense dislike of history. In books like this, facts were dished up without much context, there was no narrative (stories, personalities, evolution of war, architecture, etc.), and the prose while clear was as interesting as lead. It was not until I got to college that I realized more sophisticated histories could make the subject really live.
I suppose I should have expected this from so basic an introduction. It covers thousands of years in a few paragraphs. Indeed, each page is formulaic with a single subject (e.g. Houses of the Gods) and two inserts to break up two or three paragraphs of crude description. That makes for an exceptionally dull and elementary read, really about the 9th grade level.
You get a description of the grand outlines. There were 3 kingdoms in Ancient Egypt, with 2 in-between periods during which authority broke down due to the centrifugal forces of strong local governors. Art was not aesthetic, but an expression of religious belief and ritual, incorporated into every object. Their mythology was similar to that of the Greeks, some would say they influenced each other; the sky was seen as water because it was blue. In addition to maintaining security, Pharoahs acted as priests to maintain balance in the universe; mummified, they went to the next life as rich men. The language was "related" to Arabic and Hebrew, though further explanation is frustratingly omitted. Much of the space in the book is taken up by listings of names of people and places, which are meaningless.
While the basics are there, as a reading experience this is worse than dull. It can kill the reader's interest in a subject. Not recommended, except as a dictionary. While I have not yet found a good history of Egypt, there must be better ones out there somewhere.