Decoding The Lost Symbol, by Simon Cox (Softcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
A great book!
I say that not as a Dan Brown fan.
Dan Brown totally turned me off with his book DaVinci
Code, because in the introduction he promised the "facts" were true, but
that wasn't the case. Brown also said he did extensive research,
but it was obvious he relied mostly on one source that wasn't very good.
As a reader, I felt betrayed. For this reason, I don't read Dan Brown books.
So why did I read a book that is about a Dan Brown
book? Simon Cox has a reputation as an expert researcher, and I thought
this work might be an interesting read. It was. And it's a worthy, engaging read even
if you can't stand Dan Brown (I can't).
Two things struck me about this book right away:
- It was fast-tracked for publication.
- It's excellent.
Usually, these two characteristics are mutually exclusive. Somehow,
Simon Cox managed to do both in one book. Perhaps he's related to Kimberly Cox, another
person of outstanding merit and ability. I looked in the Acknowledgements, and
didn't see the name....
This book stands on its own as a valuable collection of historical
facts. Something struck me about this book upon completion: I didn't
find errors of fact (there were a few typos). That is highly
unusual. I normally find something wrong and often find a
substantial list of factual errors in the various books I read and
Of course, it helps that this work goes well beyond my
knowledge level on these topics, so I'm not in a position to spot some errors
that it might contain. But still, I usually catch something. And in this case, nada. As I read
dozens of books each year and have found only a few that have ever
pulled that off, Cox joins an elite club.
If you like arcane history, this book is a treasure chest. As stated
in its introduction, the book is structured in an A to Z format. That
doesn't mean there are 26 chapters. It just means that topics starting
with a given letter are covered, and those topics are in alphabetical
order. Six topics start with the letter A, and none start with X or Y.
Cox, it turns out, has written four other A to Z works. He seems to have
a flair for this format.
The introduction is 15 pages long. The body of the work is 221 pages
long. Normally when I read a book that I like, my reading speed goes up
and I later refer to it as a fast read. This book isn't a fast read,
though the writing style is crisp and conversational. It's the kind of
book that I like to linger over. I like to flip back and forth in to correlate
one set of facts with another. Though it's an easy read, it's more the
kind of book you'd want to study.
It makes an excellent addition to anyone's library. If you have
regular lunch or dinner companions, consider asking them to buy a copy
so you have some lesser-known history to bat about (assuming you like
For example, why is the Washington Monument 555 feet tall instead of
the originally planned 600 feet and why is it located in its present
location rather than the originally intended one? What was its role in
the War Between The States (often misnamed the "the Civil War" though it
does not meet the definition of same), and why? And what the heck is a
circumpunct? Who was Crowley and why does he matter?
I'm not sure which of the chapters I liked best. But on the short
list would be the five-page chapter about Sir Isaac Newton. I've read a
fair amount on Newton over the years, yet found most of Cox's
information new. So it was with many topics he covered.
This same book could be reprinted into a hardbound, glossy edition
selling for four times as much. As a paperback, it's a real bargain.