Book Review of The Classics
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Book Review of: The Classics

All you need to know, from Zeus's Throne to the Fall of Rome

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Review of The Classics, by Author (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.


Whether you have a PhD in history with a focus on ancient Rome and Greece or you don't know the first thing about them, you will enjoy this work from Caroline Taggert. In "The Classics," Taggert highlights the history and mythology of ancient Rome and Greece. She sprinkles the text with irreverent asides, humorous comments, and occasionally some trivia. Some of this was "laugh out loud" stuff.

I've read extensively on this era and in this genre, plus have listened to many related audiobooks. I didn't see any accuracy problems with it, which, in today's nonfiction market, is really saying something.

The reason I've paid so much attention to the kinds of topics covered in this book is they explain the foundations of our western culture. I've found, however, that most people do not share this interest. One reason people give is, "I've just never had time to read that stuff." This book is exactly the answer to that problem. It's a compact work. That's not surprising when you open the book and see it's a Readers Digest book.

When I was very young, my mom bought Readers Digest Condensed Books for me and I consumed them at a rapid clip. These books played no small role in developing my excitement about learning and joy of reading. The Readers Digest books allowed me to understand the great works and be conversant about them without having to give up half or more to do the necessary reading. A nice edge to have in high school, later on.... For some titles, the Readers Digest version piqued my interest in the original work so I read that as well. Others, I didn't read because I got the gist of things and that was as far as I cared to go.

This book provides the same advantages to anyone wanting to learn the main ideas from the history and mythology of ancient Rome and Greece. You'll be entertained, as well, because of Taggert's creative comments throughout.

This book is a quick read, perfect for a train or plane trip. The form is smallish: the pages measure 5"W x 7.75"H, and there are 169 of them plus a short bibliography and a small index.

This book consists of ten chapters. Each covers a different theme. For example, Chapter 2 is about religion and mythology, Chapter 5 is about Roman history, and Chapter 7 is about architecture and art.

This book is worth the cover price, for its entertainment value alone. As a bonus, if you're ever in a social situation where some smarty pants starts talking about Cerberus, you can give a knowing look instead of that deer in the headlights one.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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