This was originally posted on LJ on Aug 2, 2010
This book concerned me at first, due to it’s age. I’m always hesitant to pick up books that are more than about 30 years old, and this book was published in the 50’s. However, that being said, the author of this book has a very balanced and un-biased look at AE, and offers a lot of insight to the culture, without putting said culture down. I felt this book was great, and would recommend it.
The thing I like most about this book is that it does more than just give a history lesson. It goes era by era (Predyn, OK, 1st IP, MK, etc) and discusses the dynamics of the culture at that time. He talks about the trends in art, literature and religion. And it’s really interesting to see how the “unchanging religion and culture” of AE actually did change from era to era. It’s a rare glimpse, and I’m glad I’ve seen it. It was also nice to see an author that did admit when and where we didn’t know the answers, and to note short comings within our knowledge.
I must say that it’s surprising that in the 50 years since the book was written, we really haven’t seemingly gained all that much in the way of knowledge. As I read the book, I saw things that I’ve seen mentioned in other books that are newer. And really, what they’ve said vs. what he said is pretty much the same. It’s like we really haven’t learned anything spectacular in recent years. Because I knew of some of hte things he talked about, it was nice to put them into perspective. Many authors have a problem with dating where their facts are coming from, and once you really know the culture and how it evolves, I think it plays a huge role in how the pieces fit together, and how they might fit together into a personal practice/view. I wish there were more books like this, that break things down era by era, and discussed the changes that occured. I honestly think the chronology makes a difference. At least, it does to me.
Overall, it’s a good book. It’s a bit old, but still relevant to today. He gives an era by era look at AE, and how the culture shifted and changed over the centuries in a relatively un-biased view.