Sunday, January 17, 2016

A History of Civilization in 50 Disasters


Rating: 4 Stars


I have this habit of going through the new release section of the public library catalog and putting a bunch of books on hold that I am interested in. Half the time, the books end up being YA/juvenile, despite me clicking specifically on the history section on the adult list. Sometimes I read the book anyway and this is just such an occasion.

First, I love these kinds of history lessons, these sort of lists that look at some sub-section of human history and how those pieces matter and come together to form one aspect - another good one is 'The History of the World in 100 Objects'. Very interesting.

Anyway, despite being about a depressing subject matter, the content was highly interesting and worked well for an adult, as easily as it would for a YA reader. The book covers a wide range of topics, from earthquakes, plague, volcanoes, to a molasses flood. For real. A flood of molasses. It would be funny if people had not died. I guess the phrase "Slower than molasses in winter" is not really accurate after all. I don't say this to be cheeky, I had never heard of this disaster and it was very interesting, I love that Santorini, the burning of Rome, and Pompeii were included, though the majority of the disasters that the author focused on were 13th century and beyond. This makes sense of course, those darn dinosaurs Neanderthals never bothered to write anything down.

Each chapter is between two and four pages long, so not overly detailed for the intended audience, but still giving enough information to keep the reader interested. This would be a great resource for research, or for a reluctant reader to find topics that might be of interest to them. In addition, there are a few further resources - a glossary for readers who might be unfamiliar with the terms in the book, and additional resources related to each topic, as well as a brief introduction to the research process. There are also tons of maps and photos throughout, great color photos that add to the content.

I like this series, I think it is an interesting way to hook those readers who have had a hard time finding things that they want to read about. Short chapters, with addition resources if they do find something of interest.

My only real, tiny complaint is in the form of the 50th disaster - it was actually called 'Disaster in the Making' and discussed climate change in our century and the possible ensuing consequences that will come if we do not reverse course and try to get global warming under control. So really, this is not actually a disaster that has happened, but one that is in the process of happening as I type this review. And even then, this is not major - more of an aside.

I recommend this both for those YA readers looking for something engaging, and those who are interested in learning more about these types of disasters and how they have impacted our history.

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