09 March 2009

Grande due

2. The Great Book of Archaeology by Editors: Valeria Manferto De Fabianis, Fabio Bourbon (4/5)

I bought this 8 pound coffee table book for its photos--twenty bucks at Costco over a year ago, such a great deal--but I was also determined to read it. After about fifty pages, I stalled for about a year. The text is written by several different people, so the quality varies, but most of it is dense with unfamiliar names and places, and lots of archaeological and architectural terms. Also, all but a handful of the hundreds of photos have captions which slows down the reading.

Starting in mid-January of this year, I took a new approach: read one chapter a day. Each chapter is a different archaeological site and they average about ten pages each with lots of photos. Reading in this manner let me soak in a lot more of the details in the text and photographs. Also, it felt like traveling somewhere new each day, a pleasant way to spend winter.

Overall, the photos are great and cover archaeological sites all over the world. The text contains a lot of typos and inconsistent spellings, but I attribute that mainly to my suspicion that the book was written in Italian and then translated to English. I do wish they'd indented with the start of new paragraphs or skipped a line to make it easier to read. Without those technical errors, I might've given the book 4.5/5.

Reading it made me think of Dave2 when he writes about deciding where to travel next. If I was at a point where I couldn't decide where to go next, this is the book I would flip open to a random page to decide.

As some of you may know, ancient Egypt has long been a passion of mine. It's well represented in The Great Book of Archaeology which drew me to it initially, but I also learned about a bunch of spectacular sites I'd never heard of. I suspect I'll be tracking down some follow-up books on those, particularly, Pagan in Myanmar.

3 years ago on TTaT: Cleaning up


  1. Where were your other favorite sites? You know, tackling one chapter a day sounds like a great method for that book, and MANY books. So many times, I am in a hurry and just want to rush through something. I should take it nice and slow for once ;)

  2. These are some other faves-- I was familiar with about half before:
    Hadrian's Villa in Italy
    Pompeii, Italy
    Leptis Magna, Lybia
    Ephesus, Turkey
    Petra, Jordan (this chapter had pics of sections I hadn't seen before which are amazing!)
    Borobudur, Indonesia
    Angkor, Cambodia
    Tikal, Guatemala
    Uxmal, Mexico
    Chichen Itza, Mexico
    Macchu Picchu, Peru

    I think the chapter (or section) per day approach is particularly well suited to non-fiction books, particularly those written more like text books which this one was. I'll use it again with some of my other archaeology books.