This book is amazing. It covers a broad span of subjects with sufficient depth to be interesting. It is coherent, cogent and concise. It is also poetic and emotional without being sappy.
Pagden admits his bias in the first few sentences of the book. I found his analysis extremely flawed due to those biases. A history writer should interpret actions and motivations in the context of the era under review, and at least make an effort to avoid letting their personal bias pollute their interpretations. I think Pagden failed on both counts.
If you enjoyed James Burke's "Connections" you will enjoy this book. Bryson walks through his 19th century English house outlining the purpose of each room and the history of how the type of room was used in the past. Along the way, he connects related historical conditions and events into a unique and fascinating web. For instance, at one point he takes us from the house in England to the technical problems of building the Erie Canal in New York State.
Bryson does an excellent job of reading his own work.
Charlton Griffin does a good job of reading this work, but the background effects tend to distract from the listen in spots. It is a bit tough to follow in places, though I found it much better the second time through. That may have been because I am not that familiar with the era. Winston does a good job of describing Charlemagne in the context of his time and seems to be unbiased. I highly recommend it for the serious history buff, and somewhat less for those with a more casual interest.
I was expecting information about the brewing and use of beer in the Middle Ages. This book had a little of that, but it was mostly market data about how much was produced in particular regions and where it was distributed. The interesting information got lost in the marketing data. I did not finish the book, which is rare for me.
This is a memoir, and thus is not much of a "story". It mentions people and places unknown to the listener. Given this, it provides a fascinating window for those of us with a serious interest in the life and times of the people who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I'd recommend this for very young people only, or those with a total absence of knowledge regarding US colonial and pre-colonial history. Educated adults don't need or want this particular book.
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