Saturday, December 15, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Days 12-15

(You can read more about the Operation Read Those Books project here.)

I meant to write a catch-up post yesterday, but ended up just listening to the news out of Connecticut and crying. Lord have mercy on those poor families.

So . . . today I caught up and finally finished reading about Pytheas. Now my mind is spinning with images of amber and Iceland and the library at Alexandria.

What did I read? Chapters 5-8, which covered:
-Pytheas' exploration - by boat and on foot - of Britain
-the likelihood that Pytheas made it to Iceland
-the amber trade
-what happened to Pytheas' manuscripts after he wrote them

I enjoyed this book. It got a little tedious at times only because I didn't share the author's interest in mathematics and astronomy, but my shortcomings are hardly his fault. My only other criticism is that this book could have been vastly improved by more and better maps. The illustrator/cartographer produced really sloppy, impressionistic maps rather than accurate, well-lettered ones, and that made it harder than it should have been to follow the author's detailed descriptions.

I was struck by how following just one subject - in this case, Pytheas - in detail can illuminate a score of other topics. This book covered geography, burial customs, sailing ships, map-making, astronomy, archeology, the nature of scholarship both in modern and ancient times, and many other subjects, all because the author was trying to illuminate the life of one man.

The project
In other news, I'm really enjoying this Operation Read Those Books project. I'm going to have to continue it on past December, especially as I keep adding new books to my currently-reading shelf. But regularly reading non-fiction feels like it does good stuff to my brain, and I want to keep up the habit. 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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