Friday, January 16, 2015

History's Lost Treasures by Eric Chaline

Photo: The book's cover, from its Amazon page.

The second-to-last book I read in 2014 was this extremely interesting and informative book probably best read on The Throne, especially since each chapter is two pages long, max.  But the articles can teach the reader quite a bit about history, which the author, who I've never heard of, clearly knows thoroughly.  He writes about people, events and things very casually, as if he's so familiar with them that he forgets others may not be.
This could've led to pedantic and professorial prose, but it never does.  In fact, Chaline clearly took great pains to make this as conversational as possible, sometimes to a fault.  At points it becomes too author-intrusion opinionated.  At others, it becomes a bit pedestrian, like the authors' bios at the back of YA books that try too hard to connect to the YA reader.  The kids are much more sophisticated than that, I assure you; similarly, the author here at times forgets that his audience might be a little more sophisticated than he thinks.
I bought this in the remainder bin (for less than seven bucks), and I had to list this title manually on Goodreads (where you'll find my reviews for dozens of books), so take those for what they're worth.
All that notwithstanding, this is, as I mentioned, a very interesting and informative book that reads like it was written by scholarly-type on a scholarly-type website, and it probably is somewhere.  I'll guess you can find it on Amazon for a few pennies. (Not that I'm in favor of the public doing that, as the author generally loses out.)
Lost treasures (some found, some not) include:

Wondrous burial goods: Tutankhamun's death mask • A real crock of gold: The treasure of Villena • Sunken plunder: The Nuestra SeƱora de Atocha • Religious rarities: The unique Jain bronzes of Chausa • Stolen artworks: The missing van Gogh paintings • Dazzling gems: The La Peregrina Pearl

No matter how you get a copy, you should do so, even if you read it in small doses, in the room I mentioned above.  There's no sin in that.

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