Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shelf-Sitter Challenge: Book 7

The seventh book I've read for my shelf-sitter reading challenge is Unearthing Atlantis: An Archaeological Odyssey by Charles Pellegrino. The Parent gave me this book years ago; she's spent her retirement thus far taking classes at Harvard on the Roman and Egyptian empires, so it's fair to classify her as a bit of an ancient history buff. I'm more of a fair-weather history friend: I love it as long as it doesn't make me work too hard. This book was on the verge of making me work too hard.

Pellegrino uses the lenses of history, archaeology, paleontology, geology, and even theology, to examine the volcanic eruption in 1600 BCE of the Greek island now known as Thera (which means "fear"). Thera was the center of the mysterious and impressive Minoan civilization (dude, they had flush toilets!), and is almost certainly the basis for the story of Atlantis. Along the way, he discusses everything from deep sea exploration to the extinction of the dinosaurs to the biblical story of Moses.

I would describe this as popular science crossed with LitFic. Pellegrino takes an experimental, non-linear approach to his subject, jumping around in time and between academic disciplines to tell the story of Thera. It was an interesting book, but I couldn't read more than 30 or so pages at a time without needing a break from it. And by the end, I felt like he was repeating himself; the book was 300 pages and easily could have been shorter by a third without losing any content. I'm glad I read it, though: it was well-written and I learned a lot.

Recommended for those with an interest in archaeology and ancient history, who don't mind their popular science writing on the challenging side of "popular".

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