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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: The Year 1000

This is an awesome non fiction account of all sorts of aspects of life in England (Engla-lond) in and around the year 1000. Written in 1999, it has an understanding point of view for a people on the verge of, and experiencing, a new millennium. Reading the acknowledgments in the back I discovered the authors are more journalists than historians, but wanted to figure out life back in 1000, so they spent eighteen months interviewing dozens, literally dozens, of history professors and scholars.

It's a quick read, too, well written and humorous, but jam packed full of facts and interesting details from this period of history. Using the Julius Work Calendar as a frame for the chapters (the first chapter is January), and the pictures from the Calendar as talking points for life in 1000, the book covers topics such as etymologies, women's issues, dirty riddles, how battles were fought and won, harvest times, the coming of Revelations' dragon, and law.

Like I said, it's a quick read, which I think needs to be said again, because history books can, at times, be weighted down with loads of fact and bulky writing. But the writers offer up the information with a light handed, brisk way, and my only complaint is that the chapters end far too quickly, the book itself goes by too fast. I wanted more!

That, however, isn't so much their fault as it is the fault of all the assholes in the past who have destroyed  much of what few documents there had been, which makes me laugh to think of how much information we feel the need to capture and share today (blogs, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Livejournal, Tumblr). Apparently only 30 wills survive from this time period, if you can believe that, but interestingly enough, 10 of those wills belonged to women. The bibliography in the back is extensive and you'd think it would belong to a far thicker book, but alas, it doesn't.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It's not high-falutin' historical snobbery, it's not dense and drab stuff for scholars alone, but neither is it flippant or careless. It's informative, illuminating and extremely entertaining. I'm in December now, and I think I've got just one chapter afterwards before I've finished it, and I will be sad to put it down for good. Although Todd will be delighted since I swiped it from him after Christmas.

Grade: A+

1 comment:

  1. Since you have such good taste in books, and have yet to recommend a shitty book to me, I have already reserved this one from the library! Thanks for the recommendation!