Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: How to Mellify a Corpse by Vicki Leon

In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient method of embalming), and ancient mechanical engineering. How to Mellify a Corpse of course invokes legendary thinkers (Pythagoras and his discoveries in math and music, Aristotle's books on politics and philosophy, and Archimedes' "Eureka" moment), but it also delves deeply into the lives of everyday people, their understanding and beliefs.

A feast for the curious mind, How to Mellify a Corpse is not only for those with an interest in the experimental: it's for anyone who's inspired by the imagination and ingenuity humanity uses to understand our world.

Received from the publisher for review.

This was originally a four star review until the author's irreverent attitude became unbearable as evidenced in this rude gem:

Rome's first aqueduct was built by a guy nicknamed Appius the Blind. An attempt at Roman humor? Possibly.

This one gets three stars. There were some genuinely interesting stories and lots of great illustrations that help you visualize the text but the author's vaguely condescending tone of "look at what these silly people thought" is more than a bit off-putting. Overall this is interesting, but not comprehensive. This is certainly not for those who have done any amount of study on the societies covered. This would make a nice gift for those mildly interested in the subject, but the book is thin on academic value so pass on it for more serious friends.

★★☆☆ = Liked It


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