Currently reading

Tales of Ordinary Madness
Charles Bukowski
Progress: 237/238 pages
Invisible Cities
Italo Calvino

A good starting point

Mankind: The Story of All Of Us - Pamela D. Toler

A fairly breezy fly-by look at the evolution of mankind beginning with the early days when humans roamed the grasslands of Africa, then jumping to the ice age, immediately followed by the establishment of first societies and the transition to farming. From that point on, the path is more concise, covering the major (and only the major with a capital M) developments in humanity.

Since the subject topic is so vast, it is understandable that a feat of this magnitude cannot be accomplished in a single volume. However, seeing that this book was released in conjunction with the History Channel mini series of the same name, one must realize that History Channel is not exactly the right source to seek enlightenment. Rather, as the channel itself caters to the lowest common denominator and attempts to keep the viewer interested with sensationalism, this has to e taken into account when considering this book as a whole.

So, did I learn anything new? Not really. But the book provided an opportunity to share a journey with my child, and for that I am grateful.

The chapters in this book are fairly short, fairly educational, and fairly entertaining. They allowed me to share the milestones in mankind's development with my child, have conversations about topics we read about, and, hopefully, entice a further future explorations into the complicated history of humanity.

As with any work of this kind, one must realize that history, in general, is written by the victors. Thus, the topics covered in this book were in line with that approach, highlighting the successes and disregarding the disasters. It was to be expected. Aside from a brief cautionary chapter following the story of Hiroshima, there was hardly any exploration of the darkness of the human soul, or the simple fact that history, as we know it, repeats itself. The book, nevertheless, provided me with an opportunity to discuss the fact that empires rise and fall, and that nothing is to be taken for granted.

The book suffers from the same 'being politically correct' expectations so many books suffers from today, as it attempts to have an almost universal appeal. One exception was the chapter on Congo and the terrors committed there. The distant past, however, was almost romanticized. Likewise, the not so distant past, especially the industrial revolutions and the agricultural 'revolution' failed to depict the evil the so called 'visionaries' committed along their path of greed. the chapter on agricultural revolution could have been better if the benefits of GMOs were discussed against the dangers associated with the practice, for example.

Overall, even though I cringed every now and then, it was a read I enjoyed, if for no other reason than to spend a time with my child. That is priceless.

One major caveat is the poor editorial input. The book contains many typographical errors, and the chapters are often interrupted by separate stories which is distracting.

I don;t think I can recommend this to history buffs, but I would recommend it as a gateway to start talking about history with those unfamiliar with the story of mankind.