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Monday, January 6, 2014

Egyptomania by Bob Brier

Although this book is written by an "insider" — Egyptologist Bob Brier has done all the requisite studying and publishing and even working with TV networks — Egyptomania is a read just about everyone will enjoy. It's strange, but nearly everyone on the planet seems to have at least a passing interest in some aspect of ancient Egypt.

Brier traces this preoccupation back to Roman times, when Cleopatra was a living, breathing, and breathtakingly intelligent representative of a culture that was already thousands of years old. I really enjoyed the detail with which he reported on the Renaissance transporting of the obelisk in Rome and Napoleon's savants. The excitement of the discoveries and the melding of scholarly work with popular souvenirs is palpable. There are plenty of illustrations of engravings and later paraphernalia, like cigarette cases in the shape of temples.

The author takes great care to describe the engineering marvels France, England, and New York undertook in order to obtain their obelisks, complete with severe weather and losses at sea. The exaggerated efforts required to move the obelisks in modern times only helps the reader appreciate the unknown genius of the Egyptians who constructed them in the first place.

There is sure to be something new here for even the most avid Egyptomaniac, as Brier goes into the cinematic history of mummies and Cleopatra and how they were portrayed differently according to what discoveries had been made.

Brier rounds up the book by gleefully reporting that he may have made the latest big discovery about the history of every's favorite boy king, Tutankamen. Egyptomania is a fast, enjoyable read that will fan the flames of any enthusiasm you already have (because you probably have some) for ancient Egypt.

You can win my ARC paperback copy of Egyptomania and four other great books if you enter here before January 11!