Best Book of the Month

Best Book I Read: February 2013

I read a lot, but I tend not to stray from the safe confines of fiction. I don't why, but non-fiction generally doesn't do it for me. This is what makes my choice for the Best Book of the Month for February 2013 all the more unusual.

CarthageNot only is Carthage Must Be Destroyed non-fiction but it also happened to enter my reading queue during the same month that Great North Road was released. Peter F. Hamilton (author of The Great North Road) is on my list of immediate reads, but his latest was soundly beaten by Carthage Must Be Destroyed.

I've long been interested in Ancient History. In fact, if I had bothered to fill out the paperwork I would have minored in it during college (I had enough credits but I also loathe paperwork). Generally, my reading/interest centers around the Romans which lead me to believe that the Carthaginians were just an also ran society that the Romans rolled over during their conquest of the known world.

And that speaks to the central thesis of the book: since Carthage was so completely destroyed everything that we know of it (outside of archeological digs) comes from historical sources that are decidedly biased (the Greeks and the Romans cast Carthage as their "other," meaning that even though for many years most of the trade in the Mediterranean involved Carthaginians they were not a well liked people).

I learned a lot of interesting things about Carthage including:

  • They had a handful of names that they used over and over again which vexes historians ("No, not THAT Hannibal. Nope, not that one either. Oh, never mind.").
  • They invented many ship building innovations which made them the unrivaled naval power of their time (until those pesky Romans ruined it all).
  • The book is a little slow to start but really picks up in the Punic War section when Rome and Carthage clash for the first time. It was incredibly interesting to see how Rome, a relative newcomer, was able to soundly defeat Carthage which was one of the superpowers of the Ancient World. It even inspired me to pitch an article comparing the Roman's use of a specific technical innovation to basically negate Carthage's naval advantage to the way Apple out foxed RIM (sadly the editor pitched said it was too obscure. What the hell are kids learning today if not about the Punic Wars?!).

    Anyway, the book is well worth a read if you're interested in a view of the ancient world from a different vantage point.

    The other books I read in February were:

    Best Book I Read: January 2013

    DogstarsI've long had illusions that I'd write a review of every book I read, however, since I read over 70 books last year and wrote a review for one or two of them that goal seems unrealistic.

    Therefore, a new feature of Blankbaby is born: the best book of the month! Hurrah!

    Last month (January 2013) I read a total of 10 books, all fiction. There were a number of good books in the running, but the best book I read that month was: The Dog Stars.

    The Dog Stars is set in a world ravaged by a pandemic (an out of control super flu) which killed off lots and lots of the world's population. The story follows Hig whose wife and child died of the flu. Now he's holed up with Bangley who seems to have waited his entire life for something like this to happen. Hig isn't happy, but he's making a go of it with his trusty dog at his side and frequent trips in a small airplane to scout for dangers, and other survivors.

    I won't recap the story since there are some surprising bits, but it is well written and worth your time. I will say, however, that while I thought it was a good book it is unfortunate that it contains some echoes of The Road. Why is this bad? The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is a brilliant literary achievement next to which most books would pale in comparison. Add in similar story lines and The Dog Stars just can't hold a candle to The Road.

    That being said, The Dog Stars is good it just isn't great.

    The other nine books I read last month were: