An excursion into non-fiction #2: Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)

Author: Yuval Noah HarariIMG_20181211_210646

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Edition: Vintage Books, Paperback

Pages: 498

Piotrek: Ambitious title for a 500 pages book, ain’t it? This young (born 1976) and charismatic Israeli historian – and his is a professional historian, with his DPhil thesis titled History and I : war and the relations between history and personal identity in Renaissance military memoirs, c.1450-1600. written in Oxford – aims to catch the essence of our history, as a species, in one tome. The result is certainly very successful, since 2011 published in multiple languages and its author became a public intellectual with TED Talks and countless interviews available on Youtube and elsewhere. We are here to judge if the world is right 😉

Ola: Oh well, there’s nothing like a catchy beginning, is there? 😛 But on a more serious note, Harari’s ambitions were huge, and a bit of hubris was, I guess, unavoidable – especially if you want to market a de facto historical book to a wide, mostly lay, public. Harari’s book, however, deserves its hype, for it’s written in a flowing, precise style, and delivers an abundance of catchy, well devised examples to better explain the more abstract concepts.

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Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third (1976)

P1020388Author: Edward Luttwak

Title: The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century AD to the Third

Pages: 255

Format: Hardback

I really enjoyed our last post and first excursion into non-fiction, and so now I follow with another one, this time less controversial and something every epic/military fantasy fan can safely read. My original idea for how to select non-fiction books for Re-enchantment was to find tomes that could be used to better enjoy genre fiction. I’m a great believer in context, in building up one’s general knowledge to see the broader picture. It’s crucial for every serious reader of historical novels, but with fantasy, so deeply connected to the medieval and ancient history of our planet, it’s just as useful. There were never any wizards nor dragons on this Earth, but we had knights, and legions, and empires that had to rely on primitive (when compared to our) technology – and if we read a bit about them, we can judge – and appreciate – the worldbuilding of genre masters so much more.

The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire… by Edward Luttwak was a book I mentioned before, while criticizing a semi-historical novel I did not like, but Luttwak is not a starting point for people interested in Roman history. For that, go to /r/history, they have excellent sections for book and podcast recommendation. Books I’ve read are in Polish and 10-20 years behind latest research. Luttwak wrote a book on strategy of an ancient empire and whatever historians of antiquity might find in his arguments, it’s a great way to further your understanding of how difficult it was to defend a large state without modern communications and logistics. It definitely should be read by every genre author with worldbuilding ambitions.

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But that day I thought only/Of the loneliness of the dying

This one will be unusual.

Imagine a slightly AU HP fanfic…

*

In a version of Wizarding Britain, where Grindelwald’s rule was particularly long and harsh, only the Purebloods were tolerated by the regime. Or rather allowed to live, we should say, as it was a brutal occupation, with the regime draining the resources to finance further conquests, and killing everybody who dared question it.

A point of some importance – it was an occupation by foreign forces, and the continental wizards and witches in Grindelwald’s service committed most of the atrocities uncovered by the American Expeditionary Forces that eventually ended Grindelwald’s Empire.

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