Father Theo’s Bookshelf: Three Books About History

Posted on February 16, 2011


There are other books, of course.  These three I offer because they were useful to me.  I expect to make other recommendations in the future.  (That’s fair warning.)

Sven Lindqvist, “Exterminate All the Brutes”, The New Press, New York, 1996.

A travel book.  A meditation on colonialism.  An examination of the same colonial Africa which Joseph Conrad commented on in his “Heart of Darkness.”  Swedish author Sven Lindqvist chillingly discovers in the Holocaust the logical endpoint of colonial ideology.

Fernando Báez, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books:  From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq, Atlas & Co., New York, 2008.  Translated by Alfred McAdam.

A horror story for book lovers and lovers of knowledge.  What becomes clear in reading this book is that what we take for history is merely those parts of history which have not been successfully suppressed.  I cannot imagine reading this book and remaining complacent about the state of our knowledge of the past and other peoples.

Charles C. Mann, 1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Vintage Books, New York, 2006.

Some of this stuff, as Mann explains himself, is not so new, but much of it will certainly be eyebrow-raising to anyone who has not already made a study of Aboriginal America.  And even for some who have.  This is a big subject and no one person could do justice to the whole story.  But if you want an entry into the subject in one compact, readable and well-researched volume, here is a good place to start.  Discover something about the peoples whose story faded and diminished so abruptly after Columbus.

Even discover some of why.

Posted in: history