Sunday, February 25, 2007

I read a book-link

1491 is a scholarly work by Charles C. Mann that presents an enthralling story of the Americas prior to the European invasion. Mann covers the gamut of all the major cultures on both continents but I found his treatment of some of the American cultures to be the most revelatory to me. The size of their populations was amazing in itself, not to mention the works of civil engineering they had to accomplish to support these populations. Needless to say some kind of civil order was required to make that kind of society work and indeed they had systems of laws and governance in place that inspired the founders of our present country.
In what we now call Mexico the earliest cultures developed an astonishing sophistication in agriculture that bred abundant crops from the native plants around them. They created Maize from what was little more than a weed with edible seeds.About 60% of all the food crops in the world today were first cultivated in central Mexico, pre- Columbus.
I started out to review a book and I haven't said much about the actual writing, it is a fascinating subject. Mann possesses a crisp narrative style that is reminiscent of John McPhee His story moves along in a way that turns the ancient people into characters, it's pageantry.
This one goes on the A list.

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