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Book Review: Mysteries of History


Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Also on This Site

The Kingfisher Concise History Encyclopedia
The National Geographic Student Atlas of the World

Filled with new information on current and past mysteries, this book from National Geographic gives the reader facts, figures, and (most of all) perspective on some of the great mysteries of history. Arranged more or less chronologically, the mysteries cover the ancient world and end only with the Kennedy assassination.

In some cases, new information brings to light an interpretation different from what has generally been believed; in other cases, the presentations are summations of what is known and unknown. In all cases, what you get is a much more rounded picture of the situation than you had before.

The one outstanding feature of this book is the timelines that accompany each mystery discussion. Twin timelines ground the reader in the moment and in the world at large. One specific timeline covers the events in the Egyptian civilization or the Greek civilization or the life of John F. Kennedy; the accompanying timeline covers events that occurred elsewhere in the world during those times. Such comparisons are fascinating in some cases.

Some of the traditional mysteries included are these:

  • Why were the Pyramids built?
  • Was there really a Trojan Horse?
  • Did Rome really fall?
  • Was King George III really insane?

The book also includes topics not often included in a book of this kind, including these:

  • Was Napoleon poisoned?
  • Who built Great Zimbabwe and why?
  • What is the behind the myth of the Underground Railroad?
  • What happened to the Knights Templar?

The book even includes a chapter on the raging debate over whether Chinese explorers beat Columbus to America.

As always with books from this publisher, the maps and illustrations are first-rate. The lead author in this case is Robert Stewart, known for his briliant book Ideas That Shaped Our World. The one thing to know about this book is that some of the language and sentence structure will be difficult for younger kids; secondary students and adults will find the reading appropriate. As a good introduction to some of history's greatest unsolved problems, this book thrives.

Buy this book from Amazon.com

 
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