Tag: Toby Wilkinson

Review – Lives of the Ancient Egyptians

Posted August 25, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Lives of the Ancient Egyptians by Toby WilkinsonLives of the Ancient Egyptians, Toby Wilkinson

Lives of the Ancient Eygptians is not a particularly surprising book, if you’ve read about ancient Egypt in popular history books for a while, but it does take an interesting perspective: the span of ancient Egyptian history, represented as best as possible through the lives of 100 Egyptians.

That’s not many to do a lot of work, and sometimes they kind of clump together (Hatshepsut, and also people who worked for her, and also her family members), but mostly it manages to pick out — where possible — a range of people, including the poorer people who we have less evidence about.

In the end, it’s quite a simple version of Egyptian history, and there are many fascinating, controversial and enlightening facts and people passed over. Such a choice of format will always disappoint someone. I found it mildly entertaining and fairly readable, though Wilkinson is not (for me personally, at least) the most engaging writer. I don’t know what it is about his writing, but reliably, I find my attention drifting. Oops.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Tutankhamun’s Trumpet

Posted March 9, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Tutankhamun's Trumpet by Toby WilkinsonTutankhamun’s Trumpet: Ancient Egypt in 100 Objects, Toby Wilkinson

I love this style of history, selecting objects and focusing in on what they tell us, and I was hugely into Ancient Egyptian history when I was a teenager (obsessing in particular over Christine Desroches-Noblecourt’s book on Tutankhamun). So it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed this in a partly nostalgic way.

Unlike some other books of this type, it doesn’t explicitly mention at the start of each section which object is being discussed. Sometimes the object introduces the history that Wilkinson wants to explore; sometimes there’s a description of the state of affairs too, and then Wilkinson brings in the object that illustrates that from the tomb. Sometimes the object is mentioned rather glancingly, which is somewhat disappointing: I love it when historians and archaeologists really focus in and look at the object as an object as well as a symbol of hundreds of years of history.

Overall, I found this enjoyable, and despite eagerly reading many books both specifically about Tutankhamun and more generally about Ancient Egypt, I definitely found new information and (perhaps even better) new interpretations here. I’m reading Bob Brier’s Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World right now, for example, and he only mentions the usual theory that the tombs of many past pharoahs were looted by robbers and their mummies rewrapped and rehidden by the state “to protect them from further desecration”. Wilkinson instead mentions state-sanctioned looting in Ramesses XI’s reign to fund General Paiankh’s campaigns — something I don’t recall reading about anywhere else before.

Definitely got on better with this than A World Beneath The Sands, which bodes well for the other Wilkinson book I have on my TBR pile.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A World Beneath the Sands

Posted February 7, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A World Beneath the Sands by Toby WilkinsonA World Beneath the Sands, Toby Wilkinson

A World Beneath the Sands is a book not about Egyptology, for the most part, but about Egyptologists — and not just the highlights (Champollion, Petrie, Howard Carter) but some of the less-known names as well, including some of the women who facilitated the study of Ancient Egypt. Broadly speaking, it should have been my thing, but in execution, it just… wasn’t. It was rather slow, and just… not very exciting.

It was mostly about political manoeuvring and the various European countries that jockeyed over control of Egypt, and the doing of archaeology a distant second. The details of digs and finds were barely described, mostly just listed off before moving onto the next list of finds.

In principle, a history of the archaeologists, scholars and looters who shaped our understanding of the history of Ancient Egypt really should have been fascinating, but I found it really dry and unnecessarily verbose. I’m hoping it’s just because I didn’t enjoy the topic as much as expected, because I have another of Wilkinson’s books (The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt), and I’m hoping to enjoy that a lot!

Rating: 2/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 28, 2021 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Greetings, folks! It’s still Wednesday until I’ve slept, right?

Cover of Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. CoreyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey. I’m now nearing the end of my reread of this one, and the next one (Cibola Burn, I think?) will be entirely new to me, so that’s going to be interesting.

Non-fiction: I picked up Genuine Fakes, by Lynda Pynes yesterday; it’s an interesting book; a bit scattershot in its approach (a fake fossil made up of four genuine fossils is not [yet?] a genuine fossil in anything like the same way as a piece of art by the Spanish Forger has become a collectable item in its own right), but engaging. Funny how some of my most random book choices turn out to be the most engaging, while A World Beneath the Sands (Toby Wilkinson) is a bit of a grind, despite being one of my usual interests.

Cover of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda CollinsWhat have you recently finished reading?

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem, by Manda Collins. Frothy and light, not too consequential, and relatively predictable… which makes it exactly what I wanted to read right now. Bit like the Veronica Speedwell books in some ways, though the heroine is a reporter rather than a scientist.

Cover of The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane HealeyWhat will you be reading next?

As ever, it’s anyone’s guess. The Mask of Mirrors (Alyc Helms and Marie Brennan writing as M.A. Carrick) has arrived, so that’s a possibility… but The Animals at Lockwood Manor is on my five-book shortlist — which I haven’t touched for weeks and weeks, argh, clearly it needs a refresh — and is actually starting to pique my interest. Also I’m kind of in a non-fiction mood, and there’s a couple of books I got for Christmas that might tempt me there.

What are you reading, folks?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 21, 2021 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Here goes, only slightly belated (there was a work thing to do!).

Cover of Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. CoreyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey, since it’s time I got on with rereading this series and got onto the new books. Abaddon’s Gate is the last one I read before, which makes it both easier and harder to read — easier, because I know what’s coming. And… harder, because I know what’s coming. There’s a bit where someone gets framed for something they didn’t do, and it’s agonising!

Non-fiction: A World Beneath the Sands, by Toby Wilkinson — slow going, but I’ve got through Champollion and a couple of gentleman dilettantes, and I’m kinda hoping there’ll be some more obscure stuff next. Also A History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Spanabel Emery, which is pretty interesting. Paper patterns were usually made of acid-free paper and have survived better than textiles as a result, despite their seeming flimsiness! That makes them useful for studying the history of fashion.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles VessWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin. I need to get my review posted with all of my thoughts… it’s always been a favourite, because it’s full of really graphic, resonant imagery. Even I can almost see the Empty Throne, the black-clad priestesses, the eerie standing stones in the desert… and I’m completely aphantasic!

What will you be reading next?Cover of Black and British by David Olusoga

Beats me. Nominally, I have a stack of ‘next up’ books that I should be paying attention to, but I think they need a rotation, because none of the current five are grabbing me right now. That said, I should pick up Black and British by David Olusoga, ’cause it’s a book club read this month.

That’s it for me — what’s everyone else reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 13, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Greetings, everyone! My wife has now fixed the issue where I wasn’t getting notification emails, and I got inbox zero again for the first time in a few months, so I’m back!

What are you currently reading?

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles VessFiction: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin, which is of course a reread for me. But it’s the first time I’m reading the beautiful version illustrated by Charles Vess. Funnily enough, I’m finding that I know it so well, I can identity individual words that have been changed/corrected (some for the better, others for the worst) in the new text.

Non-fiction: A World Beneath the Sands, by Toby Wilkinson, which is a history of Egyptologists rather a history of Egypt itself, although of course the two are inevitably interlinked. I’m not far into it yet. I’m also reading A Life in Miniature, by Nicola Lisle, which is about dolls’ houses. It’s… very descriptive, delving into the exact furnishings of specific dolls’ houses. Not sure if I will stick with it.

Cover of The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de BodardWhat have you recently finished reading?

A reread of Blood and Circuses, by Kerry Greenwood — I felt like spending some time with Phryne Fisher, though this is kind of unrepresentative given it follows a case where she joins a circus to figure out what’s happening!

I also finished The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, by Aliette de Bodard, which reminded me that I really want to track down more of the Xuya stories and read more in that universe.

Cover of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda CollinsWhat will you be reading next?

Big shrug, as ever. I’m tempted by A Lady’s Guide to Murder and Mayhem, by Manda Collins; sounds like it should be fluffy fun.

What are you currently reading?

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