Saturday, May 14, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty-Seven

So Many Books, So Little Time is hosting the 30 Day Book Challenge. Each day for 30 days I'll be answering one question about books.

Day Twenty-Seven: Your favorite non-fiction book

I had an epiphany regarding my future career during my sophomore year of college. At the time I was an Anthropology major because I was interested in getting a Doctorate in Archaeology some day. My specific focus was going to be Greek archaeology so I decided to take a class on ancient Greece. Not only would I love the class, I would also find what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world: be a professor of Classics, focusing on ancient Greek history. I said the heck with archaeology, declared history to be my second major, and spent the next three years reading everything I could about the Greeks as well as beginning to learn ancient Greek as a language. With the recession and our society's hatred of anything besides math, science, and business, I'm probably never going to achieve my dream of getting a Doctorate in Classics (programs are being shut down all over the country as we speak), but that class and my love of Greek history did lead me to my favorite non-fiction book:

Okay, yes, it's huge. Yes, it's a history of the Peloponnesian War (which almost no one has heard about). Yes, I could have chosen something fun like Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr. or A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, but Thucydides history of what amounts to an ancient Greek civil war is fascinating to me. This edition, the "landmark" version, is even better because it's fully annotated and has maps and photos and insets so that it's much easier to follow the war's battles and events.

That sounds intensely geeky, but there are so many other things to love about this book. I think the most poignant and relevant thing is the fact that it's not just a story about a specific war, it's a story about all wars. The names and battles may change, the things being fought over may be different, but the actions of the brave or the cowardly, the feelings brought on by victories and defeats, are things that any generation which has been touched by war can relate to. Thucydides talks about things that are applicable to any time period.

The Peloponnesian War itself, however, is fascinating enough that all the rest of it doesn't matter to me. I had discussed Alcibiades, the Athenian general, during one of my Villain Week posts, but although he is my favorite historical figure from this war, there are many other great and/or terrible men who are discussed in Thucydides' tome. I first read this book during the class that I mentioned above and it began what is sure to be a life-long fascination with the trials and tribulations that befell Greece during the 27 years during which this war raged on.


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