01 February 2009

February's Book

This month, my book is 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. I'm barely 37 pages into this book, and I am loving it. The book addresses issues surrounding the Euro-centric view that is taken, even by many well-established anthropologists, of Native American culture prior to the arrival of Columbus (although Mann uses the non-p.c. term "Indian" to refer to any of the natives, he explains why in the book). Mostly, the book contradicts the belief that pre-Columbian Indians were "sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them." What drew me to this book, besides the fact that J recently bought it, is the idea that many Americans use pre-Columbian Indians as a model for eco-friendly life, even though our preconceptions about these people are way off. It chalenges many of the ideas we have today about global development, more importantly how to fix the problems we are having right now, and I have to say that it's a pretty fascinating topic.

I just finished reading Devil in the White City, the biographical tale of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and how the fair created the perfect setting for serial killer H.H. Holmes. Devil in the White City is written with a kind of narrative that reads almost like fiction, and I thought I'd continue in that vein with 1491. Mann writes as an archeologist, a scholar, and just a regular guy who thinks the topic is pretty awesome, and the latter is how his writing comes off.

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