ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
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ningerbil
50bookchallenge

Book 35- History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir

35. History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir. This is an entertaining read for history buffs (and perhaps for reluctant readers). Weir goes into several oft-repeated historic tales and exposes the lies- then tells the truth (or, in a couple cases, as close to the truth as we can know). For example, that story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned? Didn't happen (for starters, the fiddle didn't come into existence until more than a thousand years after Nero's death). Indeed, while Nero was no great emperor (in fact, he was probably the worst one, after Calligula, in my opinion), his actions during the fire that destroyed a large part of Rome were probably his most noble. According to Weir, Nero risked his life several times to save others.

The most intriguing story was about the death of John Dillenger. The official story is that Dillenger was fatally shot by FBI agents outside a Chicago theater in July 1934. However, forensics evidence (and the lack of it) and conflicting stories casts doubt on this. Throw in that J. Edgar Hoover needed Dillenger's death to retain his own job after a previous capture attempt went horribly wrong, it's not hard to believe that there could have been a cover-up.

The most disturbing was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Semitic propoganda crafted during Tsar Nicholas II's regime by his cohorts to deflect attention from the tsar's ineffectual leadership. In case you have never heard of this (I had not), the Protocols were supposed to be an outline of a Jewish plan to take overthe world. Nicholas II, having some honor, actually rejected using it once he realized upon investigation that the so-called documents were a forgery but the Protocols still managed to spread. The Protocols are partially responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in modern history, the Holocaust. There are still segments of the world's population that still believe it. Sickening.

There's a lengthy bibliography and notes. The book is chock full of illustrations and sidebars, and the histories are told in an easy to follow, engaging style. Those who like history should enjoy this, and I can see even those who may not like reading liking this book's easy-to-follow format.

Currently reading: Cleopatra, by Zahi Hawass and Franck Goddio (back to this one), and Wards of Faerie, by Terry Brooks. Also ordered four more books from the library: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield; The Devil's Teeth, by Susan Casey; The Family That Couldn't Sleep, by D.T. Max; and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman.
Tags: history, non-fiction
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