Monday, September 28, 2009

Time Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History

Remember Time Life books? Our libraries used to be full of them, including series on many big topics, such as World War II, the age of explorers, the history of the Western States, national parks, photography, and the development of flight. These books from the 1960s and 1970s always had lots of colorful illustrations to support the text written by teams of authors. We also had a series on world cities and another about museums from Newsweek. These were used heavily by students and pleasure readers in their day. Many eventually fell apart, even after rebinding. Their circulation fell off quickly in the age of the Internet.

We just got a new book from Time that spurred my memories of the old books. Time Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History is like those books of old about a big topic - exploration and discovery of ancient civilizations and the natural world. It covers almost every favorite topic that you might see in an issue of National Geographic: Egyptian antiquities, Machu Picchu, vikings, Arctic and Antarctic exploration, the search for the source of the Nile, dinosaurs, and the launch of NASA probes into the solar system. Each topic gets two to six pages and is supported with sharp, colorful photos.

The word "history" in the subtitle might give readers the impression that the book relies on old data. Nothing could be further from the truth, for the editors have gotten many current explorations into the text. The title page includes a photo of a new primate Darwinius Masillae which was unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History on May 19, 2009. The authors also tell us about the Mars rover Spirit getting its wheel stuck in the Martian soil in May 2009. We also learn that Egyptologist Zahi Hawass is currently looking for the remains of Cleopatra near Alexandria.

With a picture of Machu Picchu on the cover, Time Great Discoveries is an eye-catching book that should appeal to readers who like science and history books and magazines. I hope it is a harbinger of more big, colorful books.

Time Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History. Time Inc., 2009. ISBN 9781603200837

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