Monday, 7 February 2011


I am one week into February and my goal for 100 books looks like a fail so far.  In the entirety of January I managed to read a grand total of two books.  And these books were not even that long, but both were definitely enjoyable.  So this will be a short entry.

First up: The Great Mortality by David Kelly 371 pages.  This talks about the great medieval plague in Europe.  It was all quite fun, especially since the writer had no problem against digressing and including al the colorful anecdotes that make history an enjoyable subject.  My favorite episode concerned a British doctor named John Colle who noticed that people who cleaned latrines and worked near cesspools did not get the plague with the same frequency as people who did not work in filth.  So following his medical training he came to the conclusion that the cool/wet combination of the fetidness helped prevent sickness, therefore it was in his patients best interest to visit the cesspool once a day and breathe in the life saving vapors.  What a treatment!  Of course the correlation was because the rats carrying the fleas avoided cesspools.

Second up, and Finally I read another history book about the plague, only this plague was from 542 during Emperor Justinians reign called Justinian's Flea at 241 pages.  This book was a little drier than the other and obviously written with scholars more in mind, though it did have much to commend it as a good read.  This book was definitely more holistic in that it tried to show the collapse of the Byzantine Empire.  And the plague was barely mentioned until around halfway through the book, so it wasn't even the main focus, just another cause of Empire collapse.  So having filled my time reading about the bubonic plague in January I have moved on to more digestable fare such as a book about Edward I and Terry Pratchett, to be finished in a couple of weeks.

I am heading to Ireland now so will not write again for several weeks.