Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: "5 Cites that Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London & New York Shaped Global History"

In "5 Cites that Ruled the World" the author, Douglas Wilson, gives us glimpses at the history of 5 influential cities, Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, & New York. The history walks us through ancient past into recent times, but in a clear, concise manner rather than dragging us down with loads of detail. In my opinion, a better title for this book would be to replace the word "ruled" with the word "led."

At the beginning of the book I was unsure how this read would go. I found myself somewhat taken aback by some of the author's comments. Those weren't something I was anticipating in a book that I thought would be straight history. That was a poor assumption on my part. I had to make myself read this book with a completely open mind, which worked out well. The author used refreshingly different methods to explain his thoughts about each city, as well as tying in historical events and scripture. He described Jerusalem as a city that gave us a legacy of the spirit; Athens as a city that gave us reason and the mind; Rome a city that gave us law; London as a city that gave us literature; and New York as the city that gave us industry and commerce. When Douglas Wilson first presented these concepts in the introduction I wasn't sure that I completely agreed, but I pressed on. In his look at each city's history he did prove his concepts very well. He even managed to explain London's history so well that I wasn't confused (I usually find the twists, turns and numbers of the various English kings and queens highly confusing).

In the author's epilogue, he ties together all the cities with the theme of freedom and liberty. While I did enjoy reading this book, I believe I would have enjoyed it more if the theme would have been expressed through each city rather than saved for an "epilogue" because it left me feeling a bit like the "epilogue" was an afterthought. All in all, I did enjoy this book and I did learn some things. I wouldn't use this book as a text book, but I am going to recommend it to family and friends who find history a less than pleasing subject. I believe they will enjoy this quick walk through history with an entertaining author.

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