The Dangerous Book of Heroes by Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden
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|The Dangerous Book of Heroes by Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden|
|Reviewer: Loralei Haylock|
|Summary: Rather dry for something filled with what should be riveting material, but thoroughly researched with loads of helpful suggestions for further reading.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 496||Date: May 2009|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
For most of us (well, for me certainly) the word 'hero' summons an image of capes, spandex and garish primary colours. Conn and David Iggulden have written a book about the other kind – the every day heroes from history, who achieve incredible things without the aid of superpowers.
From household names like Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill, to lesser known people, like Aphra Behn and Hereward the Wake, The Dangerous Book of Heroes covers a comprehensive range of characters from the history of the British Empire. From campaigners for political change, brilliant battle strategists to daring explorers, each and every one of the people in this book lived brilliant lives and changed the world forever.
With such good material, it's quite incredible that it manages to come across so dry. I think the problem is the short space the authors have to explore each hero. By trying to condense the stories so much, some of the details are reduced to lists of numbers, particularly in the ones that feature wars and battles. The worst offender for this is The Few, the section detailing the Battle of Britain, where for about four pages it's just a list of numbers of aircraft shot down by each side.
Better sections are the ones about explorers, nurses and record breakers. Any stories that featured less statistics and more small scale human drama were much more interesting, but again suffered because of the short space they had to be explored.
There's no cohesive order to the stories either, which makes the book quite hard work to use. I personally felt they should have been either chronological, or categorised into groups, like 'Heroes of World War One' and 'Explorers'. Often the heroes would pop up in each other's stories, particularly common of the sailors, but the authors make no attempts to reference themselves, which makes it difficult for the reader to navigate.
To their credit, the authors have thoroughly researched each of the heroes, and the information given is extensive, but really, each one deserves their own book. The Dangerous Book of Heroes is okay as a starting point, and each chapter does come with a list of further reading suggestions for those who find their imagination captured by any particular hero's exploits.
I've always thought the judge of a good history book is one that sticks with you, one you remember, one that makes you feel fired up and enthusiastic about history, even if it doesn't really interest you most of the time. Looking back at the contents page of this book, I'm struggling to remember what most of the people listed did. Maybe that's because this is not the sort of book you're supposed to read from cover to cover, but I think it's mostly because of the dry presentation of what should be riveting material. The Dangerous Book of Heroes is a title that suggests excitement and thrills, and though there's nothing particularly wrong with the writing, it just doesn't quite deliver.
Thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.
For a great history book to dip in to, try History Without the Boring Bits by Ian Crofton.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Dangerous Book of Heroes by Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden at Amazon.com.
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