Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson

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Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson

Category: Spirituality and Religion
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A list of all the significant numbers and details, and what they mean – with a strong emphasis on the world's religions, and a strong level of intelligent interest.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Profile Books
ISBN: 9781781250990

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One book, split into two testaments, regarding a holy trinity, the principal part known from four writers, in a world abutting another where five pillars are important, up against a world where a six-pointed star holds so many meanings… It's obvious from just a quick dash through the most schoolboy-friendly parts of religion that numbers are important. This book, although counting down from multitudes to that late-comer zero, brings them all to us, with brief notes about why they all hold relevance where whichever country, civilisation or religion is concerned. In the end, I'm sure it's a lot more user-friendly, interesting, and will be a lot more popular, than the original Book of Numbers.

It's not all devoutly-held digits and divine details, for one page takes us past the Chinese flag, through The Lord of the Rings and into classical Greek tree nymphs. Coming from the high numbers of those to be saved at the end times, it's bizarre to see 101 Dalmatians. But on the whole it's a book concerned with the religious significance of numbers, amounts of this, locations of that, tenets of the other… And here it certainly is detailed and wide-reaching. 18 covers whirling dervishes – impressive enough, until 17, holding relevance for Bektashis, which took me right back to Albania, happily. It's certainly not just the few global religions covered.

As a result, sometimes we need a little more information. I still don't know exactly what the 9 Rasa are, and the Mithraic initiation grades could have been given a better introduction. The proof-reader who gets thanked might kick himself a few times. But generally it's a well-produced book – the spare illustrations range from holy sites to Iron Maiden record covers, but they allow the words the space to feel complete and all-encompassing. It's not a book that seems to hold much stock with numerologists and all their cryptic code-breaking claptrap, although it does delve into the divine weight of some names and their letter values, just as often as it references the significant sound-alikes in Chinese (without actually stating which Chinese language he's referring to).

In the end this is a lot more than trivia – although I can see it as causing a whole host of quiz night questions in the right hands. Clearly a lot of work has been done to research and present the gamut of information that is here, and it's on the whole of a very serious, intelligent, socially important subject. It couldn't have found a more atheistic reviewer, but it held the attention, and will educate many in its audience. There are seventy holy idiots in here, yet you don't need to be the former – but might just be made to feel a bit of an idiot at the breadth of the contents. It's an enjoyable, cultural and cultured tome.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Number Freak: A Mathematical Compendium from 1 to 200 by Derrick Niederman is the obvious companion, regarding the natures - not so much the uses - of all the lower numbers. 42 - Douglas Adams' Amazingly Accurate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything by Peter Gill might also appeal, too.

Buy Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson at Amazon.com.


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