The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes

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The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book illustrates that the past and the present are linked in so many ways. Haynes gives us plenty of examples: from Julius Caesar to David Beckham (not often mentioned in the same sentence, I think you'll agree) in her fluent and engaging style.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2010
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-184668323

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Haynes starts with the positive statement that we shouldn't throw the subject of ancient history straight in the bin, so to speak. We should instead embrace it. It has lots to tell us if only we would listen. Chapter 1 entitled Old World Order certainly grabbed my attention with the line ... Can politicians really make a positive difference to our lives ... In 2010 when the role of politicians is at an all-time low in the eyes of the voters, this is an excellent question to kick off with. We zoom right back in time and explore how the Athenians lived. Apparently they were rather forward-thinking and progressive people with ideas which could easily be put into use today. They also enjoyed true democracy. When Haynes was talking about politics generally I liked another sweeping statement of hers where she says ... that history teaches us we could offer our politicians a hefty pay cut and still get plenty of perfectly competent candidates. My inner voice was shouting out - make an immediate start on that one please. I won't spoil all the delicious details which led up to this attention-grabbing statement but it really is food for thought.

Haynes cites numerous parallels between well, the ancient and the modern worlds. We could learn a lot from the past, she continually insists throughout. If only we would take note and then act. She recaps on the current political voter apathy and our collective cries of - why should we bother, they're all the *** same. Cue - Obama. He apparently reached out to parts of the American electorate other politicians failed to do. And when we are interested in something, it doesn't really matter what (Haynes gives a recent American Idol television show as an example) then we do vote - in our millions. So, that little argument is shot down in flames nicely.

Haynes has a lively turn of phrase to try to draw in the reader into what some will perceive as a dry, a very dry perhaps, subject. So, she'll say things like when we, the general public are discussing a trial by jury or talking about the merits of equal rights, we are simply carrying on a conversation which had its roots in ancient times. Many of us will acknowledge that the English language is littered with words which have their origins in Latin or Greek. Back to the ancient world we go, once again. Haynes wants us all to get as enthused as she is, to stop for a minute or two in the middle of our busy lives and think about all of this. The overlap between past and present.

As you might expect in a book sporting this title, names such as Plato and Aristotle (and many others) enjoy a paragraph or two. Haynes seems to like her politics. It's a bit of a recurring theme. She explains that today's politicians who are involved in foreign policy would be encouraged to read the classics. She says it will bring clarity to often difficult decisions. Western relations with the Middle East, for example, have always been tense. Are things ever going to change for the better? I found this an engrossing and pertinent chapter.

Haynes comedy side surfaces in her chapter headings such as: Frankly, Medea, I Don't Give a Damn and There's No Place Like Rome. This original touch is welcome and rather attractive. But, having said that, this book may still prove a little heavy for some readers. I found it a refreshingly modern take on all things historical.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Parthenon by Mary Beard.

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Buy The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes at


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