Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time by Brad Meltzer

From Goodreads:
It's an irresistible combination: Brad Meltzer, a born storyteller, counting down the world's most intriguing unsolved mysteries.  Adapted from Decoded, Meltzer's hit show on the History Network, History Decoded explores fascinating, unexplained questions. Is Fort Knox empty? Why was Hitler so intent on capturing the Roman "Spear of Destiny"? What's the government hiding in Area 51? Where did the Confederacy's $19 million in gold and silver go at the end of the Civil War? And did Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone? 
Meltzer sifts through the evidence; weighs competing theories; separates what we know to be true with what's still - and perhaps forever - unproved or unprovable; and in the end, decodes the mystery, arriving at the most likely solution. Along the way we meet Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Nazi propagandists, and the real DB Cooper.
Writing
This is definitely history lite.  It's easy to read and understand and goes by quickly.  There's no necessary background knowledge or deeper analysis required on the part of the reader.  It's not poorly written, but it's not something I'd consider academic by any means.  I thought it was readily apparent that the book was written with a "co-author"/ghost writer and that the Meltzer name was attached for the sake of drawing in show viewers.  Nothing great to report in terms of writing quality.  I was also disappointed that the author included no source material, references, or citations.

Entertainment Value
Despite having some issues with the writing and the lack of source material/citations, I did enjoy my read of the book.  I felt like it gave me a good overview of some of the most popular conspiracies and I definitely learned some things about history along the way.  I liked the pull out envelopes that were filled with documents relating to the conspiracy - maps, letters, that kind of thing.

Overall
I think it's a good book to read if you're looking for some historical entertainment.  It would also be a great way to introduce middle grade readers or young adult readers to historical non-fiction as a genre.  But I wouldn't rely on it for any academic purposes and I think of it more as a pleasure read than an educational read.

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