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Natalie Haynes
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The Ancient Guide to Modern Life

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3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  302 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
In this thoroughly engaging book, Natalie Haynes brings her scholarship and wit to the most fascinating true stories of the ancient world. The Ancient Guide to Modern Life not only reveals the origins of our culture in areas including philosophy, politics, language, and art, it also draws illuminating connections between antiquity and our present time, to demonstrate that ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by The Overlook Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Camilla
Apr 01, 2012 Camilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. I have absolutely no background in the Classics at all, so it was nice to have this book as an introduction. It's full of humour and insight (and the occasional bad pun, which I loved, being a shocking punslinger myself). I particularly enjoyed the connections that Haynes drew between the Ancient world and our modern world, showing that human nature hasn't really changed all that much, and that there is still a lot to learn from voices that have been dead for a couple of thousan ...more
Arnout Brokking
Verdict: 3 ludwigs

Natalie Haynes takes a closer look at the parallels between the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and our own. Often she draws striking comparisons and tells amusing anecdotes.

Why should you read it?

The Guide is not so much a book, as time spent with a funny historian at the local pub chatting about her passion... but on paper. Haynes is witty, interesting and easily readable in short bursts.

Why should you not read it?

If you're not interested in stories about original Grumpy Old M
...more
Jamie Makin
Sep 15, 2012 Jamie Makin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are reading, or thinking of reading, this book it is fair to assume you already have some interest in the ancient world and Haynes' enthusiasm will be more than enough to make this work worth considering. It is a short read and I would have liked a bit more length, but for the casual classist there is more than enough to enjoy.
The book itself (I was reading the hardcover) is beautifully bound with high quality paper. I know this may sound trite but I think in an age of e-readers and down
...more
Nicole
Jun 04, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ancient history? Pish posh! Natalie Haynes reminds us why studying the classics is still important. Her writing is straightforward but never “dumbed down” making The Ancient Guide to Modern Life an excellent introduction for those wanting to learn more but who either don’t know where to start or find some other texts too heavy. Dividing the history of Greek and Roman civilization into eight manageable sections (democracy, money, philosophy, entertainment, etc), Haynes presents us with a nice ove ...more
Ana
Aug 10, 2011 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ana by: Natalie Haynes
The Ancient Guide is one book that I did not expect to like in its subject matter, and nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed Natalie Haynes's comparisons of the ancient world to the new one we have made for ourselves. The parallels she draws are striking and delivered in a humorous manner, whereas the old forgotten methods of approaching problems are suggested for us in a very plausible way. This book would make an enjoyable and thought-provoking read for anyone, whether they are a classicist or not ...more
Dorian
Oct 05, 2012 Dorian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
The basic theme of this book is "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose".

Ms. Haynes takes various aspects of life/society - law, entertainment, city life, and more - and demonstrates how things we think are modern problems (or issues, or phenomena) are no such thing; the various ancient Greek and Roman societies were dealing with them (and bitching about them) too.

Very interesting and entertaining, and has made me want to (a) re-read "I, Claudius" and (b) read Juvenal.
Martha
Read this for the snappy writing style as well as a great overview of ancient Greek and Roman life.

Writing teachers encourage students to create a "voice", and Haynes is a great example of feeling like you are having a clever chat over coffee with a friend, discussing the Arts or other contemporary subjects. She teaches enough about ancient history so even if the reader is only passingly familiar with the subject, the author's opinions still make sense.
Shan
May 25, 2011 Shan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ancient Greeks and Romans were such interesting people -- I wish more authors would take Haynes' fun and personable (yet clearly scholarly) approach. She presents a convincing argument that classics and history matter, but without ever being preachy (or maybe I'm just a charter member of the choir to whom she's preaching). The chapter on women in the ancient world was especially good.
Jay
Mar 12, 2012 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy and fun to read, it's still really informative on the subject of ancient life and how it relates to the world today. Having studied latin in my school years, I knew a bit of the content, but I still learned from it and it helped remind me of some forgotten aspects. Good perspective and a nice voice from the author.
Karlan
Aug 30, 2011 Karlan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, older-ya
The author, a British classics scholar and comedian, wrote an overview of history, philosophy, mythology of the ancient world in a readable manner. Topics I had not considered since college days were presented in a lively, sometimes humorous style. Now I wish that I could read Greek and Latin. The chapter on the ancient and modern complaints about the banking system is certainly timely.
Lauren Albert
An interesting book for someone coming to ancient philosophy and history for the first time. It was a pleasant read--Haynes' sense of humor made it more readable, though the material was mostly not new to me.
Johanne
May 22, 2012 Johanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, I thoroughly enjoyed this. The parallels from the ancient world to modern issues are striking and the writing is sharp and amusing.
Sean
Dec 20, 2012 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun read if light. And by 'light' if you know the prime sources already it's a fun tub-read. Breezy style. Droll at times. I liked it.
Ellie
Feb 04, 2013 Ellie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, journalist and comedienne Natalie Haynes presents her arguments for why studying Classics is as relevant today as at any time in history, and they are compelling arguments indeed.

Although called an Ancient Guide to the Modern World, it is less a guide and more a comparison, that at times presents food for thought on how we do things today, and what we could learn from Ancient History about some of the things that may be considered wrong, illogical or just plain stupid in the world
...more
Todd N
May 27, 2011 Todd N rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impulse buy in downtown Seattle, either Borders or Barnes and Noble. (I can't tell them apart.)

I was a little surprised that the lead singer for the Dixie Chicks wrote a book comparing life in ancient Greece and Rome with our present day culture, but I found this book to be much more subtle and thoughtful than her pronouncements about President Bush and the video where the guy from NYPD Blue is killed.

Ms. Haynes effortlessly combines deep knowledge of Greek and Roman history, which she has been
...more
L.E. Turner
I have to admit that I struggled to finish this book, in part because it was not what I was expecting. From the cover and blurb I had been expecting an interesting (if basic) overview of parallels between the ancient and modern worlds. Had I picked this book up in the humour section, I may have been a little disappointed with some of the wit, but it would have been ok.

What this actually is, is a basic overview of ancient history (from the view of a Classicist – i.e. reliant on written sources a
...more
Oliver
Oct 27, 2013 Oliver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Great read about the Classical world and it's parallels, and differences with modern life. It is also an indirect defence of the study of the Classics and History. Hayes cut her teeth as a stand-up comic, so not only is it funny, but she also has the comic's ability to think laterally and see connections that others cannot. Anyone who can see a parallel between Oedipus and Stringer-Bell in The Wire deserves a round of applause (destroying yourself by trying to be a better person, not the sleepin ...more
Justin
Aug 25, 2014 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superbly interesting, entertaining and accessible, Haynes combines thorough scholarliness with a light touch - funny and clever. This is a great introduction to the Classical world, and Haynes frequently relates it to the modern. Her guide is part overview of the Classical world, part manifesto for the joys and merits of studying the ancient Greeks and Romans, and part comparison with the modern world, showing us where the ancient has perservered, where the ancient is strikingly similar to our w ...more
Ingrid Zamora Briano
This book had fantastic thoughts and philosophical ideas that elaborate in how what modern life has become is still fairly similar to what it was like before. Things like religious and/or political beliefs and how they came to be. This book has fascinating stories that will give you a more in depth teaching about what the classical culture was like. There's also explanations of new perspectives on tales from the Greeks or Romans. This book really gives the reader pleasant stories that also expla ...more
Christine
Aug 28, 2012 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well written book. It was a humorous and enjoyable read. Natalie Haynes made what some would consider an intimidating subject very accessible.

However, for me the objective of the book was not clear. I’m left wondering what was the overall message of the book. I have a feeling in time that this book will fade to a lovely memory, with not much knowledge retained. Maybe that says more about me than the author.

I’ve given it a 4 for a ratting in order to see what goodreads will reco
...more
Arnout Brokking
Verdict: 3 ludwigs

Natalie Haynes takes a closer look at the parallels between the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and our own. Often she draws striking comparisons and tells amusing anecdotes.

Why should you read it?

The Guide is not so much a book, as time spent with a funny historian at the local pub chatting about her passion... but on paper. Haynes is witty, interesting and easily readable in short bursts.

Why should you not read it?

If you're not interested in stories about original Grumpy Old M
...more
Pamela
Nov 12, 2014 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the antithesis of dry ancient world history.
It is a fun and accessible and you don't need any classical background. Haynes is passionate about her subject, humorous and thoughtful in her delivery.
The book is broken down into theme chapters, politics, women etc which means you jump around the ancient world between examples. Her contrast and comparison to the world today makes use of very current references from politics to TV which I think will date this book too quickly. With that
...more
Tim
Aug 25, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Natalie Haynes clearly has a passion for the ancient world. She also has a talent for making its history come to life. This book may not be exactly be what the title implies - applying lessons from the past to guide us today - but Haynes does use events and writers from the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans to illuminate our modern concerns, showing how little has actually changed. And when she is recounting tales from the past for no other reason than to share her passion for them, she doe ...more
Alison Cline
Mar 28, 2016 Alison Cline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Such a great read! The author has an entertaining, easy-to-follow style, and draws insightful parallels between the ancient world & our modern one.

Many fab one-liners, foods for thought (a soldier only has a good death if no one sees him actually die), and fun facts about the ancients (the guy who coined "who will guard the guards themselves?" wasn't worrying about a police state. He was writing about the impossibility of keeping immoral women chaste. Even the guards would be screwing them,
...more
Ellen
May 13, 2014 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thinking
"This book is about how the ancient world has shaped the present one, and how our present is illuminated by the past. Ancient history doesn't just belong in dusty classrooms and dog-eared textbooks, it belongs in our lives now."

"'The society that loses its grip on the past is in danger, for it produces men who know nothing but the present, and who are not aware that life has been, and could be different from what it is. Such men bare tyranny easily; for they have nothing with which to compare it
...more
Lisa
Apr 10, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave it 4 stars, but it's actually a 3.5. On the one hand, the classical history overviews and anecdotes about this or that figure from the past are striking, funny and fascinating. On ye other hand, the "comparison of these societies with ours" parts of this book are preachy and sometimes feel forced, and while the author does raise some interesting questions, most of it felt really subjective and opinionated - opinions with which I often disagreed.
Maud
I loved hanging out with all my old pals and learned a lot of things I didn't know yet. I was occasionally surprised by Haynes' tone, though; she hedges on issues where I think a firmer stance would be uncontroversial, and sometimes she does the complete opposite by writing down these huge sweeping statements that made me go "...hold on". A fun book.
Lake County Public Library Indiana
"A fascinating and delightful book which reveals that we are not so different from our ancestors. The author debunks myths about the ancient world: e.g. gladiators did not salute the emperor before they fought and died. She reminds us that our language is packed with words from Latin and Greek. This is both a reminder and a warning about human nature. Those who forget the past ..."

JB/Reference
Megan Franks
As a classical educator and particularly as a teacher of the ancients, I really enjoyed this book. It's a great overview of ancients written in a format that's easily understandable without being watered down. Most importantly, Ms. Hayes finds many parallels between the ancient world and today showing that the past IS relevant and worth studying.
Mike
Aug 02, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out great, the chapter about Roman politics was very interesting. Unfortunately the second half of the book just flooded my brain with so many names, events and places that I lost interest. I felt like I was being dragged through Roman and Greek history by someone who wanted to show off their classical knowledge. Still, I only paid 99p for it, so I can't really complain!
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Natalie Haynes, author of THE FURIES (THE AMBER FURY in the UK), is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie was a regular panelist on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, Radio 4’s Saturday Review, and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest c ...more
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“Not being bothered to exercise your right to vote is a privilege that many women still don't have. Dismissing politicians as all the same is a luxury. Our votes may not seem very important to us, but our lives without them would be immeasurably worse. For we needed universal suffrage to be firmly and unarguably in place before we could demand equal rights. And while it may be tempting for people to mutter that feminism is old-fashioned, boring and a fight already won, we have have to look at the statistics to see that what is true for women is a very long way short of being true for us all.” 2 likes
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