Timothy Finnegan's Reviews > The Story of Civilization

The Story of Civilization by Will Durant
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Aug 31, 11


If I had a choice of just 11 books to take into isolation for the rest of my reading days I would take The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant. Durant began his life as a seminarian. He became a teacher and starting writing, becoming a very successful author penning The Story of Philosophy. (Yes!) At some point he immersed himself in the history of the world, namely, the history of the European west and the study of western civilization. Imagine that, spending your adult life learning about everything and transcribing that knowledge into beautiful authoritative prose. My parents, like so many of their generation, bought the set of books by joining the Book of the Month Club in the 50's and 60's. From time to time I would consult the volumes for school reports and so forth and so on. Twenty years ago I read "A World Lit Only by Fire" by William Manchester, a book based upon Manchester's reverence for Durant and his accomplishment. I became interested in the Story of Civ then and read most of them in the next year or two. They are well written. They are 40-60 years old so they creak from time to time. His wife Ariel became co-editor late in the series. They end with Napoleon and the beginning of the modern era. Recently my daughter's former boss at the Atlantic published a book about the fall of Rome and the moral for America. Intrigued, I went back to Durant's chapter on the same subject and spent a very pleasant afternoon reliving 500 years. Personally indispensible.
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Greg A very fine review, Tim!

I didn't stumble across this incredible product of two lives' work until after I had retired (in 2004). Like you, once I began I could not put them down. It took me just over one year to read all 11,000 pages.

I continue to marvel at the "class act" Will and Ariel Durant were. Their writing is accessible, yet incredibly well-informed. Whether the subject matter was a theological perspective, a scientific discovery, or a matter of political intrigue, I always learned a great deal about the matter and trusted the worth of their guiding hands.

I also cannot recall reading more balanced or fair accounts of divisive issues.

But the greatest value for me was introducing me to so many wonderful human beings of whom I had heard little, or nothing, of before. Because the Durants heavily used -- and cited -- primary sources, the voices of our ancestors live again as their words are quoted for us.

You have quite a gift of writing yourself, Tim. Good for you. Peace!

Greg Cusack


Timothy Finnegan Thanks Greg,

I tried to read the abridged version of Gibbon's Fall of the Roman Empire, (1200 pages) and went insane after a few hundred page. Never felt that way with Durant. Thanks again


message 3: by Quentin (new)

Quentin Kirk Yes as a young person I read the entire set. Changed my whole life.


Timothy Finnegan Quentin wrote: "Yes as a young person I read the entire set. Changed my whole life."

Thanks Quentin.


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