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Complete Idiot's Guide to Ancient Egypt

Like most of the "idiot's guides", this one is a simplistic, often gradeschool-level, introduction to the culture of ancient egypt. The style of the book is very tongue-in-cheek, with icons and humorous line drawings interspersed with short descriptions and historic notes.

The information is accurate enough, if a bit short, and the book does give you a high-level overview of Ancient Egypt that is more than adequate preparation for a trip. I have to admit that the cutesy drawings are a bit of a turn off for me -- it's hard to take the author seriously when the whole books is so cartoonish -- but it's a fun read, nonetheless.

I don't usually buy the Idiot's Guides, or their siblings the ___for Dummies books or K.I.S.S. books. They don't go into enough depth to be really useful but if you want to be reasonably conversant on the basics after a single sitting, these are the books for you.

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? Like I've just insulted anyone who would buy one of these books. That's not what I meant at all. It's just that if you are serious about learning the history of Egypt, this book will get you started but it just can't fulfill the needs of a serious student or interested traveler.

A much more interesting intro (although not as complete as even the Idiot's Guide's are) is the Horrible Histories books, which are a quick, funny look at the culture. I picked up about a dozen when were were in Scotland. To be honest, they are bathroom reading -- you know, the books you leave on the back of the sink... -- but fun.

If you're looking for a readable, non-dry history book, then I'd definitely recommend Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz, a very readable, enjoyable history of Egypt that is a far cry from the scholarly works that put me to sleep in college.


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