Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Encounters that Changed the World, by Rodney Castleden

In Encounters that Changed the World, Rodney Castleden has constructed a highly informative summary of some of the most influential meetings of the past without also getting too "history-heavy". Arranged neither by significance, date or location, he allows for easy passage through a sizeable tome by categorizing each encounter by the type of meeting: the book begins with nine "Encounters with God" and concludes with "Great Creative Encounters of the 20th Century". Each encounter ranges between four and eight pages which allows for plenty of context and relevance yet is succinct enough to allow the reader to decide the importance of each encounter.

Another enjoyable aspect is the global perspective the author's attempted to capture. This book isn't America-, England or Christian-centric, but takes in a wide variety of people, places, religions and races and none is given any more weight than another. It stands to reason that fleeting encounters - say, Newton and Leibnitz - are given fewer words, as are those comings together about which history has recorded little, as in the case of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. I can understand how frustrating it may be to print undeniable, recorded fact at the expense of mountains of hearsay, but it is this restraint which makes this book so educational.

Though it runs to 500-plus pages, Encounters is a surprisingly easy read, broken up into bite-size chunks of the past and larger, meal-size portions which one is easily able to read in one sitting. It provides just enough detail to satisfy the curiosity without overloading one with weighty background. Recommended - tennis balls.

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