The Madness of Cambyses by Herodotus
About the author
Herodotus c. 484-425 BCE was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories.
The story of the great and mad Cambyses, King of Persia, told by part-historian, part-mythmaker Herodotus of Halicarnassus.
Just recently I dug out my collection of Little Black Classics and selected all the ancient Greek and Roman books to read because I thought they would be good background reading for my course and this is the first one I have read.
This little book is only 50 pages long and is a nice little snippet from the main book The Histories by Herodotus. I happily read it enjoying the sunshine we have been having and drinking a nice mug of tea.
The beginning was a bit hard to digest due to all the different names but once I got past that I really enjoyed the book. The translation is a little wooden for me but it still flowed nicely. I must admit this did make me giggle as King Cambyses is completely mental and just kills everyone for the slightest thing and in most cases this is like cutting off his own nose to spite his face, because all this death doesn’t do him any favours.
Herodotus does meander about a bit with his knowledge but I loved that because you learn extra little bits about what the ancients thought about different cultures. Some facts Herodotus tells you definitely come across more as myths but I liked that because that is what the ancients believed.
I really enjoyed this little book, it was a quick and knowledgeable read and it was fascinating to see one of the world’s earliest historians at work. I highly recommend this little book to people who are interested in the ancient world and to people who want a gentle introduction into some ancient texts. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.
A very exciting day when 80 books arrive on your doorstep!
As you know I have been reading and reviewing the Penguin Little Black Classics but I do not own them all. So I decided this needed to be remedied but instead of getting the books seperately I went a little wild and bought the box set!
The Big List of all the lovely books
- Mrs Rosie and the Priest
- As kingfishers catch fire
- The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
- On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
- Aphorisms on Love and Hate
- Wailing Ghosts
- A Modest Proposal
- Three Tang Dynasty Poets
- On the Beach at Night Alone
- A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees
- How to Use Your Enemies
- The Eve of St Agnes
- Woman Much Missed
- Femme Fatale
- Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls
- Jason and Medea
- The Communist Manifesto
- Trimalchio’s Feast
- How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog
- The Tinder Box
- The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows
- Circles of Hell
- Of Street Piemen
- The nightingales are drunk
- The Wife of Bath
- How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing
- The Terrors of the Night
- The Tell-Tale Heart
- A Hippo Banquet
- The Beautifull Cassandra
- Well, they are gone, and here must I remain
- Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings
- The Great Winglebury Duel
- The Maldive Shark
- The Old Nurse’s Story
- The Steel Flea
- The Atheist’s Mass
- The Yellow Wall-Paper
- Remember, Body…
- The Meek One
- A Simple Heart
- The Nose
- The Great Fire of London
- The Reckoning
- The Figure in the Carpet
- Anthem for Doomed Youth
- My Dearest Father
- Socrates’ Defence
- Goblin Market
- Sindbad the Sailor
- The Life of a Stupid Man
- How Much Land Does A Man Need?
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime
- The Old Man of the Moon
- The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon
- Lips too chilled
- The Night is Darkening Round Me
- The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe
- A Pair of Silk Stockings
- It was snowing butterflies
- The Robber Bridegroom
- I Hate and I Love
- Circe and the Cyclops
- Il Duro
- Miss Brill
- The Fall of Icarus
- Come Close
- Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands
- O Cruel Alexis
- A Slip under the Microscope
- The Madness of Cambyses
- Speaking of Śiva
- The Dhammapada
I can not wait to start reading them all.
I would love to hear if you have read any of them and what you think of them.
Lady Book Dragon
On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey
About the author
Thomas De Quincey was born on the 15th August 1785 and died on the 8th December 1859. He was an English essayist best known for Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.
The provocative early-nineteenth-century essayist casts a blackly comic eye over the aesthetics of murder through the ages.
So on to the fourth Penguin Little Black Classics book and this one really took me out of my comfort zone. I picked this book up thinking normally I would never dream of reading a book about murder being a fine art and to be honest after this I do not think I will read another book about murder being an art form.
I did struggle a great deal with this book and I really did not see the comic side in it that is mentioned in the blurb. I found it very hard to get into and very disturbing that people seem to enjoy studying murder. I also did not like the fact that murder was referred to as an art form. However it wasn’t all bad, I did find certain little stories inside it interesting, for instance the story about Descartes was very interesting.
I think it was a disturbing essay and it made me wonder what type of mind Quincey has to come up with this essay. However the essay was an eye opener about things that were happening in that point of history. However I didn’t really enjoy the book and wouldn’t read it again. This is why sadly I have only given the book 1 Dragon out of 5.
To purchase this book from Waterstones please click here.
Lady Book Dragon.
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
About the author
The author is sadly anonymous but this is a well known Icelandic saga composed at the end of the 13th century.
Ranging across Scandinavia, England and Ireland, a Viking-age epic of two poets in doomed pursuit of Helga the Fair
This is the third book of the Penguin Little Black Classics and a quick little read of just 52 pages. The book contains 25 verses of skaldic poetry which are scattered through the story.
This book is essentially a love story, where two poets are in pursuit of Helga the Fair, both travel around earning glory and renown hoping to make themselves worthy of Helga’s hand in marriage.
I enjoyed this book to begin with and found the verses of poetry enjoyable, however as the story went on I found the poetry began to get on my nerves and broke up the flow of the story. I must admit I started to skim read it as I could not bare it any longer, the story was still really good though. The thing I found a struggle to get used to in the beginning was the big lists of names, but once I got used to the style this was ok. A lot of store is held in one’s ancestors and family in this book so great lists of names are often given, even if those characters are not featured in the story.
I also enjoyed how the characters travelled around Scandinavia, England and Ireland and the accompanying adventures. It was interesting learning about the kings and rulers of that time and what they were like. The other element I enjoyed was how Christianity moved across the countries and the old ways were forgotten. This was considered a really good thing in the book but I wonder whether everyone was so willing to drop the old ways and take on the new faith. In my opinion I think this element is seen through rose tinted glasses by the author.
“All the men who have been mentioned were living at the same time, and it was about this time that the best thing ever to have happened in Iceland occurred: the whole country became Christian and the entire population abandoned the old faith.”
This is an excellent little book, which will not take long to read and was a good introduction for me to Icelandic sagas. I enjoyed reading the book but because the poetry got on my nerves I only give this book 3 Dragons out of 5.
To purchase this book please click here
Lady Book Dragon
As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins
About the author
Gerard Manley Hopkins was born on the 28th July 1844, he was an English poet and Jesuit priest. His two main themes in his poetry are nature and religion. He died in 1889 of what is believed to be typhoid fever. His work was largely ignored during his life but was published posthumously.
Considered unpublishable in his lifetime, the Victorian priest’s groundbreaking, experimental verse on nature’s glory and despair.
Oh dear, as I have mentioned in the past I struggle with poetry and this book has been a massive challenge and although I persevered I did not enjoy the poetry.
The second book in the Penguin Little Black Classics is a series of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and titled after possibly his most famous poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire.
The main thing I struggled with was that I found the poetry stilted and lacking fluency. I also found his use of imagery a bit strange and his wording a struggle to grasp.
Overall I just struggled full stop and would not read anything of this author again, if it was not for the fact the book was so short I doubt I would have finished it. I have problems appreciating poetry but have recently been enjoying reading through some poetry books and discovering new poets that I enjoy to read. Sadly though this book did not appeal and I only give this little book of poems 1 dragon out 5.