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Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis

Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis (unabridged audiobook read by John Lee; 20 hours 20 min on 17 discs): Wow, this book is long. I mean, it’s interesting, but there’s so much information covering so vast a scope that reading it is like running a marathon. Each section covers a geographical region such as Africa or Western Europe, with the countries boasting the most well-documented mythologies getting the most treatment, such as Egypt, India, and Greece/Rome. Each section includes a timeline, a “who’s who” of gods and goddesses, relevant quotes, and answers to common questions like “was there really a Trojan War?” Though many comparisons are made, there is no separate section for Judeo-Christian mythology, having covered it in depth in his other book, Don’t Know Much About the Bible. Davis holds nothing back, describing a representative sample of each culture’s myths in (often hilarious) detail. For example, I was surprised (and kind of disgusted) by how many creation myths involved excrement and other bodily fluids of the gods, and laughed at the tales of the trickster god’s magical penis. The little asides and pop culture references were also often amusing. Though admittedly not meant to be a thorough compendium of mythology (and I would have loved for the “New World” section to have been much longer), it is certainly an excellent start. The writing is very accessible and has made me want to read more of the original myths, particularly the Norse and Egyptian tales. A word of warning, though: once you read the section on Egypt, you will never see the Washington Monument the same way ever again.

On the audio version: It’s always interesting to listen to the same people read vastly different books. Lee is an excellent narrator, with the added personal bonus of making me feel like the book was being read to me by Dawsey Adams. The two short myths at the back, specially recorded just for the audiobook, were fun and well worth listening to, even if the African one about the lion was kind of tragic.

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