Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review and Giveaway: How to Mellify a Corpse by Vicki Leon

The ancients lived in a world made up of an intriguing mix of superstition and science. They gave us the true and firm basis for many scientific theories today and yet they also believed some wildly incorrect things as well. Oftentimes superstition and science were married in the same person, even one who we remember today as the father (or less commonly, mother) of some branch of science or math we still study. Vicki Leon's How to Mellify a Corpse is a readable and interesting look at this combination.

With chapters organized by geographic area, Leon focuses on the various schools of thought that sprang up in the Greco-Roman world and predominated thought for centuries. Her writing is accessibly and can verge on the breezy. This is definitely not a textbook, nor is it meant to be an in-depth look at the people and beliefs of the time, instead functioning as a general overview. Occasionally the colloquialisms used in the text bring the reader up short and throw them out of the information stream but they also serve to offer a bit of levity in the reading. Since the chapters are arranged by area, there are some needless repetitions about historical figures and their schools but this is only evident on a straight through reading. If the book were to be used more as a dip and delve, this would cease being a problem.

Also, and this is no reflection on Leon at all, just as in school, I found it nigh impossible to keep the people straight. Can I chalk this up to not being scientifically or mathematically inclined myself? As such, I found the information on the superstitions to be most interesting. I'm certain I'd already run across all the scientists and mathematicians who contributed to our current understanding today while in school. But the failed or wrong thinking is usually kept out of books, depriving us of some of the fascinating quirks that make past civilizations so intriguing and human. Leon has re-animated these interesting tidbits here for the lay person. Armchair scientists will enjoy the heck out of this book of equal parts history, science, and just plain crazy ideas.

Thanks to Inkwell Management, I have two copies of this book to give away. To enter, leave a comment below with a valid e-mail address and I will choose the two lucky winners on August 9th.


  1. thanks for the chance to read this fabulous book :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  2. I am a follower. The book sounds really interesting. Please enter me in contest.

  3. I would like to learn how to mellify a corpse. It might come in handy one day.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Sounds interesting, I'd like to read it. I also liked The Quickening by Michelle Hoover.

  6. The book sounds intriguing! Please include me in your drawing. Thanks.

  7. With a title like that how could I not be intrigued? :)

    Please enter me!

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  8. This sounds good. rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com


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