How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill

How the Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill inaugurated his Hinges of History series with How the Irish Saved Civilization. When Rome fell, Cahill says, the Irish clerics not only spread Christianity, but also saved the great Latin works from being lost to the ravages of history. He also argues the Irish kept the flame of Western culture burning as the rest of the world descended into the Dark Ages.

Parts of this book were quite interesting. Cahill’s love for Irish mythology shines through in his description of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which made me want to return to the Táin again. His descriptions of St. Augustine, St. Patrick, and St. Columba were interesting and definitely had me searching the Web to learn more about them, but in the end, Cahill never really proves his thesis. The first half of the book is good, but somewhere during the chapter “What was Found,” Cahill loses the thread of his argument and ultimately admits most of what we retained could have survived without the Irish, then attributes the survival of Latin literature to the Irish without really explaining how. He also makes the leap that because the Irish had the oldest vernacular literature in Europe, they were somehow responsible for or influential over the vernacular literature that followed. Readers can learn a great deal about the lives of Patrick and Columba and a bit about early Irish literature, but they won’t learn how the Irish saved civilization.

[rating:3/5]

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge. This is my sixth book for this challenge, which brings me to the level of Litlover. I will not be able to read six more books before the challenge ends in December, so I’m going to call this challenge complete. I originally committed to just three books, so I surpassed my expectations.

Reading Update: October 24, 2010

flareAll the maple trees around here are beautiful shades of red and orange. Fall is my favorite season.

I think I am pretty much done with the R.I.P. Challenge. I gave up on Wuthering Bites, and I don’t see how I’ll finish Jamaica Inn when I haven’t even started it. However, I did read four books, which is two more than I thought I could, so I still met the challenge of Peril the First—for the first time ever!

I am still reading How the Irish Saved Civilization. If I have one complaint, it’s that I like books divided up into more chapters. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a chapter, and the chapters in this book (at least some of them) are looooonng, which makes me feel less like I’m getting anywhere.

I am also going to begin Anne Fortier’s novel Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is fun to teach, and this will be the first year I have taught high school that I haven’t taught the play because it’s the first year I haven’t taught ninth grade. I love the play, but I needed a break. Instead, I will be starting Macbeth pretty soon. That one is great fun to teach.

I am looking for some good steampunk book suggestions that I can read for the Steampunk Challenge. I already plan to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion, and a friend in the know recommended Leviathan. If you have read any good ones, please share.

What are you reading?

photo credit: Aunt Owwee