One day year ago while visiting the public library I happened to stumble upon Brian Fagan’s 2000 book The Little Ice Age : How Climate Made History 1300-1850. Picking it up to inspect it, I was drawn to the book because years before I had learned from James Burke’s TV series Connections how a largely forgotten period called the “Little Ice Age” helped shape the course of history. After later reading Fagan’s The Little Ice Age and enjoying it, a few years later I discovered up his 2003 book The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization. While not nearly as enjoyable as his previous book, nevertheless I thought it made for interesting reading. About two years ago, I acquired a copy of his book The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall and Civilizations. For the better part of two years it sat unread in a big pile of books under my cheap home entertainment system. Finally one day I decided to start reading it. After about six months of slowly making my way through it finally this morning I finished it. To be blunt, The Great Warming really isn’t that great.
Don’t get me, wrong, it’s not a bad book. It’s not poorly written or poorly edited. The subject matter, a period of global warming lasting approximately 800 AD to 1300 AD, is not boring or incredibly esoteric. Fagan’s book is well-researched and the his approach feels sound. He comes off as sincere, approachable and not pretentious. So what’s the problem ?
Unfortunately, it’s just a dry and somewhat uninspiring book. Fagan, in his quest to give adequate supporting data and proof to prove his points probably includes too much information, and as a result the end product makes for tedious reading. While his prose isn’t completely impenetrable, it’s not lively and engaging either. While Fagan makes his points and answers the larger questions at hand, in the end you’re left feeling this book, in hands of a more gifted writer and/or editor could have been a lot more enjoyable.