Lives in Ruins

December 4, 2014 Memoir, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction, Review 18 ★★★★

Lives in RuinsTitle: Lives in Ruins
Author: Marilyn Johnson
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This fun romp through the world of archaeology is perfect for anyone who shares my love of learning about different professions.

I love learning about other professions, so Marilyn Johnson’s exploration of the world of archaeology was my kind of book. She joins a kind of archaeology boot camp, participates in digs, attends conferences, and interviews many archeologists. While she does focus on the more interesting and glamorous parts of the profession, she also makes it clear that the profession is hard and that steady jobs are rare. She also does a good job conveying the difficulties many archeologists face in finding public support for the preservation of important sites and their passion for the job.

One of my favorite parts of this book was that the author used her experiences to add a narrative to what could otherwise be a purely informational book. I wasn’t completely sold on the organization, since it wasn’t clearly chronological and I often didn’t see a connection between the stories that were grouped together. This wasn’t necessarily a problem; it just meant that this book read like a collection of short stories. Something else I really liked about the book was the author’s casual, personable tone. It wasn’t so informal or so much about the author that it interrupted my enjoyment of the text (I’m looking at you Assassination Vacation), but it did make the story feel light and fun.

Unfortunately, the book was light in other ways too. Even though the back-of-the-book description claims that the story will teach you some little known history, there was very little historical information I wasn’t already aware of and none was given in any depth. Each interaction with an archeologist really was like a short story and didn’t give me as much time as I would have liked to become familiar with their subject. I think this could actually be a perk for some readers or for me in the right mood, since the short story feel and light content made this a nice, easy read. At the time I picked this up though, I was hoping for a more substantial nonfiction book and I enjoyed the author’s writing enough that I’d happily have read a longer book in order to learn even more.

18 Responses to “Lives in Ruins”

    • DoingDewey

      That was how I felt about it. I still enjoyed it, but I was interested in the subject and it was well written, so I really think the author could have put in a lot more information without it becoming boring. I’ll definitely be looking to read more of her books though, since they also deal with interesting professions 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I was excited when I saw that she’d written other books about interesting professions! I think I’d actually read some of your reviews of her earlier books, but I didn’t make the connections when I originally requested this one.

  1. Charlie

    A great idea, and the concept itself sounds pretty unique, but maybe there was just too much for the author to include, subject wise, to explore much in detail? Sounds good overall, though.

    • DoingDewey

      I suspect the author was trying to keep things short. She talked to a lot of different archeologists and I can see where it might have been hard to include a lot about everyone, especially while telling a cohesive story. I wish she’d given it a try though, because I thought the topic was interesting enough and her writing was good enough that I’d have been happy to read a longer book 🙂

  2. Trisha

    While the book doesn’t sound like a real learning experience, it may be a nice introduction. It made it to my relatively short Xmas list this year, so I’m hoping someone buys it for me and I get to check it out.

    • DoingDewey

      Definitely! While I would have loved to learn more, I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything. I knew nothing about archeology going into this and it was a fun introduction to what a career in archeology might be like. I hope you do find it under your tree this year and have fun reading it 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I feel like I was seeing reviews for it all over the place before it was even published, so it was one I was excited to get to too! I’d definitely recommend it.

  1. Review: Model Woman | Doing Dewey

    […] itself appealed to my love of books about professions very different from my own (for example: Lives in Ruins, The Residence, and The News Sorority). I think I enjoyed the book a little more because having […]

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