A Kindle is reading in its purest form. There's no going back (without a lot of fuss,) no flicking , no leaving your thumb in a page as you read on and no page numbers. You just read what is on the “page” in front of you and then you read the next one and the next one until they stop appearing.
But for the Kindle I would never have even started Plutarch's Lives.
The first hint of what I had taken on was when after two weeks the progress line at the bottom told me I had managed just 3% of it. Had it been in book form I would've never picked it up, but by then I was hooked so it didn't matter.
Plutarch Lives is a series of very readable short biographies of famous Greeks and Romans. He pairs them up, one Greek and one Roman and then compares them
Here is why.
“It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face, in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men, and while I endeavour by these to portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great battles to be treated of by others."
For us, it is of course a huge deposit of Greek and Roman history. (and there are a great many battles of course.) It is certainly more than just stories, he acknowledges his sources and comments on their reliability throughout the work. The comparisons are all his own and I have to say the weakest part, he tends to favour the Greek and particularly Spartans and draws conclusions that are less than obvious.
Here are some of the more famous people he covers and compares;
Theseus and Romulus (mythical)
Thermistocles and Marius
Alcibiades and Coriolanus
Nicias and Crassus
Agesilaus and Pompey
Alexander and Julius Caesar
And of course The Mob, that cruel and headless entity that builds up and destroys at a whim, is ever present and very dangerous (Like the tabloid press only with real knives.)
My favourite character is the less well known Phocion, urbane and ironic, a prototype Englishman, keeping his head when all around are losing theirs, able to quell the mob with a disdainful glance that made them love/hate him. Once when addressing the citizens of Athens in his usual acerbic way, the crowd applauded. He looked puzzled and asked.
“What! Have I inadvertently said something foolish?
You've got to like him.
I found the Roman Lives absolutely fascinating, as you read on, a tale of slow but complete moral decline is revealed, where the desire for honour in great men is gradually replaced with base lust for power, and politics became such a bloody business that it was kill or be killed.
The Greek story is a bit different, they simply wore themselves out bickering fighting each other.
I enjoyed this work, it is not literature but it drew a lot of threads together for me. You come across parts that Shakespeare or Bettany Hughes or even Hollywood must've referenced. It is also a fascinating study of human nature, and of the quirks of fate and fortune that steer the path of history.
I'll give it 7/10