I don’t usually like to write book reviews. They are subjective, a matter of opinion. And who’s to say my opinion should carry more weight than someone else’s? Nevertheless, I decided to write a review.
And I didn’t choose a book hot off the press. No. I broke with the usual practice of writing about a brand new book and chose one that was copyrighted in 2001… How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman.
I read this book (along with many, many others) when I was doing research to learn all I could about Scotland prior to and during the writing of High on a Mountain. I learned something from each of the books I read, but this particular book made an enduring impact on me.
Why? Because the information in this book was astounding. The subtitle may give you a notion as to why it astounded me: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It. Wow! Quite a statement, that. But…it’s a true statement.
As Herman points out throughout the book, Scots made changes in ways of thinking and doing that profoundly influenced and affected the development of Western Civilization in modern times. From such mundane inventions as air-filled tires (invented by a Scot named Dunlop) to paved roads (developed by a Scot named MacAdam…did you ever think about where the word “tarmac” came from?) to high-flown ideas like self-government (George Buchanan asserted that political power should reside in the people, not the government), Scots were the inventors of the new, the modern way of doing/thinking.
Herman’s writing style is engrossing, and even when discussing what could be dry subjects, he makes topics interesting. I highly recommend this book.