Friday, May 2, 2008

In Brief – The Great History of Florence

In Brief - Front Cover In Brief - Back Cover
The book In Brief, The Great History of Florence, is by Pier Francesco Listri. Travelmarx advice: skip this book if you are just starting out with Florence history.

First, the book moves much too quickly, giving one sentence or two sentences at most to events or facts. With this quick movement, there is not enough time to develop any context or take a story away to help remember it. Really, a bulleted list during major sections of the books might have worked better.

Second, the book is at times hard to read, even when simply stating facts. I’m not sure if it is the translation or the source material. It states something and a couple of sentences later you are not sure you understood it. For example, there’s a part about the white and black Guelph’s and Dante. At the end I was confused as to which Dante was associated. It almost seems rushed, that it’s sloppily written.

Third, I don’t fancy myself an expert in Florentine history, but I’ve heard enough to maybe make it to round 2 in a quiz show and there are “facts” in the book that do not jive with what I heard. For example, the part about how power transferred from the last Medici, Anna Maria Luisa, to the Hapsburg-Lorraine in the book was not at all how I understand the sequence of events. The story in this book was completely different. I tend to trust my sources.

Fourth, and a big tip off, never buy a book with ads in it. Okay, the ads are in the back of the book, 16 or so full-page ads. They are listed in a section titled Protagonists of the City – huh, what does that mean?

Fifth, the black and white photos and maps interspersed throughout are of poor quality and hard to view. The color plates in the middle of the book are fine though.

One good thing I can say about the book is that it does have 1-2 page capsules on different topics, like one titled The Misericordia in Firenze or another titled 54 Floods in 8 Centuries. These capsules are generally well written and insightful. Too bad, they just didn’t make a book of these capsules.

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