I often find myself drawn to Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s books, which usually tackle a very broad historical subject. A bit like what Braudel used to do with A History of Civilizations, Civilization and Capitalism or his many works on the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World.
From Fernández-Armesto, there’s Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature which has been on my “to buy (?)” list since 2004. However, I’m always put off by the mixed reviews that all his works get on Amazon. They are usually rated 3 - 4 stars but with huge divergence of opinion. For the book I’ve just mentioned, you see this:
5 star: 36%
4 star: 35%
3 star: 10%
2 star: 13%
1 star: 6%
So, clearly mostly positive but 19% (very) negative reviews is not something I can overlook. While his erudition and thought-provoking approach are praised, his allegedly weak grasp on the material is a big problem for the critics.
I only read one of his books: Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. I enjoyed it and learned quite a few interesting tidbits but I wasn’t completely enthusiastic. And I did notice one extremely lazy instance of copy-pasting a whole paragraph in two different chapters, which rubs me the wrong way.
So, should explore his works or look for better alternatives (apart from Braudel whose works I’ve read / plan on reading soon)?