The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone (Hardcover)

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The surprising and compelling story of two rival geniuses in an all-out race to decode one of the world’s most famous documents—the Rosetta Stone—and their twenty-year-long battle to solve the mystery of ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphs.

The Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous objects in the world, attracting millions of visitors to the British museum ever year, and yet most people don’t really know what it is. Discovered in a pile of rubble in 1799, this slab of stone proved to be the key to unlocking a lost language that baffled scholars for centuries.

Carved in ancient Egypt, the Rosetta Stone carried the same message in different languages—in Greek using Greek letters, and in Egyptian using picture-writing called hieroglyphs. Until its discovery, no one in the world knew how to read the hieroglyphs that covered every temple and text and statue in Egypt.

Dominating the world for thirty centuries, ancient Egypt was the mightiest empire the world had ever known, yet everything about it—the pyramids, mummies, the Sphinx—was shrouded in mystery. Whoever was able to decipher the Rosetta Stone, and learn how to read hieroglyphs, would solve that mystery and fling open a door that had been locked for two thousand years.

Two brilliant rivals set out to win that prize. One was English, the other French, at a time when England and France were enemies and the world’s two great superpowers. The Writing of the Gods chronicles this high-stakes intellectual race in which the winner would win glory for both himself and his nation. A riveting portrait of empires both ancient and modern, this is an unparalleled look at the culture and history of ancient Egypt and a fascinating, fast-paced story of human folly and discovery unlike any other.

About the Author

Edward Dolnick is the author of The Writing of the Gods, The Clockwork Universe, The Forger’s Spell, Down the Great Unknown, and the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist. A former chief science writer at The Boston Globe, he has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. There are over 130,000 copies of his books in print. He lives with his wife near Washington, DC.

Praise For…

"An engrossing account of the 20-year competition that followed [the discovery of the Rosetta Stone]. . . . Dolnick exuberantly captures the frustrations and triumphs of scholars as they puzzle out the meaning of long-dead runes." —New York Times Book Review

“[Dolnick] does a masterful job of guiding the reader through the labyrinth of false starts, wrong turns, and dead ends that prefaced a fuller understanding of the symbols. . . . The Writing of the Gods is an engrossing account of one of the greatest breakthroughs in archaeological history, one that brought a dead language, and a buried culture, back to life.” —Christian Science Monitor

"An entertaining account of a great intellectual achievement." The Economist

“Dolnick treats [Young and Chamopillon's] efforts like a thriller, with both men making game-changing breakthroughs, benefiting from shrewd guesses, and being hampered by preconceptions or bad luck. While the codebreaking chapters captivate, the supporting material—covering the development of writing, the history and culture of ancient Egypt, Napoleon's military campaigns in the region, the academic milieu of the early 19th century and more—can be every bit as entertaining." Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Dolnick] does a first-rate job of storytelling; his scenes are vivid and his cast of charracters wide-ranging. Too, he writes with wit.”New York Journal of Books

"[Dolnick] has a remarkable ability to explain and contextualize complex topics and create compelling, lucid nonfiction narratives. . . . Reading The Writing of the Gods is like tagging along for a dazzling intellectual journey of discovery, akin to listening to a fascinating lecture. Dolnick brings this period of history to life in the same way the Rosetta Stone revived ancient Egypt." BookPage (starred review)

"Stimulating. . . . Dolnick lucidly explains the complex steps taken to decipher the relic, and offers brisk and enlightening history lessons on the first appearances of written language, Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, the Scientific Revolution, and Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt. The result is an immersive and knowledgeable introduction to one of archaeology’s greatest breakthroughs." —Publisher's Weekly

"Dolnick presents a fast-paced intellectual adventure for general readers that surveys the invention of writing and the processes of deciphering and decoding. Highly recommended for anyone who relishes challenging puzzles." —Library Journal

"Prolific nonfiction author and prior science writer at the Boston Globe, Dolnick’s prose is beautifully lyrical, and will engage even those unfamiliar with the three converging subjects of ancient Egypt, the Rosetta Stone, and Europe during the Napoleonic Wars." Booklist

"Dolnick provides an exciting narrative of the journey to legibility. . . . Dolnick makes complicated linguistic challenges not only comprehensible, but also especially vivid for readers new to the subject, and, as in his previous books, his enthusiasm is infectious." Kirkus Reviews


The Seeds of Life

“Fascinating.” The New York Times

“Engaging and exuberant.”The Wall Street Journal

“A wonderful, astonishing story, beautifully told. Edward Dolnick has surpassed himself (and everyone else)!” —David Wootton, author of The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution


The Clockwork Universe

“Delightful.” —Robert Krulwich, NPR

“I’ve read a lot of science books and this is by far one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s fascinating, clear, even funny.” Barbara Strauch, former science editor, The New York Times


The Forger’s Spell

“Edward Dolnick has a novelist’s talent for characterization, and he raises fascinating questions.”The New York Times

“Extraordinary. . . . fascinating. . . . compelling.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501198939
ISBN-10: 1501198939
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: October 19th, 2021
Pages: 336
Language: English

How to read more
( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.


And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.


15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.


50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.


Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.


Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.


Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.



Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.


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