There is much ebullient praise and vitriolic criticism of 1491 on this site. In my opinion, neither is warranted. In particular, I'd remind critics who feel he comes down in the middle of controversial topics that Mann is a journalist attempting to present multiple perspectives as reflected in the body of research. I did not get the sense he tried to present one argument as the truth vs another. Here, though, is where my own criticism kicks in.
I enjoyed the book as a series of soundbites rather than as "a book". I felt this work rambled all over the place, and lacked a central theme. Now, I know the central theme is that pre-Columbian America was more populated and advanced than we may have been taught: home to complex societies, that the inhabitants shaped their environment, etc. That said, the wandering from location to location and time period to time period was distracting to me, forcing me to take the narrative in as a series of short stories rather than as many paths to a cohesive whole.
As a result, 1491 is neither a scientific nor a taut journalistic piece of work. Mann is not a scientist, so I didn't expect depth of analysis. He is a journalist, though....Continua