The Age of Faith, Take 3

I am 550 pages into my third attempt at reading Will Durant’s Age of Faith. This time, I think I’m going to finish it. I’ve always been interested in history, largely because it teaches us that anything we are experiencing today, no matter how strange or absurd it seems, is nothing new. It’s all happened before. But I am also fascinated by Will Durant and his (and his wife, Ariel) lifetime of work on 11 volumes that encompasses a large span of human history. The first volume was published in 1935, the 11th in 1975.

Much of my reading these days is through audiobooks, but in this instance, I am listening to the book, and reading at the same time. Not only am I reading (I have all 11 books in print), but I am highlighting and annotating as I go. A friend of mine told me perhaps 20 years ago that The Age of Faith was not only the longest (my edition is 1,196 pages, making it the second longest book I’ve read), but the most erudite. I’ve made two previous attempts at reading it, and both petered out.

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I can’t begin to describe how much I am enjoying it this time around. There are many things I love about Will Durant’s writing—his style being not the least of them. But he writes equal force on those anonymous people of history as he does the famous. What I am finding as I move through the Age of Faith is very personal feeling of the passage of time. Some people are mentioned in only a sentence—an entire life encapsulated it a dozen words. And yet… their name lives on in Durant’s books.

The Age of Faith covers the period of time leading to and through the Dark Ages. When Durant set out to write the series, I think the thought there would be only five books, making Age of Faith the middle of the series. That there are seven books beyond this one makes me very happy.


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