The Age of Sail, the English Civil War, the Restoration, and so much more

Ever since starting Neal Stephenson’s amazing Baroque Cycle series, I’ve been in love with the 17th century. Stephenson brings it all to life in a story that is historical, but also entirely fictitious, almost like historical science-fiction, although that sounds more boring than this is. It is actually the best series I have read in a few years. Very different from but on par with George R.R. Martin’s recent blockbuster series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I actually find the Baroque Cycle to be much richer since it has the benefit of using actual history to flesh out the plot and the world and I find the author more erudite and skillful in his use of language. The characters in the Baroque Cycle are either real historical figures such as Isaac Newton or Christopher Wren or entirely fictional creations of the author. Each of the three books of the series was published originally weighing in at around 800-900 pages, but since coming to paperback each volume has been split into three additional books for a total of nine (I think). Go to your local used book store or buy the original used hard-covers on Amazon. It’ll be easier to keep up with and it will save you money.

While reading the series, I found myself poring over Wikipedia engrossed in subjects I knew nothing about, like sailing history, tall ships, 17th century history, types of carriages, historical figures, etc. For example, I had no idea Winston Churchill was the direct descendant of a central figure in English history, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. This is just one of the many things I learned while reading this series. I also spent several delightful hours reading about wigs, Whigs, William Prince of Orange, Gottfried Leibniz, thief-takers, Louis XIV, Raskolniks, Robert Hooke, and much more.

If you want to submerge yourself in a place both familiar and utterly foreign, this is the thing for you.

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