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The Egyptian Book of the Dead: How to Read    by Barry Kemp order for
Egyptian Book of the Dead
by Barry Kemp
Order:  USA  Can
Granta, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

I admit it: like many other people, I have a serious fascination with all things pertaining to Ancient Egypt. But I didn't become enthralled with the idea of the Book of the Dead until I watched The Mummy, a 1999 movie that used the Book of the Dead as a backdrop for its characters' series of crises, ranging from plagues to reincarnated mummies. So imagine my delight when upon turning to Kemp's Introduction to How to Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead, I immediately learned that he uses The Mummy as the main example to illustrate people's fascination with Ancient Egypt, and in particular, with the Book of the Dead.

The How to Read series of books claim 'that in order to get close to what a writer is all about, you have to get close to the words they actually use and be shown how to read those words.' In this installment, Kemp has chosen a series of passages taken straight from translations of the Book of the Dead, and he's deciphered them in such a way as to make them easily read and understood by a modern audience. At a mere 107 pages of actual text, even the book itself is non-threatening.

Kemp begins with a thorough description of what the Book of the Dead actually is. Before even delving into the writing itself, the author provides a complete understanding of how this series of writings affected ancient Egyptians. It's comprised of a series of spells that covered everything from dealing with obstacles one might meet in the Otherworld to contacting particular Gods that governed every aspect of ancient Egyptian society.

As Kemp progresses into explaining the text itself, one quickly learns just how complex the Book of the Dead really was. And surprisingly, even though How to Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead is a slight tome in comparison, it offers a wealth of information on this classic piece of writing.

Overall, this is a wonderful introduction to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. For most readers, the How to Read guide will offer plenty of insight into ancient Egyptian traditions and beliefs. Those wishing for a more in-depth understanding are encouraged to continue their research through a comprehensive list of Suggestions for Further Reading thoughtfully provided at the end of the book.

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