“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

I recently went to an estate sale that advertised a huge collection of books for sale. Upon arrival, there was practically a small bookstore’s worth of books, mostly hardcover, all for $1 each. I gathered a stack and this was one of the books I picked up. I figured I couldn’t go wrong for a dollar.

As with other Dan Brown books I’ve read, there were things I liked and things that annoyed me. It’s becoming a cliché for me, how Langdon miraculously saves the day. I picture him as Indiana Jones. All he needs is a whip and a hat. The other thing that annoys me is Brown’s writing style. I call it the Doritos style of writing, where chapters are broken into little bite-sized chunks that keep you snacking. The book is 509 pages long and contains 134 chapters, which averages out to under 5 pages per chapter. It’s like it was written so that you could quickly read a chapter while sitting on the toilet.

OK, now that I have gotten my pet peeves out of the way, I have to confess that there were things about this book that I enjoyed and found very interesting, and I believe these are the things that make Dan Brown such an appealing writer. He skillfully weaves deep and arcane information into his stories, and he does so in a way that is accessible. I found myself looking things up on the internet, particularly references to artistic and literary works. The man has clearly done his research and has done it well. I was particularly fascinated with his incorporation of the works by Albrecht Durer, as well as the George Washington Zeus sculpture.

Another thing I found fascinating was Brown’s inclusion of metempsychosis (p. 391). I wrote a paper in college on metempsychosis, so this is a subject with which I was familiar. I can say it is not a topic that appears often in popular fiction, so kudos for incorporating an idea that I personally find very interesting and is in no way hackneyed. In addition, Brown also correctly explains the source of the “magic word” abracadabra (p. 408). The word is derived from the Aramaic phrase, avrah kadavrah, which translated means “I create as I speak.”

There is a great quote near the end of this book: “Time is a river… and books are boats” (p. 488). I love this quote and I can completely relate. Books provide us with a way to explore our past, present, and future, which is why I am such an avid reader and I encourage others to read widely. So keep on reading!!

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