Egyptomania: Our Three-Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharoahs

Written by Bob Brier
Review by Bethany Latham

Amateurs and professionals alike know Egyptologist Bob Brier through his books and television specials. Brier’s passion for ancient Egypt is infectious – whether one agrees with his hypotheses or not, it’s impossible not to share in the enthusiasm he radiates. Egyptomania commences with a description of Brier’s obsessive collecting of Egypt-related objects, from antique prints to Cleopatra teapots (the mind boggles at what his house must look like). He goes on to chronicle the rise of “Egyptomania” (a term used interchangeably for the items collected, the collectors, and the state of mind) from the Ptolemaic period to the discovery of Tut’s tomb and beyond.

This is primarily a chronologically presented miscellany of historical facts, some digression, and great deal of passion for the subject matter – namely showing the impact ancient Egypt has had on Western culture, fashion, and architecture. Brier admittedly suffers from Egyptomania himself, and it’s largely his tone which makes this book stand out: for lack of a better word, he’s endearing. This is illustrated even more by contrast with the book’s main weak point: a long, irrelevant, and self-aggrandizing foreword by the insufferable Zahi Hawass. Once past this hurdle, it’s a charming, informative read.