Family Treasury of Myths From Around the World – Book Review

Family Treasury of Myths from Around the World is a beautiful hardcover book which retells 10 classic myths.  The myths come from 8 religious traditions grouped into 4 categories: The Wraths of the Gods, The foolishness of the Animals, the Epics of Heroes and the Sun Gods. The stories are beautifully illustrated in a style inspired by the art of the culture that created the myth, and are told in a lyrical, not quite poetic, but definitely literary manner.  Still, the language is very approachable to a child 8 years or older.  Indeed, when I was reading my 9-year-old the African story of the Sparrows and the Hen, my daughter was happy to correct my pronunciation of “baobab tree,” she had learned about them in school.   The beauty and power of the language is quite surprising given that this is a translation from the French (the book was published in Belgium).

We’ve read more than half of the myths by now, most of us were familiar to us but four of them (from Africa, Japan and India)were completely new.  Those that we did know are retold in a different light in this book, which is helpful for making the point that myths have come down to us in a variety of versions.  Bear in mind that the myths can be quite violent.  In all, it’s another wonderful book I have Paperback Swap to thank for.

Paperback Swap

paperback-swap.jpgOver a year ago I wrote about Swap Tree (now just called, a website that allows you to trade books with other users. I enjoyed it for the few months I was in it, but soon enough all my desirable books were gone and I wasn’t getting any more requests. I finally quit a few months ago when they instituted a fee-per-trade (50c to $1). So for many months I’ve been keeping my used books at home, planning to take them to the library (for their sale) sometime.

Apparently, I may not need to do that. My friend Cynthia introduced me to and, so far, it’s worked for me quite well. Paperbackswap has similar mechanics to – you enter the books you have, you are given a list of books you can get -, but it’s much more flexible and gives you access to many more books (about 5 million currently). It’s also free. While works by linking you to someone who has a book who you want, who in turn wants a book from a third person who wants the book that you have, Paperbackswap gives you access to all the books posted by all their members. Every time you mail a book to anyone you get a point, which you get to spend on any book they have listed. Unlike you can “bank” your points, so if you don’t see anything you want now, you can wait until it comes about. You can put things in your waiting lists and so forth. My take is that people who have popular books have a better chance to get what they want in, but if your books are not that popular you have a better chance of getting rid of them at Paperbackswap. Indeed, I’ve been surprised at the obscure titles I’ve gotten off my hands (e.g. I sent Spiritual Friendship, a book I bought for my Medieval Intellectual History class in college, to a student @ some seminary). Now, I haven’t been able to get any of the books I really want (mostly expensive cookbooks) but I’ve been able to find a few gems within their listings (including Religions Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to World Faiths, which is a great intro to religions for little kids).

If you are interested in joining Paperback Swap, please give my e-mail address ( as a referral when you do. If you post 10 books, I’ll get 1 free credit (and you’ll get 2!).

My personal bookshelf of books I have for trading is here. If you are local and want any of the books, please let me know and I’ll hold it for you (otherwise join paperbackswap :-).