I’ve recently read or re-read three books that deal with new aspects of familar subjects: Ancient Egypt, the Discovery of America and Pompeii.
Mary Beard’s Pompeii : the life of a Roman town, follows a book that I thought was the definitive work on the subject released only in 2005. That book was readable and informative. However, true to form Beard’s managed to make one reassess preconceptions of an overworked topic. She critically reassesses the casualty rate (many of the bodies were those of people returning after the eruption), the location of bodies (cynically noting how the discovery of corpses seemed to coincide with the arrival of prominent visitors in the eighteenth century), makes one think twice about the alleged bawdiness of the city (not every other house was a brothel) and points out that the life of the place was not fixed: the buildings were a confused melange of several centuries rather than a town whose buildings all date from the same decade. Her main success is in bringing the place and its people alive and making one think twice before accepting the conclusions drawn by archaeologists.
A similar achievement is performed by my other two authors: