Book Review: Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming

By Iris Volant & Avalon Nuovo, Flying Eye Books, 2020

A few months back I spent a week in Lincoln (UK!) for work. I hadn’t visited Lincoln since I was a teenager, but the city was as beautiful as I remembered; the cathedral looming out of the mist in the morning, the narrow, steep streets. And tucked into Bailgate I discovered a totally delicious bookshop, Lindum Books. If you can’t make it to Lincoln, you can find them on the UK Bookshop site.

I’m sure the selection of books for adults is equally good, but I beetled straight to the children’s section, on the hunt for a present to take home to the kids. What a joy! Sometimes I love a huge bookshop, with acres of space and everything available. More often I delight in a small, cozy shop, with a carefully and expertly curated selection of books so that you find something unexpectedly perfect.

Ancient Games was that unexpectedly perfect find for my son. From ancient Sumeria to the modern Olympic Games and the advent of e-sports and robotics in sports and gaming, this lively book shows people playing and competing in games in civilizations around the world.

My son is particularly keen on the artwork in this book. It is gorgeous. He loves the action and the feeling of movement on the pages. He’s also noted that while there are lots of different games from different places and times featured there are also lots of variations on the same game, and he likes to see the origins of games he enjoys. His favourite page shows East Asian Games with an illustration of people in ancient China playing ‘cuju’, one of the earliest forms of football, played by both men and women. He was a bit taken aback to learn that gladiators fought for sport – or atleast sport for the spectators, but it did inspire some art.

Thank you to Lindum Books and to Iris Volant and Avalon Nuovo and to Flying Eye. This is a book he returns to again and again – it has certainly provided plenty of food for the imagination!

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