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"1493" author wrapped up our Book of the Year

Honors welcomed "1493" author Charles Mann to BYU

The Honors Program welcomed bestselling author Charles Mann to BYU March 11th. Mann is the author of our Honors Book of the Year, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. He joined our Honors community for a guest lecture where he led us through a journey that cross-crossed the globe, illustrating the wide-reaching impacts of the Columbian exchanged. The Honors Program selected this book in part because of its many interdisciplinary connections. Mann's presentation similarly included details, analysis, and information from a broad range of disciplines to inform our understanding of the world today. Students and faculty then enjoyed talking wtih Mann one-on-one at a reception in the Education in Zion foyer. We are grateful to have had the author himself wrap up our Book of the Year discussions about the Columbian Exchange and hope you’ve enjoyed reading with us this year.

Before releasing 1493 in 2011, Mann had already received wide acclaim for his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. He has a reputation for being a prolific writer; Mann is a contributing editor for three magazines, has written for numerous other publications ranging from the New York Times, Fortune, and Vanity Fair, and has even written two episodes of Law and Order.

So why write a second book? According to Mann, he found the inspiration for his second book when he was sitting in his backyard contemplating the origin of his heirloom tomatoes. His queries led him on an intellectual journey that soon spanned the globe and to the development of a thesis that Columbus introduced the Homogenocene, a global homogenization of diseases, agricultural species, and tools. "It was a tremendous ecological convulsion — the greatest event in the history of life since the death of the dinosaurs," says Mann. "And this underlies a huge amount of history learned in schools: the Industrial Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the rise of the West — all of these are tied up in what's been called the 'Columbian exchange.' "

Mann has a gift for storytelling. He leads readers through a variety of topics, ranging from the origin of the tomatoes, the relationship of malaria to slavery, to a Chinatown in Manilla, Philippines in the 17th century that served stir-fried chicken. When summarizing 1493, fellow author Richard Rodriguez recounts that the story that affected him most. It was an account of an African man’s experience with the indigenous people of Florida who found him naked, but saw him as a spiritual and blessed man and gave him gifts appropriate to his station. Mann’s description touched Rodriguez who said the account would stay with him for the rest of his life.

If you wish to read more about Charles Mann and his book 1493, we invite you to browse additional sources, including: his 2011 interview with NPR, “In ‘1493,’ Columbus Shaped a World to Be,“ and this interview with CSPAN.