Mummy Congress was recommended to me by a friend. I chose this book, not out of a particular interest in mummies, but because I knew little about them. One of the things I liked the most about it was its readability. It's harder to put down than a whole lot of fiction I've encountered. My other favorite thing was that instead of trying to present all there is to know about mummies, Pringle goes in depth on mummy subtopics that interest her. The Victorian trade in mummy products, the Chenchen man, the Incorruptible Catholic saints, the world's first mummies, and the Mummy Congress itself are all of interest to her, and she makes you interested too. The book also includes a set of color plates in the center, with pictures of what she's writing about. I really liked the pictures but I didn't find them until I got to the middle of the book - a list of figures at the beginning, or chapter references, would have been helpful.
The unfortunately named author is a journalist, and the book has a very journalistic style. In a few places, it bothered me. For instance, the author writes that although the trade in ground mummies that flourished in the Victorian era is over, "In choosing to write about the preserved dead for magazines and books, I, too, have begun trading in their withered flesh." I feel that this is one of many places in the book where Pringle is being deliberately inflammatory. To hear her tell it, picking up the book that SHE wrote is just as exploitative of mummies as grinding up a mummy to use as paint or medicine. Personally, I don't feel that being curious about mummies is as bad as destroying them. In fact, it could actually be good for them, if it leads to further mummy interest and preservation. "Frozen like a side of beef," "hacked open like a geode," and other similarly shocking metaphors abound. It makes the book easy to read, because it's titillating, but it makes it a lot less literary too. The other journalistic convention I noticed - she talks extensively about the people she interviews for information. We find out where they meet, what kind of clothes they wear, their life histories. It gives the book a friendly anecdotal quality, but I think she devotes too many words to the topic.
This book made me read up more on a few mummy controversies - did ancient Egyptians smoke tobacco, and if so, what does that mean? Did ancient Chinese mummies emigrate from Europe? The first theory has mostly been debunked, and the second proven correct, which I found very interesting.
If you're interested in creepy things, or history, then I recommend the book as a broad and readable introduction to the subject of mummies. Four stars.
This is a very interesting book if you are into mummies. It gives a history of the science and political aspects of "mummy hunting".