• The Good Kings

  • Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World
  • By: Kara Cooney
  • Narrated by: Kara Cooney
  • Length: 12 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Written in the tradition of historians like Stacy Schiff and Amanda Foreman who find modern lessons in ancient history, this provocative narrative explores the lives of five remarkable pharaohs who ruled Egypt with absolute power, shining a new light on the country's 3,000-year empire and its meaning today. 

In a new era when democracies around the world are threatened or crumbling, best-selling author Kara Cooney turns to five ancient Egyptian pharaohs - Khufu, Senwosret III, Akenhaten, Ramses II, and Taharqa - to understand why many so often give up power to the few, and what it can mean for our future. As the first centralized political power on earth, the pharaohs and their process of divine kingship can tell us a lot about the world's politics, past and present. Every animal-headed god, every monumental temple, every pyramid, every tomb offers extraordinary insight into a culture that combined deeply held religious beliefs with uniquely human schemes to justify a system in which one ruled over many. From Khufu, the man who built the Great Pyramid at Giza as testament to his authoritarian reign, and Taharqa, the last true pharaoh who worked to make Egypt great again, we discover a clear lens into understanding how power was earned, controlled, and manipulated in ancient times. And in mining the past, Cooney uncovers the reason why societies have so willingly chosen a dictator over democracy, time and time again.

©2021 Kara Cooney (P)2021 National Geographic
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Ancient Egypt as Metaphor for the Trump Administration

Unfortunately this book, which purported to have the goal of examining the Ancient Egyptian State through the lens of authoritarianism, actually just builds summaries of scenarios which are then compared to the Trump administration which is now over for almost a year. Beyond that fixation with Trumpism, the contemporary political agenda of the author is omnipresent, and her views hijack the book due in no small part to the extremism of those views. A description of Akhenaten’s elimination of all cults but that of the Aten is describes as not simply an act of exertion of power by an absolute monarch but evidence of psychosis, and he is then placed on a list of psychotic despots such as Stalin, Mao and, of course, Trump.
There is no attempt whatsoever, made to explain why or how an Egyptologist is able to make such observations on the psychological conditions of these past leaders, or how this analysis both of their psychology and the different political systems or the ideologies they may embody or support, is contained in this work. There is no citing of any relevant research by commentators in any concerned field, which seems necessary when an Egyptologist is dedicating significant portions of their book to discussing political theory or comparative politics. It may also be worth questioning whether applying analysis of modern political dynamics to ancient societies or political systems is even possible an any serious level.
For those interested in ancient Egypt, this book is not for you. I include myself among those readers, hence my low marks in this review. For those wanting a snapshot of the zeitgeist of a particular political class in the US circa 2019 (personally I’m quite glad to move on from all of that), and willing to dedicate a dozen hours to it, you may find this a worthwhile experience. For those who have not yet had their fill of fantasizing about the enormity of the loathsomeness of the former US President in every possible context and fashion, enjoy.

6 people found this helpful

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Kara Cooney for Pharaoh! ;)

In all seriousness, this book is a brilliantly reasoned masterpiece that could serve as a basis for a contemporaneous manifesto. As an armchair Egyptologist who knows MUCH more than the average Joe, I've held longstanding concerns voiced by Kara Cooney, who expressed them in exquisite detail and acuteness with this work.

I am shocked that this has not been reviewed more, but Kara is a woman of our time, and THIS is a brilliant book that keeps the reader/listener interested, expresses itself succinctly, and lays the patriarchy bare for the cancerous farce that it is. As human beings we have been programmed our whole lives to see the way things are as the way things should be.

Kara's place in academia is precious, and so is her worldview and insight. This book, if you listen to just ONE in the next twelve months, or pick up to read, has exceptional value culturally and socially. It's entirely relevant and beautifully illuminating. I appreciate what she is doing so much, and hope that this book becomes a cultural cornerstone in what hopefully will be a revolution to help build a better world.

I'm going to check out her podcast this evening because I love this book so much.

4 people found this helpful

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A solid right hook of a book.

Dr. Cooney pulls absolutely no punches with this amazing new book. Well respected in her field Cooney continues to expand her reputation with this no nonsense well researched piece of literature.

However if someone was hoping for a cuddly version of Egypt then they need to head to the fiction section of the library. Dr. Cooney doesn't do cuddly. She seems to know it's not her job to make us all feel better about how the systems THEN are not very different than those we see in play NOW.

She makes no apologies as she lines up some of the greatest leaders of Egypt in a frank and deep look at ancient Egyptian leadership and culture. Her comparisons to our modern day world are right on and deeply revealing. Dr. Cooney strips away the gold and gloss to provide a real and honest look at rulers we have all come to be fascinated with, providing new perspectives through the looking glass of the modern world.

This world has had thousands of books acting as PR for the powerful. This heavy hitter by Dr. Cooney is a welcome change.

3 people found this helpful

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interesting and informative

3 stars - I liked it

In this book Cooney discusses five ancient Egyptian pharaohs: Khufu, Senworsret III, Akenhaten, Ramses II, and Taharqa. She talks about their reigns and how they ruled. She also discusses the patriarchy and how it influenced these men and continues to influence us today.

After reading Cooney’s previous two books, I was excited to get my hands on this one. I learned a lot about the women rulers of Egypt in the previous books and knew I would learn a lot in this book as well. I did learn a lot about these pharaohs but also about how their authoritarian regime impacted the future and is still impacting it today.

It was fascinating learning the history of these men. They may be praised as great men but that didn’t mean they didn’t do terrible things. One thing I like about Cooney’s writing is that she doesn’t ignore the evidence that some of these men were most likely tyrants, had slaves, and were harsh to their people.

Khufu is the builder of the Great Pyramid but he was a tyrant and there is evidence of that. Senworset III was great at propaganda and used it to establish supremacy over Egypt’s elite, but it quickly fell apart after he died. Akhenaten created a new religion centering around one god that allowed him to control everything in his kingdom. It didn’t last though and had destabilizing effects on that dynasty. Ramses the Great spread his image throughout Egypt and is still widely known today because of it. His reign was long and filled with many wild stories about his reign, some of which are still believed today. Taharqa used religious zeal to unify Egypt and justify his actions as just and moral, even when they weren’t.

She compares these ancient rulers to today's leaders and shows that while we have made some changes, there is still a lot of dismantling that needs to be done of the patriarchy if things will ever get better. Overall, this was interesting and gives a unique look at patriarchy in the past and present.

2 people found this helpful

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  • A.
  • 11-25-21

BS

I did no enjoy at all
all conjectures
do not judge by your personal standards

2 people found this helpful

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Everyone Should Read This!

brilliant take on politics & culture, from ancient kingdoms to modern despots & demagogues, with a note of hope at the end that we might learn our history & not repeat it.

1 person found this helpful

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i love Kara, but this book is a bit much for me.

I tried to love this book, really did. The picture on the cover is gorgeous. It tells about different kings of ancient Egypt, and how they handeled their autocratic reign. Good start, but it soon starts to be a bit....preachy? I too am worried about the right-shifting governments with autocratic tendencies, but not willing too pull an ancient world in service to point to bad leaders. Yep, I have a deep dislike for Donald T, but I am not willing to let his greasy fingers onto pharaonic Egypt. So, yeah, not for me this book. Sorry Kara, loved your previous books, not this one....

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Another wonderful book by Kara Cooney

This is the second book of Kara's I've listened to and loved. The way she parallels ancient Egypt to today is both infuriating yet empowering.

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She is wayyy to political

Great story overall, interesting to listen..BUT..... How many times she will mention Donald Trump???? In the middle of the book i started losing my patient. I said : "If this lady mention Trump again, I will return the book". It's too much. It's too political and too feministic. To the point where it feels like she hates men. I support women, but not where they denying their feminine origin and trying to become "like men". It's bullshit. A woman's power is in BEING A WOMAN. Not in growing balls and competing with men for power. Why do that? And almost every 30 min Kara is telling how horrible ben are, how evil Donald Trump is and so on. She is blaming him for almost everything what's going on today and it's a joke.
Why don't just telling the story of Egypt without trying to promote your political views? Some of us just wanna enjoy THE STORY OF EGYPT for God's sake! I don't wanna hear about Trump, Putin, Korean president and how good and mistreated Hilary Clinton from Kara's point of view. I got tired of rolling my eyes while listening to this book.
Kara is a great Egyptologist but way too feministic and political.

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  • C. Rae
  • 02-22-22

A Fresh View on Familiar Pharoahs

Following on from 'When Women Ruled the World' I was excited by this new title by Kara Cooney, 'The Good Kings'. It was a very different read.

This book examines Egyptology through a politically aware lens, looking as a modern feminist to the impact the patriarchy of Pharaonic rule had at the time and continues to have on those who study it. On the impact our modern day 'Pharoahs of absolute power' have today. Ending on considering the changes going on in society as we try to move away from the toxic patriarchical model and where we might end up.

Don't get me wrong. It's a fascinating text and there are plenty of historic details in each Pharoah's exposé. But it might not be a comfortable and familiar read for those of you used to the Egyptology we've grown up with.

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  • Jarga
  • 11-27-21

a very unique book on ancient Egypt

professor Kara cooney looks at history of the Pharaohs in a very unique way . her approach is very cynical indeed . that's why I love this book. it removes the grandiose way the Pharaohs depicted themselves and want to be seen . she brings humanity to the Pharaohs and cuts out the nonsense. a great listen / read . recommended to anyone who loves ancient Egypt but is tired of the old ways Pharaohs are often depicted. the book shows the messiness and intrigue of politics in the royal palace . her approach is closer to the truth than all books of Egypt I've read ! great and unique book !

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-04-22

Good idea, poor execution

I actually agree with the opinion of the author regarding the patriarchy and I love the insight she has regarding how we view history and ancient kings. However, I couldn’t finish the book because she was too heavy handed with her views. I have red other authors with similar opinions who focused more on the history and explained their views in relation to that. She really just wants to talk about her political views, there is nothing wrong with that. But I’m here for the history.

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  • Amy
  • 02-03-22

A bitter American centric view of ancient Egypt

An American centric bitter take on ancient Egypt judging it by modern morality. I enjoyed Cooney’s Hatshepsut book very much but this I could not even finish after multiple attempts. Hilary Clinton is not the be all and end all of feminism for all of human history.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-04-21

A fantastic perspective between the old and new.

As a student undertaking a Master's degree in Egyptology, the book provides concepts and aspects that are not taught in "traditional" Ancient Egyptian classes as a rule. Kara provides thought-provoking ideas that I am sure will be reflected on whilst I continue with my studies.
Thank you it was most enjoyable
Vanessa