I got a copy of this through the First Reads program.
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. It's part poetic tribute, part travel log, part archeology/anthropology exploration, part history lesson. He does have an academic point he's trying to make: he argues that the events in the Iliad took place longer ago (by a few thousand years) than commonly agreed now. That gives shape to the history he tells. As part of that argument, he talks about when certain weapons were used, when bronze dominated the technology available, and the tradition of epic poetry in the cultures of eastern and southern Europe that have been accessible in the last 100 years. As a result, the conclusion is that Homer's draw is not necessarily in its historical accuracy. But he certainy gives us historical perspective.
The biggest reason Homer matters is the questions he causes us to ask of ourselves, of our characters, of our goals and how we handle crises. Homer is fully aware of the faults, the flaws of his heroes, and he forgives them. Nicolson argues that Homer does not approve of the bloody aggression of his heroes, but he tells their stories anyway because they are great stories that show great struggles.
In any case, this was a fun read, taking me back to the poems I haven't read in years, reminding me of how powerful they are, how fundamental to our cultural heritage. I wouldn't have called myself a Homer nerd a couple weeks ago, but I certainly feel like a fan now.