Friday, May 09, 2014

A History of the World in 100 objects by Neil MacGregor

This was a Christmas gift from Becky and I've been reading it between other books since then.  It is such a good read that I even discussed it briefly with one of Becky's friends at her bridal shower. Yep, it's my idea of a scintillating conversation.

Anyhow.... the BBC had a series of programs on objects within the British Museum and how they reflect aspects of human history and development.  The series was well received and issued as a book.  The discussion is segmented into twenty topics with each topic having five objects that have their own chapter of about 5 pages and one or more very good photos.  It spans the last 2 million years with such topics as Making Us Human (2,000,000 to 9000 BC), Ancient Pleasures, Modern Spice (AD 1 to 500), Tolerance and Intolerance (AD 1550 to 1700), and Mass Production and Mass Persuasion (AD 1780 to 1914).

What struck me most about this book is that no mater the object discussed, it is interesting because of the context it provides regarding our thinking and existing as individuals and societies over time.  I've always liked history to better understand just that insight and yet was continually offered information and perspective I'd not seen before. However, this is not a dry text book but a continuing series of very readable discussions.  It's as if you met a subject mater expert at a party who was a great teacher and within a few minutes, let you understand a thumbnail sketch into what they've spent a lifetime learning.

The book could probably be read in a week or two if you just read it alone but also fits in nicely when you only have brief openings of free time.  If you're at all interested in history, this is for you.

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