I love reading about history, but sometimes even my favorite historical eras can seem like slogs. If you want a dose of history but would like some closure at the end of a reading session, try these books on for size.
The director of the British Museum takes you on a tour of humanity’s innovations and inventions. The historical artifacts have their own beautiful color photographs to go along with the texts, each object explaining a certain human innovation and its effect on the world. This is a terrific book to pick up and put down. You will never lose the narrative between readings. It starts with a primitive hand axe and ends with a credit card, but there is so much in between that is worth exploring.
If you are even casually interested in outer space this a wonderful book, for the same reasons that Neil MacGregor’s book was. You can digest it in little chunks here and there or pick out the most interesting objects. For many of us, anything to do with space can seem intimidating, but this is a nice hand-held walk through the history of human space exploration. Start with an Egyptian star clock. Move through all forms of early telescopes, gyroscopes, and astrariums. Refresh your knowledge of Sputnik and the Apollo missions. Wrap yourself in a warm space blanket. Eat some space food. Cruise around on Mars with the Curiosity rover, and finally peer into a black hole (such that you can) with the Event Horizon Telescope. Space is fun to explore when it’s not so daunting.
This “history in objects” book certainly has fewer objects and isn’t as pick-up-and-put-down-able as the other two books, but it’s just as fascinating. Tom Standage picks six potables that have had a considerable influence on history. Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-cola, each had an effect on some aspect of global history, themselves representing massive changes in politics, culture, and globalism. Bottoms up!