Literary Listings: Geeky For The History Of Things

I mean, some of yall might have guessed by now that I’m a big geek. It’s not a confession, it’s just a statement of fact. I’ll also let yall in on a little secret, for every YA book I whip out, I’ve read a book on some obscure history on some obscure object and I love it. So I want to inject some Non-Fiction into your lives, some historical goodness. Have you read any?

The History Of Things Is Awesome:

On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks

You’ve got it, a book on maps. This book is an A-List celebrity of the 2013 Non-Fiction world so far, it’s gotten great press and reviews. I recently just got my hands on it and I am dying to finish it. It’s an amazing book that is articulately written, it is neither difficult nor dumbed-down. If you’re interested in getting into history, microhistory or non-fiction, this is a great starting point.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette

This is the first Non-Fiction book I ever read in my life, well out of school anway. When I was 19 my art teacher gave me this to read and I was captivated by Finaly’s casual writing style and journalist-style research. She repeats certain phrases over again and it can be a bit irksome but isn’t it fascinating to think of color as something that isn’t straight out of a paintbox? That it has to be made and cultivated? Remember, wars were fought for authentic color.

Salt: A World History

It’s a simple table condiment. It’s everywhere, on restaurants, on my work desk, in homes but yet, I’ve never given 2 hoots about where it came from or what it’s story was. And yet, as I later discovered, you’d be loathe to find something else that changed the history of humankind, food consumption, storage and even innovation and travel, as salt did. When everyone figured out how to use salt it brought something big: food preservation. Read this, it’s excellent.

Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History

This one is a doozey. It’s an anthropological-historical study of the role of sugar in developing the ‘West’ as we know it. I was an anthropology major and this took me some time to read and digest but it is an amazing review on the history of sugar and how it spurned economic and commercial activities in the Caribbean, North America and South America. For anyone living in the Americas, this book is a must.

The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Obsession, Commerce, and Adventure

I loved this book! I love fruit and living in a tropical country makes access to certain goods quite easy (or horrednously painful) but this book trumped all that. What’s so great about this is that the book is set up like a series of letters or newspaper articles about the author’s travels around the world and the fruit he met on the way. It isn’t some comprehensive thing, it isn’t a scholarly piece but it is a good way to get to know what fruit is.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

I so loved this book! I thought it was interesting how drinks and drinking got their start in this world. Where do you think it came from? What made us look at a potato and say HMMM, if I ferment this, I’d get something that will make me smile and go dizzy! Humans are interesting creatures.

The book is separated into 6 glasses and each has its own cultural and historical story to tell. If you’re interested in human consumption and its history, you will enjoy this time.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Dead bodies, no one likes to think about them, see them, smell or touch them. Yet, despite their death and eternal coldness, they have lives of their own. Ever wonder what happens to bodies that are donated to science? Where do they go? Are they bought + sold like a commodity?

And most interestingly, how are human bodies influencing and spurning illegal economic activities?

A History of the Wife

So this concept of the wife, it’s simple right? Not really. This book is an interesting compilation of how cultures and societies have understood the word ‘Wife’ and what was expected of these women.

It really is mind-boggling how the word has changed in meaning throughout time, an it makes me think on how so much is expected of women in this day and age. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?

The Emperor of All Maladies

C-a-n-c-e-r. No word, or combination of letters is more feared in this day and age. It has spurned industries, research, and panic. It’s a marketing tool (This ___ will prevent cancer! Yes!) and a whispered thing. This book was hard for me to read, cancer is a very big fear of mine and something that plagues my grandmother and country. Reading this book was necessary though, to see how far humans have come in cancer prevention and care, as well as how we essentially made this doom for ourselves.

Spice: The History of a Temptation

Oh spices, nothing inflamed the beginnings of the New World like spices. It spurned trade to the Middle-East and objects such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and anise (all things we take for granted in this globalized world) were a hot commodity. To own or control a spice trade meant riches, or it meant death.

About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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12 Responses to Literary Listings: Geeky For The History Of Things

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  3. Yamini says:

    Love reading history books! It’s my major so thank u for these! It’s so hard to find bloggers talk about non-fiction books, forget talking about history. 😦 I knew about Salt and that was really popular but the History of the Wife looks really interesting, I’m going to have look that one up. 🙂

    • bwithbooks says:

      Do you have any interesting books to recommend? I LOVE history, unfortunately, by the time I realised this I was in my last year of college and really couldn’t do that much more…

      • Yamini says:

        I don’t have any too interesting. 😦 I’m actually more into controversial books since I’m taking SO many actual history classes and I actually KNOW most of the history on the topics I’m interested in. There’s one called Holy Blood Holy Grail which deals with Jesus bloodlines and it’s one of those “banned”-type books so I like to read more books such as that. The only “history” book I read last was Killing Lincoln by O’Reilly last year and I want to read Killing Kennedy this year. They’re really easy to read and are mostly accurate. I also want to read No Easy Day, Argo, and something by Glenn Beck since he’s quite popular.

        The others I’m hoping to read are more funny history books like, “I am America and so can you” or “American Again” by Stephen Colbert (i LOVE him on TV) or “i want you to shut the f#ck up” by Hughley. I am currently reading “Behind the Palace Doors” by Michael Farquhar which is interesting b/c it deals w/ some bizarre topics of English kings/queens like sex, betrayal, etc.

        The “…History in an Hour” books are good too if you want short stories. It’s not full history but it gives nice summaries.


  4. snowtinsel says:

    Absolutely loved Stiff! I almost died laughing…which is a really bad pun. I have Salt: A World History from the library right now. I also recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is a history of sorts of the modern food industry. It was amazing.

  5. DoingDewey says:

    I also love micro-histories and these look like some really good ones. Thanks for sharing such a useful list!

  6. Lakeshia Artis says:

    Those are definitely some interesting nonfiction books. Who knew you could write a book on salt and cadavers. Ha!!! Great picks.

  7. Very interesting. There are a couple I’d like to pick up. Wife stands out. I WANT.

  8. I want to read Wife. And isn’t it a good thing that more is expected of women? They can expect more in return, eh?

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