Category Archives: History

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

In 2010 BBC asked the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, to choose 100 objects in the Museum’s collection to illustrate the entire history of humanity. These were presented in groups of five objects per week on BBC Radio, with a theme for each week. This book compiles these presentations and edits them down into book form. The first objects are simple hand axes and he then works through monies, statues, pottery and more all the way to the solar-powered lamp of 2010. I had expected the objects to be woven together to create a complete picture, and this was a bit lacking. In addition, there were certain archeological sites that were clearly favored (possibly due to the large number of objects from these locations/civilizations found in the Museum’s collection). Overall, the book gave a good overview of the history of the world, excellent for those with little background.

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Filed under Archeology/Anthropology, History, Nonfiction, Science

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Sayuri started her life as Chiyo in the small fishing town of Yoroido. Then her life changed when she was sold to an okiya in Kyoto. This book tells the story of her life from when she was that young Chiyo through where she was when telling the story, an old woman living in New York City and running a Japanese tea house. Readers get a never-before-seen look at the world of the geisha from one of the very best. I read the entire book in a matter of days, it’s one of the stories that you neve want to put down.

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Filed under Biography, History, Nonfiction

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great is generally accepted as one of the best leaders Russia ever had. On the other hand, she was a foreigner who usurped the throne. This book starts at her birth and goes through her entire life. Writing the story in such a comprehensive way allows the reader to understand Catherine as a person and sympathize with her. This is one of those true stories that seem to fantastical to be true. A truly enjoyable read.

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Filed under Biography, History, Nonfiction

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

The story follows Dr. Minor, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Dr. Murray, two men who seem at first to be extremely different, but in the end aren’t as much. Dr. Murray was a poor Scotsman who eventually ended up as the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary for many years during its development. Dr. Minor was a surgeon in the U.S. Army, and then went to England to escape what he thought were demons of the war. He shot a man dead in one of his episodes of insanity, and was sentenced to live in the Broadmoor Criminal Insane¬†Asylum for most of the rest of his life. Dr. Murray had sent out a call for volunteers to read and write down quotes from English works to go into the dictionary, and Dr. Minor responded. He was from a rich family, and still received a paycheck from the Army, so he had been building a collection of books in his cell at the asylum. From those he submitted tens of thousands of quotes to the OED, making a huge contribution. I absolutely loved having a chance to read about the creation of the OED and the main players that made it possible. Although the book often goes into tangents that have little bearing on the main plot, this story is definitely worth reading if your are interested in language, books, or just a good history.

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Filed under History, Language, Nonfiction